The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A lifer by choice

For all prisoners, a lesson of love

Kyuzo Miyaishi—known throughout South Carolina as “Frankie San”—spent 40 years in the state’s maximum security prison as a chaplain. One of the wardens he served under purportedly said, “I was the warden but Frankie ran the prison.”

“Frankie San,” Kyuzo Miyaishi, presents
“Frankie San,” Kyuzo Miyaishi, presents a workshop on prison ministry at a South Carolina Global Mission Event.
Born in Japan in 1929 and raised Buddhist, Frankie San converted to Christianity after World War II. He came to South Carolina and enrolled at Lutheran Southern Seminary , Columbia, graduating in 1966. He was ordained in 1973. While a student, he worked at a hamburger joint where he watched buses from the department of correction pass by. Frankie San bowed and waved at the passengers. And the prisoners waved back.

He saw this as a sign that God was calling him to minister to the prisoners at South Carolina’s infamous Central Correctional Institute, said his friend Charles B. Dawkins, a retired ELCA pastor.

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