The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Church on 'the hill'

South Dakota prison congregation changes lives inside and outside the walls

I beat a man to death in 1983, and I don't remember it." George Bluebird's first sentence riveted my attention. The rest of his story recounts an ongoing journey of redemption for which he thanks God and St. Dysmas Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, S.D. — the congregation on "the hill," behind the walls of the South Dakota State Penitentiary, a maximum-security facility.

"I did any kind of drug," says Bluebird, who is in his early 40s. "I didn't care about life or even my children, just about my next high.

"I've been [in prison] for 13 years. For most of those years I did not change. I came to St. Dysmas and heard Pastor Ike [Leroy Iseminger] tell of Moses who killed a man, yet God forgave him and spoke to him.

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