An 86-Year-Old Goes to Prison Twice a Week
January 1, 2003 - Eating out, taking it easy, doing things for yourself—that's how some people hope to spend their retirement years. That's not how 86-year-old Charlie Riggs is spending his retirement. Riggs, who began his association with Billy Graham in 1952 and served for more than 40 years in the areas of Crusade direction, counseling and follow-up, has no intention of retiring from service to the Lord Jesus Christ.
by Bob Paulson
Twice each week, Riggs does something that many people might consider extreme: He gets into his tan Buick, drives to a local prison and ministers to men who have been locked up by society.
Riggs' main purpose is to help Christian inmates to become solidly grounded in the Bible. But he also has plenty of opportunities to lead prisoners to faith in Christ for the first time.
"On occasion," Riggs says, "when I have new men coming into my study, I pass out 'Steps to Peace with God' and carefully go through each page, which graphically and biblically points the way to salvation. Many come to understand for the first time what it means to be saved." And several times Riggs has assisted Dick and Carol Gott—the couple who led Riggs into prison ministry—with three-day, evangelistic seminars in the prisons. Many prisoners have come to know Christ as Savior through these seminars.
Does prison ministry seem extreme to this 86-year-old? "Once in a while I'll go there in fear and trembling," Riggs says. "But I can't remember a time after leaving the prison that the tears didn't just flood my eyes." I say, "'God, thank You for the wonderful time we've had together.' The presence of the Lord is so real there."
No matter our age or situation, God can use us to minister to people around us—even to people in prison. Think it's too scary to go to a prison? "First of all," Riggs suggests, "get on your knees and ask the Lord to give you guidance. If He moves you, be willing to go with someone else who is volunteering in the prison—look to see what you could do. The first time I went in, we were singing and having a good time and really getting into the Bible, and I thought, 'Man, this is good.'"
Sounds like the kind of retirement we could all hope for.