Murderers. Drug addicts. Gang leaders. Thieves. The troubled men in this memoir by Chris Hoke, a gang pastor and jail chaplain, are known to society by these dark labels. To Hoke, however, these “men starved for kindness and care” are so much more than their criminal actions or statuses; they are his unconventional congregants and his true friends.
WANTED: A Spiritual Pursuit Through Jail, Among Outlaws, and Across Borders traces Hoke’s first years of visiting with, praying with, and listening to the hunted “outlaws” and convicted criminals of Skagit Valley, Wash. They have been caught up in the fiercest cycles of violence, abandonment, and shame. They are deeply wounded—but they are deeply funny too, and even tender. They curse excitedly while hearing Christ’s parables, weep openly during prayer, and make communion elements out of candy while in solitary confinement. Their histories are painful and their spiritual journeys cannot be tidily mapped—which is exactly why their stories are so real and powerful and so evocative of the gospel.
As Hoke builds relationships of trust and love with these “tormented souls,” he celebrates their capacity to flourish as creative, uniquely gifted beloveds of God. This ministry beyond the church pew and into the prison cell is hard and often heartbreaking. Yet Hoke writes with immense gratitude and a ceaseless eagerness to see how God will continue to defy the lines we often wrongly draw between shadowed places and hallowed space. The stories in this daring and gracefully written book will stay with you as radiant evidence of a profoundly merciful Father who is always ready to answer his children’s yearnings “to be fully known and loved” (Banner review).