Gale Wetzel has one mission—to preach the Gospel of Christ. He preached his first sermon on New Year’s Eve, 1959. Now, he’s 78 years old. Yet, each week he drives to the Green River Correctional Complex to volunteer as a prison chaplain. Although Gale can do nothing about the physical bars incarcerating the inmates, he shares the love of Jesus to free them from the shackles around their hearts.
“Just seeing men come to Christ is exciting for me,” Gale said. “Some are really hard hearted, but that’s not the average.”
Most seek out Gale for prayer, counseling and Bible study. When the warden’s voice announces that the volunteer chaplain is here, men come to their feet and walk to the door of their cells to greet him. Through consistency, genuine love and newfound faith, these inmates have become family rather than prisoners.
“My first love is to preach and share the Gospel because that’s what God called me to do,” Gale said.
Gale preached his first sermon at the age of 19, and has been sharing God’s word ever since. From June 1962 to 1972, he pastored churches in the former Louisville and Kentucky Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church. In 1972, he received the appointment of General Evangelist and held that appointment until 2008 when he reached mandatory retirement. Because of the shortage of ministers in 1996, he was asked to pastor small rural churches until November of last year. During this time, he continued to preach revivals, do jail ministry and over seas mission trips.
Wherever he preached, his heart longed to share the freedom found in Christ with those still shackled, physically, spiritually, or both.
The second time Gale entered Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville, Ky., as a guest of the chaplain, he had no idea he’d be preaching on death row. The chaplain left him with the guard with these words, “I’ll be back in an hour and a half.”