'We have come to set them free in the name of Jesus Christ': Jail Chaplains announce new leader
The Jail Chaplains group began with the purpose of helping those who are incarcerated at the Cass County Jail get on the right path before and after release.
FARGO — Dozens of people gathered Thursday, Feb. 16, as the retiring leader of Cass County's Jail Chaplains group passed the torch to her replacement.
Gerri Leach, executive director of the prison ministry group , took the job 11 years ago, and said last year that she planned to retire.
The group announced Thursday that Leach will be replaced by Mike Little, who currently leads the North Dakota Dental Foundation. Leach will remain on staff until June to help Little transition into the new role.
Little said he looks forward to the challenging work, but was initially fearful of taking the position. He declined the offer once, but changed his mind later after receiving "prophetic words" from a pastor at his church who told him he would soon be offered a job that would "test the limit of my abilities."
“The work ahead of us will be incredible. We’re waging a war, not against drug addiction, violence and crime, but against the root causes of these things. Criminals are not the enemy, they are the hostages of the enemy. We have come to set them free in the name of Jesus Christ. Cass County Jail is God’s turf, so fill that place with his love so that demons who enter it will have to flee,” Little told the crowd Thursday at the Dakota Medical Foundation's event center.
The Jail Chaplains group formed to help those who are incarcerated at the Cass County Jail get on the right path before and after release.
Shawn Gibree told the crowd that his life was changed because of the Jail Chaplains, which runs ministries in the jail and the Living Free Community program that helps people once they are out.
“I’m from a criminal background. Five years ago, I couldn’t get high enough. I wouldn’t be here if not for them. I would be dead,” said Gibree, now a volunteer with Jail Chaplains and owner of Babb’s Coffee House in downtown Fargo.
Jail Administrator Capt. Andy Frobig said Leach “really did an amazing job, and she is well deserving of her retirement. The Jail Chaplains is a real blessing we can offer to the inmates.”
He patted Gibree, who stood next to him, on the shoulder.
“When I was 29 or 30 years old, I was telling Shawn when to go to bed. Now I struggle just to keep up with him. This is exactly the action we should be striving for,” Frobig said.
Sheriff Jesse Jahner said, “We don’t want to be a warehouse for people at the jail. There are people in our facility who make mistakes, but if we can get them to turn around and be productive citizens again, then that is our goal."
David Todd, former Fargo police chief, spends much of his time in retirement fixing cars and motorcycles at his lake home, but also serves as chair of the Jail Chaplains' board of directors.
“When I retired as the police chief, I was looking forward to fading into the background,” Todd told the crowd.
About two months into his retirement, however, he was contacted about the position. “I will admit I was a little reluctant to step in right away,” Todd said, adding that they made him an unpaid offer he couldn’t refuse.
He asked God what he should do.
Two days later there was a picture of himself, Leach and others on the front page of The Forum. He took the photograph as a sign he should take the position, telling God he understood the message.