Pete Ochs....One of my Heroes

by Henry Kaestner

Last week, I talked a bit about who our heroes might be, and how that might be contrarian to the way that the rest of society saw things.  Success in faith and success in business don’t always go hand in hand, and we need to make sure that those we seek to emulate are those who know God first and success in business second.

There are, of course, many folks that hit that role together and I can’t think of a better example of Pete Ochs.  I’ve gotten to know Pete over the last decade or so. I’ve heard the way that he thinks about God, about success, about marriage and maybe most strikingly about money.  Among other successful business ventures, he runs a business at scale inside a maximum security prison. It’s a great story, one of faith, dignity and respect.

What’s not mentioned in this short clip is that each worker is paid a market wage, from which they pay room and board back to the State.  Yes, it’s great for the taxpayer of Kansas, and good for the business that Pete owns, but the real difference of course, is in the life of the inmate who is able to provide for their family.  It restores dignity to them, something that’s needed as they reassimilate into society…...something that’s needed as they come to understand that they are loveable by others but most importantly, an awesome God who paid the ultimate price for their sin.

Pete is very, very serious about his faith, so for him it's natural to also share with his employees "why" he does what he does, with the hopes that they'll want to look more at their own faith.  As he does with life, Pete goes all in on all things SI (spiritual integration).  One of my favorites is the generosity campaign where he matches any philanthropic gift that the inmates give...thousands have been given thus far.  And Pete doesn't stop his generosity there, I had to pull it out of him after several requests, but I discovered that he's also the major donor of a $1mm chapel on premise.  The chapel is needed because while Pete has been working in the program, church attendance has TRIPLED with 2 new church plants and 50 new inmates coming to faith last year.  Also (as if there could be more) he's launched a prison seminary.  Want to see what it looks like when 6 murderers turned loyal employees turned Christ followers look like at graduation?

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I’ve long seen Matthew 25:36 about visiting prisoners and have done nothing about it to my discredit.  Pete has seen that verse, internalized it, and the Gospel message behind it and done something that is nothing short of heroic.