A Willing Servant

Posted Nov 23, 2011 by 1 Comments

I love the way God works. I love how he nullifies our earthly expectations…how he makes me feel like an idiot so often. It’s good for me, and my pride.

God gave me yet another reminder when I went to visit the official office of Unchained Ministries, located in the small, rural town of Sullivan, Indiana.

When I first walked in, I saw an assorted group of ten or so sitting in a circle of folding chairs – both men and women, young and old. I noticed their clothes first…a few pairs of beat-up sneakers, some dirty steel-toed boots and a couple camouflage hats. Overgrown facial hair also seemed to be an unspoken requirement for most of the men.

Truth be told, I felt at ease, having been raised with folks like this in my own rural hometown.

I’m a country boy at heart, what can I say, and country folk provide a refreshing change from the emphasis on image often found in city life.

On the far side of the circle sat Carl Beadle, a 75-year old dressed in blue jeans, a dark flannel and brown leather suspenders. He’s an old country boy too, and on this particular evening, he’s leading a 12-step program for locals who got in trouble with the law and are mandated by the courts to attend.

Carl doesn’t have any official degree or certification in counseling, but he’s been working with folks like this for so long that the local court system recognizes him as a critical ally in the fight to change lives.

The 12-Step Program, however, is far from the only outreach in which Carl participates. His heart is in the jails and prisons, which is how Unchained Ministries came to be.

The official office of Unchained Ministries sits just off the town square in Sullivan, Indiana.

Caution: God at Work

Over 40 years ago, Carl felt God urging him to reach out to a group of teenage boys in the area who were ignored by most. While many in the community attended church on a Sunday morning, the boys would be hanging out on the streets and pool halls, doing anything they could to combat the restlessness that accompanies neglect.

Carl “had a heart for them,” so he approached the boys. It took a few attempts, but to his surprise, they ultimately accepted his offer to attend Sunday school with him. And as time went on, they developed a true relationship.

But before long, “a couple got into trouble and thrown into the county jail,” recalls Carl. “So I went through there, giving love to people who didn’t know Jesus cares!

“I never realized I had a calling, but God did.”

A Heart for the Overlooked

I love God’s habit of shattering our earthly expectations. And I love Carl’s willingness to get involved. By earthly standards, he’s an old blue-collar country gent from rural Midwest, with little chance of impacting the world.

Taken in the late ’80s, this is one of the earliest photos of the official Unchained Gang. Carl is in the red helmet on the far left.

But by divine standards, he’s a true warrior! He’s a champion for the underdog, and his heart for God is evident. The impact he’s had on lives is known only by God, but he’s visited thousands.

I’m humbled by Carl, and I’m inspired by his willingness, not only to act but to listen as well. That is all God requires of us…a willingness to do as he leads us. It doesn’t take earthly expertise. It doesn’t take academic degrees and certifications.

In fact, I still scratch my head at the requirements so many churches use to determine a pastor’s qualifications, without questioning the actual call. A theology degree certainly doesn’t prove the calling (I should know, I have one!). Seminary training doesn’t verify it. I can’t count how many pastors I’ve heard who are clearly not called to be pastors. Their sermons are terrible, they lack charisma, they have poor social skills, and/or their grasp of ‘rubber-meets-the-road’ reality is nonexistent.

Then I meet a humble man like Carl. He has a Ph.D. in life experience, from the school of hard knocks. God leads his steps of faith. He doesn’t try to avoid the harsh realities of the world. Carl puts on his muck boots and steps into it, and God continues to use him in powerful ways.

Some of the early leaders of the Unchained Gang pose for a photo in the early ‘90s. George “Midget” Whirley, assnt. vice president of Unchained, is second from the left. Larry Mitchell, vice president, is in the center. And Carl is on the far right.

What was required of Carl? Willingness, and that willingness ultimately led to the official formation of Unchained.

Bikers, Bibles and Bars

Back in the ‘70s, a local motorcycle club called the Cloven Hoofs (who are still around today), was also put on Carl’s heart. He continued to pray over the years that God would open a door. As God would have it, the president of the Hoofs, Larry Mitchell, gave his life to Christ and quit the club in 1978. Carl had found his door.

By 1983, Carl and Larry (who now pastors a church in Ellettsville, Indiana…The House of Prayer) were visiting prisons and jails all over Indiana, ministering to the inmates and bringing Light into those dark places.

Soon enough, more bikers were getting saved, and by ’88, the Unchained Gang of motorcycle riders was born, and its outreach has been expanding ever since, with seven current chapters visiting over 40 prisons and jails on a regular basis.

Carl is a true servant of God, willing to get his hands dirty for the sake of those so often forgotten by most.

Carl considers it a divine honor, and once in a while, he’s blessed to hear it from others as well. Years ago, he got a letter out of the blue from an alleged murderer he had gone and talked to in jail.

“You didn’t know it at the time,” the man wrote. “But I was in a very dark place when we spoke. But through you, God has replaced darkness with Light.”

Carl recalled the story with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat, humbled by the words and by the privilege we all share to be God’s hands and feet during our short time on earth.

“I still got that letter,” he confessed.

Who’d have thought this old country boy in suspenders could have such an impact in people’s lives? I wonder…

“26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.”

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Next Steps
    • Carl’s story is one of willingness. Ponder it for a moment and reflect on your own willingness, not only to listen to God’s whispered urgings but to act on them as well.
    • As Christians, all of us are called to a life of service and sacrifice. Unfortunately, too many of us cower away from those responsibilities, with excuse after excuse. What’s your excuse? Do you, or someone you know, have an interest in visiting prisons? It may be an intimidating prospect at first, but the soil is fertile. Think about it, pray about it.
    • The work of Unchained Ministries is extensive, and they’re always looking for assistance, whether through volunteers or financial support. You don’t have to ride a motorcycle to get involved. Contact them through their website, or email/call George “Midget” Whirley at 317-881-3556 (or 317-213-3578) or Jim Harmon at 317-459-5498.
    • Pray for those behind bars. Pray for the corrections officers. And pray for all those who minister to them.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Stephen Crane is a year-long fellow with World Next Door. He has a bachelor's degree in theology from Calvin College and a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University. He has a passion for overlooked places and people and would snowboard at all times if it were possible!

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  1. joanie leslee said... 


    December 1st, 2011 at 12:35 pm  

    Thanks for highlighting a true Saint. I am sitting here at the local library crying, as I see how the Lord used one man who was truly willing. Then, I am inspired to ask, “Lord, help me to be more willing.” I want to be more like Carl (aka the hands and feet of Jesus).

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