Chaplain N. Lee Harris
Lee Harris enjoys golfing and amusement park rides. Lee says he never planned to be a prison chaplain, but God had other plans. Lee is a committed Christian, but he is passionate about defending the religious rights of offenders of all faiths. After a brief “retirement,” Chaplain Harris is back as chaplain for his beloved Green Rock.
Chatting with Chaplain Lee Harris, it doesn’t take a minute to recognize his love for people and relationships. His gift for people is what makes the work so richly rewarding. “One good thing is that I’ve built a very, very good relationship with everyone here. I love the staff. I love the men. That’s the greatest reward. I’m not just “Chaplain Harris,” I’m “Chap.”
Having pastored churches from 1981-2005 in North Carolina and Virginia, prison ministry didn’t interest Chaplain Harris – at first. With a Doctorate of Ministries degree, he’d successfully pastored many churches – one gaining almost 700 members during his leadership. But God had plans for him. “In 2007, I came to Danville and I heard Bill Twine speak. I hardly paid attention to what he was saying, thinking I am not interested in prison stuff. It’s nice and all, but not for me. I don’t know anything about being a chaplain. I really thought, “What would I want to do that for?”
But something was nudging Chaplain Harris to apply. When he was offered the job he didn’t think he really wanted, he spent some time in prayer and accepted. At first, it was a challenge. “The facility was brand new and it was chaos. As time went by, the men began to help me learn more and I began to build up the office. It has grown extensively and is a good chaplain’s office. Once I got to know the men and what prison life was all about, I began to really love it.”
Chaplain Harris has had a few breaks from Green Rock Correctional Center over the past 8 years including a false start to retirement – but he always comes back. “I have experience now. I am relaxed. I came back with a renewed fresh start and I am loving it. We have eleven religious groups here right now, 1000 men, Kairos going on, the daily requests, the Chaplain’s Library and the counseling sessions. It’s enough to keep you busy. The staff here appreciate me because they know how much I do to help them!”
“I meet with the religious group facilitators every week. I find out what is going on and if they have a problem, they come to me…which is why we have so few problems. They know I love them and I am concerned about them. Because of that, I get respect because they know I am here to help them in any way that I can.”
When not inside the prison, Chaplain Harris is still all about relationships. “I go back and forth to see my family in North Carolina, my boys and grandchildren. I spend time with friends. We do a Bible Study on Monday night, I’m active in church and I enjoy reading. I slowed my life down a lot. I don’t want to go as fast as I used to.” When time permits, Chaplain Harris LOVES the chance to play 18 holes of golf. But after a long day at the prison, those 18 holes have to wait.
When ask to sum up what he does, Chaplain Harris put it this way. “I try to help men know Jesus and grow closer to him. I help all men practice their religious beliefs and live a better life…and to know they are better than what put them in here.”
With an attitude like that, it is no wonder his return to Green Rock was met with applause. GraceInside is delighted to have you back – again!