“I hadn’t talked to God in a long time. But, I prayed. I said, ‘If you’re real, you gotta help me.” 

From the age of 17 to 36, Bill Ryder spent 19 years stuck in a methamphetamine addiction. While living in California, he remembers being in the courtroom and hearing the judge sentence him to at least one year in a maximum security facility. 

On his bus ride to the facility, he heard several times, ‘You better know how to fight when you get off this bus.’ However, the judge ordered that any altercation with inmates, guards, or others would automatically send Bill to the state penitentiary for 10 years. 

“When I got off the bus, things happened. However, it was with other people; not with me.”

One of the first people that Bill met was a chaplain. He gave him a ‘Free on the Inside Bible’ and told him that he would need it for the rest of his life. 

Bill knew that God had answered his prayer. He opened the Bible and while he was incarcerated, he made a promise to God that he would be as committed to His Word as he was to his addiction. Bill claims that it was that promise that helped him get to where he is today. 

Bill was able to fulfill his time in the county jail without any altercations. When he was released, he came back to Oceana county and heard God speak to his heart. He heard God ask him to start entering jails and prisons to tell the incarcerated what God had done for him. Bill first thought, “There’s no way I’m walking into a jail.” However, he looks back and now says, “But God in His great mercy paved the way.” 

This year, Bill will celebrate 30 years clean from his methamphetamine addiction! Over the past 15 years, Bill has entered jails and prisons to share the goodness of what God has done in his life. For 5 years Chaplain Bill has led the RTF chaplaincy in the Oceana County Jail where 66 inmates are housed, on average. 

Oceana county is considered one of the poorest counties in Michigan. As an under-resourced county, Bill and a few like-minded men noticed the need in their community for reentry services. With the ultimate goal of helping men find their freedom in Christ, they created Elevate Oceana, a home where those transitioning from jail or prison could seek rehabilitation, housing, and get connected to people who will walk with them as they get back on their feet. 

In the heart of Hart, Michigan, Chaplain Bill and his partners have been working to remodel what was once the old funeral home. Now the Elevate Oceana house, this facility will be used to house up to 10 men who need a higher level of care in order to recover from their addiction. RTF is now able to partner with Elevate Oceana as men transition from jail back to their community, and what a blessing that is in these counties where services are limited. 

Chaplain Bill says, “Most addicts come to a point where they are confronted with the choice to give up their addiction, or to die in it. God in His mercy says, ‘No it’s not time for you to die; it’s time for you to get connected.” Now the option to get connected exists in their own backyard.

Many in our society question what kind of impact a recovering addict can have on their community. Bill’s story is one that contradicts this mindset. He is a humble servant whose heart cries for those who know the suffering that comes with chronic addiction. He has experienced the power of being washed clean and he now freely offers that gift to others. 

In closing, Bill says, “I’ve never seen God, but I have seen His hands and feet at work. I’m privileged to be called a child of God and to be the hands of feet of Christ on earth.”