Watch CBN News' 700 Club-The Link as it features the Wendy Hatcher Transitional Home: founders Frederick and Pauline Rogers.
Frederick & Pauline Rogers
Frederick Rogers aka “Freddie” On April 21, 1976, I left home, “joy riding” with a few of my friends. It took me 15 years, 8 months and 22 days before I returned home. That night we did an armed robbery for which I was sentenced, at the early age of 15, to serve 30 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections. I entered Parchman, not really knowing what to expect. I found a jungle in which I had no other choice but to become a part, unless I wanted to be eaten alive. I too became a beast in order to survive. After my arrival, other convicts began to tutor me in how to make it in “their world” which was totally different from the world I was taken from. In 1979, I stabbed another convict. It was by God’s Grace he didn’t die (although I didn’t see that at the time). I received an additional 15 years for assault and attempted murder. Now my sentence became 45 years. Then I got involved in a scheme with money orders, and for that I received another 20 years. My whole life flashed before me. I had placed myself in a position for now serving a whopping 65 years, and it seemed to me at that time it would be very, very likely that I would ever see or taste freedom again. I was transferred to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. I soon thought I had discovered where “the action” was: in the Chaplain’s department. I told the Chaplain later that I watched convicts coming from her office grinning and I thought, “That must be where the dope is.” I found out later that it was another kind of “high.” The day I realized that I was just “tired of being tired,” I made a request to see the Chaplain. It had been over 12 years since I knew what it felt like to cry. Even when I lost my father, while incarcerated, and unable to attend his funeral, my heart was so hard I couldn’t make myself cry, because I thought that was a sign of weakness. On this day, sitting in the Chaplain’s office I was touched by God and I began to cry uncontrollably. It seemed as though a dam had been broken after all those years. I realized that God created man—therefore God has the power to change a man’s heart. Man couldn’t do it. Even the system, where people have placed their faith in rehabilitation, couldn’t do it. Jesus accepted me just the way I was, messed up and full of sin. I have been walking with Him ever since, far from perfection, but determinedly. After I miraculously received parole, God gave me a wife who loves God more than she loves me. People said our marriage wouldn’t last a year because we are both ex-cons, but we have been married 25 years. I have learned, and am still learning that God, not people, makes the difference. Since my release in November of 1991, I’ve been involved in prison ministry, for the simple reason that Christ loved me when I was unlovable. I am reminded about Jonah from the Bible. At one time, we all ran from God and disobeyed that voice. God has shown me that storms are a part of the Christian life and sometimes we have that “whale” experience. It is in those times of being “in the belly” that God is shaping us into the people that He would have us to be. I have been involved in every aspect of prison ministry and prison re-entry since my release and now an even greater involvement and joy since my wife has become Field Director, in Mississippi for Prison Fellowship. Her level of excitement and joy has increased my excitement and involvement, knowing that this is the will of God for both our lives and for the population we seek to serve. This new role for my wife is an answered prayer for us both. It is by divine destiny, divine appointment and definite “will of God.” I am her BIGGEST most worked volunteer…Literally! I have been out of prison for 27 years, an ordained minister, with a heart to serve the people of God while continuing my personal growth in the Lord daily.
Pauline Rogers’ first experience in a court room was testifying about her father’s murder. Then just 9 years old, Pauline had watched her mother shoot him.
“I helped her put him in the car,” she admits. “He died en route to the hospital.”
The court ruled it a case of self-defense, and Pauline’s mother wasn’t convicted.
After that, “my mother be-came a workaholic … she was never around,” Pauline remembers. And as a young girl growing up on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, Pauline began taking responsibility for her 10 younger siblings.
They were so poor, she explains, that she would look in the newspaper to find out which churches were having funerals. She would dress up her siblings and take them to the church, where they would always find a meal.
It wasn’t long before she began stealing simple things to help provide for her family, like a bag of rice, meat, or hair bands.
“I stole from department stores, dollar stores, grocery stores … if it was in walking distance from me, it was a target.” She was 11 the first time she was caught. At that point, the police officer just pulled her aside, explained that she shouldn’t steal, paid for the stolen goods, and drove her home. But that wasn’t enough to wake Pauline up. She was arrested a couple more times after that without facing serious consequences. But in her late twenties, her behavior finally caught up with her, and she landed a six-year prison sentence.
‘I was not the Savior’ But sitting in county jail, even before she went to prison, Pauline met a Prison Fellowship volunteer who introduced her to Jesus. That turned everything around, Pauline explains. The volunteer helped her realize that it was not her responsibility to take care of her siblings.
“I knew that I could depend on God. I was not the Savior … it freed me,” she says.
By the time she got to prison Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, Pauline was intent on taking advantage of every opportunity she could—particularly the programs offered by Prison Fellowship: life-skills training, discipleship, and mentoring opportunities. She also worked for the chaplain, a woman named Wendy Hatcher, who continued to mentor Pauline along her journey as a follower of Jesus.
Wendy said she noticed something special after meeting Pauline at a Bible study.
“I liked her a lot. I felt like I could trust her. She was intelligent and able to assist me in a lot of things.”
Pauline helped Wendy with standard chaplain assistant tasks like paperwork, but Wendy also called upon her for assistance with more nuanced chaplain duties, like ministering to other prisoners.
“If there was a death in an inmate’s family, I would take her with me,” Wendy says, so that Pauline could meet with the grieving prisoner to comfort them and help them through the process.
Daughter Becomes Mother to Many Pauline did three years on a six-year term, and when she was released in 1987, Wendy allowed her to come and live with her in Jackson. Over time, Wendy had come to see Pauline as her daughter and wanted to provide a temporary home for her. Over the next four years, while she was living with Wendy, Pauline was hired by a doctor— a volunteer whom Pauline had met when she was in prison—to work as a janitor in her office. As Pauline proved herself, the office staff realized her potential to do more, and her responsibilities grew as she continued to work there for the next 27 years.
She also got involved with a church—New Horizon Church International—and married Fred, also a former prisoner whom she had met while incarcerated. She began volunteering with Prison Fellowship, going back into prison to minister and organizing Angel Tree. Under Pauline’s leadership, New Horizon provides gifts to hundreds of children every Christmas through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program.
With Fred, she even started her own ministry to others coming out of prison. Over the past several years, Pauline and Fred have opened their home to around 20 ex-prisoners and have helped just as many get back on their feet.
Henry Daniels was one of those they helped.
Locked up for 34 years, Henry knew Fred when they were both in prison. When Henry was released in 2006, the Rogers gave him a temporary home and helped him get a job at a restaurant. Today, Henry has his own landscaping business and works parking lot security at New Horizon.
“They helped me get adjusted back to society. I don’t know what I would have did if it hadn’t been for them,” he says.
A Shiny New Penny Just recently, Pauline learned about an opening for a field director position at Prison Fellowship in Mississippi, and she jumped at the opportunity.
From a little lost girl to the director of a ministry that reaches out to families like hers, Pauline can only say that her life is one of amazing transformation.
“I feel like an old, dirty, crusty penny that was on the ground that no one wanted to pick up and people had trampled on. But somebody saw some value in that penny and picked it up and cleaned it up, and added more pennies to it. Prison Fellowship is just one more thing that is adding value to that penny.