Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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January 14, 2013

Longtime jail chaplain honored for years of service

ELKHART — There are no regrets as Elkhart County Jail Chaplain Mike Kupke retires after serving full-time for 28 years.

He’s served under five Elkhart County Sheriff’s during those years with the Elkhart County Jail Chaplaincy Program.

“I’ve been very blessed for the support of the sheriffs and their openness to think of the people in the jail,” Kupke said. “It’s been quite rewarding. They all have been supportive.”

His role as chaplain involved organizing more than 20 volunteer assistant chaplains and coordinating the activities of more than 700 additional volunteers working within the walls of the Elkhart County Corrections Facility.

Some of the highlights of serving as chaplain include his early days, he said.

“I was meeting people early on who accepted Christ while they were in jail and to see how they affected people in jail by leading others to Christ and once they got out of jail, how they affected people,” Kupke said, smiling. “I still keep in touch with some of them.”

He referred to jail as being a dark place.

“I was able to witness to them and that’s what I will carry with me,” he said. “ Thousands of people come here and I have come in contact with them.”

The retired chaplain gave high praise to the for the chaplaincy program.

“We are fortunate to have the volunteer network and the openness of the sheriff’s department,” Kupke said. “The sheriff is the key person to allow the openness for us to minister.”

Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers said the chaplain has “the heart of a true servant.”

“We have big shoes to fill, it’s not my call,” Rogers said. “The chaplain board will decide and hope to get a true servant like Mike who will minister to those hurting and serving time in jail.”

Former sheriff Tom Snider attended the open house for Kupke Sunday afternoon at the Law Enforcement Center in Elkhart.

“We were at the jail center on Third Street in Goshen and it was overcrowded,” Snider said. “I was thankful for Mike who was there to assist with the programs that were initiated and started there (for inmates.)”

The former chaplain hasn’t decided what he intends to do after retirement.

“I’m contemplating the future,” Kupke said.

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