On April 17, 2009 Tom Grugel’s life changed forever. Having lived his entire life in a very dysfunctional lifestyle, and searching for something he couldn’t put into words, Tom found a church and began to attend. He was encouraged to go on an Emmaus Walk and during that weekend, at 10:00 AM on April 17, Tom surrendered his life to Christ. “He had been calling for years and I had ignored Him up to that moment,” said Tom. “He saved me and put a fire in me that has never gone away. He created in me a desire to share the Gospel with others.”
Tom began giving out Gospel tracts and felt God was calling him to preach. Once a week he would go to the Taylor County Detention Center and share with the inmates. This led to a conversation with the Boyle County Detention Center jailer about doing the same at their facility. But God had other plans. Tom was asked not to come just once a week, or once a month, but to be the chaplain at the Boyle County Detention Center.
“Tom has many years of experience as an inmate,” said South District Baptist Association Director of Missions Jim Clontz. “He knows the challenges of knowing what it is like to be alone and wonder what is going to happen! He knows what it is like to be without Christ! In his many years as an inmate, no one ever witnessed to him. He has a love for the inmates, the staff and the administration. He has the support of the Jailor and Chief Deputy, and works closely with the Detention Center Administration, local churches and with our association.” Tom is making a difference in the lives of many of the “guests” of the jail, as he likes to refer to them. They serve 3000 persons a year in the jail and he has seen over 500 professions of faith in Christ during his years as chaplain, with 319 of them being baptized.
“He offers follow-up when inmates are released,” says Bro. Jim, and “there is a very high correlation between follow-up and whether the inmate will return.”
One day Tom’s heart was broken over children he saw that had come to visit mom and dad in jail. Some were antsy, some were sitting in chairs staring at the walls, and others sitting on the floor. “I had to step into another room because I had begun to cry,” he said. Soon after the jail started a Kid’s Corner to minister to these children. A beautiful mural was painted on the wall and a child’s table and chairs were added where the children can watch television during their visit. Each child is given a gift bag, which includes toys and, so far, about 500 “Bags of Smiles” has been given out, all of which is funded by local churches.
Click on the following link to view a recent news story that WKYT-TV in Lexington did on the Kids’ Corner – https://www.wkyt.com/content/news/Kids-corner-at-Boyle-Co-jail-motivates-incarcerated-parents-499202421.html.
Tom shared that the Bags of Smiles in no longer just a jail ministry. They now work with those who do advocacy with children, and with child protective services, to provide the Bags of Smiles.
“There is so much that the Lord is doing,” says Tom. And he is always quick to give the God the credit.
Tom works closely with the churches of the South District Baptist Association and, in February 2018, became a Kentucky Mission Service Corps Missionary with the Kentucky Baptist Convention in his role as chaplain.
There is a need for new or gently used toys for the Bags of Smiles. If you would like to partner with Tom please email him at [email protected], or contact Dr. Jim Clontz, Director of Missions at the South District Baptist Association at 859-238-7624.