Home Metro Preaching to prisoners, a long-time volunteer minister offers a lesson in forgiveness

Preaching to prisoners, a long-time volunteer minister offers a lesson in forgiveness

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Robert Williams confessed to murdering 3 women and trying to kill a 4th on a 3-day, 3 state rampage in 1977. Now, 20 years later and with only months until Williams’ execution, Bill Hance was on his way to talk about God’s Salvation with a convicted killer.

As Hance made his way to the Lincoln prison, he was not thinking about the crimes the man who he would eventually call Brother Bob had committed. He was simply concerned with helping a man who was looking for God’s salvation.

“It is not my place to judge when people ask me if I think the people in jail did it, I just say that we are all sinners,” Hance said.

Hance began as a volunteer clergy member at prisons throughout Nebraska when he arrived in Lincoln in August of 1987. He began to volunteer with a member of his church to go and lead bible studies at the Lincoln Diagnostic Evaluation Center. After the first time, he told the volunteers he wouldn’t mind doing this and would even take early retirement from his job in order to run a halfway home and be the full-time prison minister.

Hance worked with prison inmates at various prisons to spread God’s message. He would convert many. Just this year, he estimates that around 100 inmates have been baptized.

Eventually, he found himself teaching a bible study on death row at the state’s maximum security prison in Tecumseh to some unlikely brothers in Christ.

Many believe that the people he teaches do not deserve God.

“Every time a person finds salvation, they have become a successful human being,” Hance said. “We all reach success at different points in our lives, and think a person dying lost is a terrible tragedy.”

Coming up on 33 years as a volunteer minister, Hance continues to preach The Word.

“Jesus said, ‘I was sick and in prison and you visited me. In as much, you’ve done at least to these you’ve done it to me.’ This morning I went out to the prison, and I visited with 13 inmates. And I visited with Jesus 13 times,” Hance said with a smile. “But there were another 600 inmates that I didn’t visit with, and they needed someone to visit them too.”

I’m fourth year Journalism and Broadcasting student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am currently a photojournalist for Cedar County News. In Fall 2019, I will be a photo intern for the Omaha World Herald. I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming and it helped influence me in countless ways. First and foremost being taught that hard work is a way of life and doing a good job benefits everyone. Much of my time has been spent around hard working and honest blue collar workers and from them In have learned that hard work pays off. They knew that obstacles and fears and meant to be overcome and while failure is expected giving up is something I will not allow myself. My work is driven by an urge to educate people, in hopes that I can help eliminate fears and help people make connections to those they have never met. Showing people the human side of of stories and issues is the best way to inspire change. To go the distance to give the public the information to help them make well informed decisions. When I am not working I love being outside. I hike, rock climb, watch documentaries, and try not to get eaten by bears (they are everywhere you know). Anything that keeps me on the move helps me learn makes me happy.