In 1985, Tommie Hatfield felt a direct call from God to minister inside prison walls. The what, when, and where was yet to come. A year later, she entered her first prison in Gatesville, Texas, realizing just how real the call from God was. In 1986, Tommie became the Southwest Texas area director for Texans Do Care Prison Ministry. She traveled across Texas to many of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prisons. The ministry was wonderful and fulfilling. Lives were changed, and souls were set free, as was Tommie.
In 1988, a man who vowed never to set foot inside any prison, Tommie's husband, Jerry Hatfield, became a part of the Texans Do Care Prison Ministries. They were invited to participate in the second-ever marriage seminar inside TDCJ shortly after. Tommie and Jerry continued marriage seminars until 1994, when they became founders of their first 501 (C3) nonprofit organization, Southwest Texas Prison Ministry and Family Outreach. Tommie developed the "Heart to Heart" marriage encounter program. Tommie, Jerry, and a few others then implemented the program in prison units across Texas. As a result of this ministry, hundreds of men, women, and families were set free by the power of Jesus Christ.
As the years passed, all those involved in the Southwest Texas Prison Ministry (SWTPM) Heart to Heart Marriage Encounter Program began to learn, see, and feel the hearts of the people behind bars. Clearly, each person, the bound and the free are very much alike. Everyone laughs, cries, struggles, hurts, experiences the highs and lows of life, and makes good and bad choices. The commitment and endurance that the inmate couples had for their relationships made everyone take a long look at themselves, and ALL began to learn from one another. No matter the race, color, sex, size, or wealth (or lack thereof), everyone needed Jesus, to be loved, to love, and to be forgiven.
Jerry, Tommie, and Chip Wood began to ride their motorcycles together in their off-time. This quickly became another love in their lives. As they rode more and more, conversations took place about the desire for a motorcycle ministry. Little did they know it was not their idea; God had planted yet another seed in their hearts. While studying the Bible, Tommie read the scripture that states we are all called into the ministry of reconciliation. The three agreed that the Reconcilers was the perfect name. She also found a cross ideal for the logo, and things began to fall into place.
There was only one thing missing: what would The Reconcilers be doing? The Lord had not yet revealed that part, so once again, they waited. Then one day, on their way to conduct a church service at the Lynaugh Prison Unit, Jerry, Tommie, Chip, and his wife, Pam, agreed that they would share whatever God put on their heart in this service. There were about 127 inmates in attendance as Jerry, Tommie, Chip, and Pam spoke. It was amazing how the stories were almost identical as they each told of hurts, broken relationships, forgiveness, and doing what the Lord directed them to do about it. Approximately 87 men came forward for prayer, to share something, or for counseling. However, there was not enough time to do what was needed for those men. At that point, they knew this was what The Reconcilers would be about.
In early spring 2005, the group met at the home of Charles and Laura Troxel to discuss the possibility of forming a new ministry called The Reconcilers Motorcycle Ministry. Charles and Laura Troxel, Virgil (Laura’s son), Tracy and Susan Guerry, Chip and Pam Wood, and Jerry and Tommie Hatfield attended that meeting. The outcome of that meeting was that none of them knew what would happen, but they were all ready to go. That very day pictures were taken of the group to build a poster for The Reconcilers Motorcycle Ministry. Shortly afterward, a pilot program was set for the John Wallace Unit in Colorado City, Texas. The posters were sent out announcing the coming of The Reconcilers Motorcycle Ministry, and their vests were ready to go. Tracy Guerry also invited two friends that played music with him to come along. There was excitement and loads of fun, but above all, lives were touched by the mighty heart and hand of God. Once again, they knew very little of what was in store for years to come.
As the ministry began to take shape and form, the Reconcilers Motorcycle Ministry grew, and the schedules had to be set a full year in advance. Tracy and Susan Guerry, Val and Kandy Franklin, John East, Don Taylor, and Kevin Karr formed the Reconcilers’ band, and new people began to join the group. The ministry continued to flourish, and a new one-piece patch was crafted by inmates at the Walls Unit with the ministry logo on it. It became clear that God has used, placed, and developed it all by the leading of His Spirit, and each person knew to allow Him to do His work in hearts that are open to His Will. Everyone stood in awe at the changes and blessings happening every time they went. Gang members’ lives were miraculously changed. Bitter, unforgiving people cried tears of joy as their hearts of stone were broken as they gave their all to Jesus.
Once again, the Reconcilers also discovered life-changing things happening in their own lives. A new fire and love ignited in them as God revealed Himself to each person on a deeper level than ever before. In becoming a Reconciler, each found out that they were not just joining a ministry but gaining freedom in ministry themselves. They became more able to share their hearts with those in need. As the many beautiful stories have made evident through the years, it is plain to see the best is yet to come. There is one thing sure in this world in which we live; God loves and cares for everyone on this Earth! His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness are available even more than we can dream or imagine to be received by all who are willing and open. That is the message God has put in the hearts of the Reconcilers. May you be richly blessed today, for this IS the day that the Lord has made, so let us rejoice and be glad in it! There is Hope! -Always in Christ Jesus.
An essential part of the ministry is the meals brought into the prison for everyone involved in the event. Many people think it is just food for those who do not get good food or that it is a gift for the imprisoned. However, much is written in the Bible concerning feasting together, and it states that one of the most remarkable events in Heaven will be when we all gather for the feast. It is unlikely that the event will be all about food; therefore, more is involved than we may realize. It may be greater than we can imagine now, but let us consider the value of family meals such as Thanksgiving. It is not just about the food, as most of us have plenty. Such a meal's benefits are fellowship, family, love, traditions, and a sense of belonging. These are of great value to our Lord. Most of us experience sadness when we see people who are alone on holidays, and for the most part, many of us want to help these lonely souls. Have you ever considered how much more the Lord desires that for every one of His family?
Many of these people in white stand in awe to think that the almighty God would bring such things as this feast to them. The Lord desires to convey this through this ministry; His people have worth, purpose, and meaning. He desires to feed them with every good thing. Also, God has placed on the hearts of many people outside the prison walls to give as He has given to them, and they do so without question and with grateful hearts. It's not just worldly food, but in all things, He leads them. Even though they may never set foot inside a prison, their presence is spiritually felt during the entire program.
As you can tell, this is a quick overview of the ministry, with many untold stories, facts, and details; but as you can see, so many folks have the heart of God for those behind prison walls. Overall, our lives are so mightily blessed, and we are honored to be in God's service to His chosen people. Thanks be to Him and you.