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Following God’s Vision

By Marion Stephan

McDowell County 

From the moment we are born again in Christ, says Danny Hampton, “everything in the natural world becomes a womb, just like our mother’s. And the work of God has created within us this new creation that begins to grow within the will of this world as much as we who were conceived.”

Hampton delivered this insight in a February 10 message to the Marion Aglow International Lighthouse, at His Place Worship Center in Marion, North Carolina. He is the founder and executive director of Freedom Life Ministries of Marion. This ministry assists those serving time in prisons and jails and those transitioning into life outside incarceration.

Hampton shared his pilgrimage into prison ministry, after serving 30 years as a pastor. He had “settled into my rhythm” in a growing church in New Jersey.  However, God called him “back to your home place” in McDowell County to “go do something new.”

He made the move, with a vision of starting a new church that “was uniquely geared to minister to people who’ve been hurt by the church or ostracized from the church” He “started visiting churches and talking and praying and trying to get stuff going,” but nothing panned out.

Sometimes, he said, “God’s got to put us on our face.” Otherwise, “we will water down God, we will weave him into our own human need for security and familiar connection and comfort in ways we’re not even aware.“

His “dear sweet mother” told him about a chaplaincy opening at the Marion Minimum Security Prison. He initially rejected the idea. After 30 years of “seeing God build churches, seeing God grow churches,” he was reluctant to pursue new ground.  He told her, “’ I don’t know anything in any way from any point of anything I’ve ever done in my life that would say I could go do that.’”

However, “I wound up going to an interview with Bill Warren,” director of McDowell Mission,” which operated the prison chaplaincy program. The position paid $150 a week, and Hampton felt he could not afford to accept it.

However, he said, “God’s vision will take us beyond what we can know. God’s vision will take us beyond where we can go.” Even though he “had no experience, no qualifications in any way other than the fact that I was trying to serve God with all my heart, that that qualified me to be inside that prison,” he went through North Carolina’s credentialing process.

He subsequently found himself in “a little chaplain office the size of the closet . . inside of a minimum security” prison. He felt “out of my comfort zone and out of my ministry zone.”

However, after a few years within the prison system “watching God start to work,” he became increasingly concerned about the difficulties of released convicts trying to transition into the community. “I begin to get frustrated because I’ve been working with guys on the inside and being able to get out and then I would hear calls coming back: What am I supposed to do? Pastors are afraid of me coming to church, jobs won’t hire me, and my whole family is sick and I can’t go back to them.”

Once the incarcerated are released, he pointed out, they are subject to “over 900 laws that are binding them.”

In 2012, Freedom Life Ministries was launched. At the time, Hampton said, “We didn’t have a bank here. We had nothing. And yet we knew that God was leading us to become a faith-based 501C3.”

With “just myself and 3 or 4 of the men that felt the call of God to come together,” the ministry was put into motion. It has now grown to a staff of 15 employees and “over 100 volunteers,” and has expanded to serve McDowell, Yancey, and Avery Counties. With the help of a $5,000,000 grant, plans are underway to build 44 apartments in McDowell to help persons “going through the reentry process.”

“But the greatest miracle,” Hampton asserted, “is the miracle of lives touched and forever changed. Since 2012, we’ve touched over 7,000 lives in jail and prisons.”

Hampton urged the listeners to follow the vision God has given them, rather than their own vision. “We get God wrapped up in our world of what we have concluded about him and then seek to get him to move according to our need amid that world.”

Following God’s plan involves lifelong commitment, he said. He suggested that we cannot be like a baby in its eighth month in the womb, saying, “I’m just gonna sit back in my mother’s womb, stay comfortable in what I’ve known to this point, and relax until I die.”

He challenged the listeners to “let go of your charters, and to pick up the charter of God. Are you doing today what you have done because that’s what you have always done? Are you doing today what you’re doing because the breath of God is breathing into it?…. Do not let the structure of what you have been determine the work that God can do. Because God is doing a new thing in a new day.”


The Marion Aglow Lighthouse meets the second Saturday of each month at 10 am, at His Place Worship Center, 1423 Highway 70 West, Marion, North Carolina. Additional information about the lighthouse, including links to the Zoom and Facebook Live meetings, are available at Marion Aglow’s website and Facebook page: and, respectively. Danny Hampton’s entire message can be viewed on the website’s “Meeting Videos” page,

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