My name is Paul Nielsen. With a bi-vocational prison chaplain call, I am studying at the Christian Leaders Institute to be further equipped (Learn more about studying the Bible and ministry classes online, Click Here).
My Spiritual Journey
I became a Christian the first time I heard the gospel at age 14. As a follower of Jesus, I felt the call to be a pastor but couldn’t afford college. So, I joined the US Navy and became a Data System Technician and Petty Officer. The structure of the Navy and studying digital electronics suited me.
After the Navy, I continued my career as a software developer and married Melissa, a wonderful Christian woman who happened to be a paraplegic. We had two kids. During this time, I volunteered in church, leading study groups and serving in the worship band.
While reading Romans, I learned that we don’t choose God. He chooses us. Having discovered Calvinism, I took a handful of classes at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Learning to read scripture from a historical-redemptive hermeneutic changed my world.
Loss and Growth
After 18 ½ years of marriage, Melissa suffered a brain aneurysm on Sept 13, 2002. After two weeks of roller-coaster ups and downs, surgeries, sweet moments of faith, and lots of prayers, Melissa passed away at 3 pm, Thursday, Sept 26, 2002. I never planned on being a single dad, especially with two teenagers who were not pleased with life.
Three years later, I met another wonderful Christian woman, Edie, who had been to Russia ten times on mission trips leading vacation Bible schools in the orphanages. Her dream was to adopt a little girl from that region of Russia. After we married, we did just that and brought home a three-year-old girl.
Meanwhile, my career continued to go well. I specialized in database design and development. Along the way, I published a few technical books – two of which became Amazon best-sellers in their category – founded a software startup, and did lots of public speaking at software conferences. I was still teaching classes at my church and volunteering with computer training at mission organizations.
But one day, I looked at my bookcase and saw that it was filled with software, business, legal, and marketing books, including a shelf of books I had written. However, only one shelf held a few commentaries and Bibles. Overwhelmed with a sense of loss and shame that I missed my calling and devoted my life to career and fame instead of serving as a pastor, I thought it was too late. I wasted my life.
At about that time, I heard a non-believing billionaire at a conference. He said that the most authentic thing he ever did was to visit a prison and talk with felons. He invited anyone who wanted to do the same to join him. I‘ve always believed that the hard choice is usually the right choice. I also like doing authentic things, so I stepped up.
The first time I entered the prison, I was a bit anxious. It was a business coaching day, and the men I met were eager and enthusiastic about starting a new life once they got out. I never thought I would enjoy serving in prison. However, I started going in regularly as a business coach. When I learned that my church was opening a campus inside the same prison, I jumped from business coach to church volunteer.
Bi-vocational Prison Chaplain Call
After a while, the inmate who served as the inside pastor asked me to become a chaplain. His confirmation of my newfound passion led me to do the extra work to become a prison chaplain in answer to God’s call.
I’m now the lead chaplain at the oldest working prison west of the Mississippi, and I love it. I tell the inmates that God can redeem the wasted years. He uses everything in your past to make you the person you are to glorify Him. The years I spent making the complex understandable are skills that help me as I teach the Bible and theology to guys with various educational levels. The years I spent as a consultant under challenging situations help me remain calm as I deal with the constant prison drama. God is good. I don’t have many years left at my age. However, I know that I’m where God wants me.
Register a Study Account
Register for a free study account that automatically enrolls you in the Getting Started Class at the Christian Leaders Learning Platform. The Getting Started class will take you less than an hour to complete.
When you log in to the Learning Platform, you will notice that the Getting Started Class automatically appears on your dashboard.
The Getting Started Class will orientate you to the Christian Leaders Learning Platform and the Programs offered, including:
- Ministry Awards, Certificates, and Diplomas with the Christian Leaders Institute.
- College Degrees with the Christian Leaders College.
- Minister Credentialling (Ordination) with the Christian Leaders Alliance, including local Soul Center registration possibilities.
Note: You can enroll in tuition-free courses or mini-courses immediately without finishing the getting started class.
Find out more about women in ministry here