DES ARC, Ark. — ‘It’s not the place, but the people.’
A phrase ringing true for a small town east Arkansas pastor, who never missed a week of sharing the gospel with inmates at the county jail.
Brother Jim West died of a heart attack this week.
His family says he never judged the inmates or acted superior, which is why he made such an impact.
“On a day like today Brother Jim would have been out here with a yard full of prisoners,” Prairie County Sheriff Rick Hickman said.
A prison yard is not the typical view of church with concrete instead of pews and barbed wire in place of crosses.
But it’s where Brother Jim West met with his non-traditional congregation.
“Every week, no matter what, he was here on his lunch break,” Sheriff Hickman said.
Brother Jim never missed a Wednesday for 8 years.
“One of those men you could depend on no matter what. He said what he’s gonna do, he did it,” his brother Alan West said.
Even when Jim was diagnosed with lymphoma last month he continued also preaching at his Des Arc church of 30 years.
His wife says it was his heart that gave out Tuesday.
“He got a special place in heaven,” Sheriff Hickman said.
Impacting not just the sheriff, but the inmates too. So they wrote a letter to the family.
“We the inmates of Prairie County jail would like to send special prayer and blessings out to the family of Mr. Jim West,” Alan West read.
He’s survived by his mother, siblings, wife, 8 kids, 17 grandkids and countless inmates.
“We witnessed him do a lot of Godly things,” the letter said.
“He was a soldier on the battlefield.”
Brother Jim’s love for others lives on.
“We just want the wife and family to know that it was good to have known Mr. Jim….”
Even by those who may seem lost.
“He’s going to be missed and never forgotten.”
Brother Jim never let his cancer or heart disease slow him down so few people knew he was sick.
The county jail will still have volunteer pastors to fill in for inmates who want to participate.