Pastor Jonas Horn, 49, has been preaching for 29 years. He currently serves as the Chaplain at Carroll Montgomery County Regional Correctional Facility. Although he is certain preaching is his life’s calling, he had never imagined himself as a preacher growing up and didn’t even come from a particularly religious family.
Horn entered the University of Southern Mississippi as an aspiring doctor, but he left as an aspiring man of God. After majoring in biology in college, he decided to get his doctorate in theology from Andersonville Theological Seminary. What started the transition? Trouble, Horn says.
When Horn was 18-years-old, he got in trouble with the law for underage drinking and was sent to a juvenile facility. Like many of the inmates he works with, Pastor Horn thought he might bargain with God in order to get out of the detention center. When he first started going to church, his thought was “Lord, if you just get me out of this, I will never get in trouble again,” he said. After eight months of going to church just hoping to strike a deal with God, Horn says he received Him for real.
Horn gave his life to Christ in 1987 and has never looked back, he said.
After two years of being saved, Horn said he received the calling to preach. His family was pretty shocked, he said. Since they were not very religious themselves, they did not exactly understand Horn’s change of heart at first. Eventually they came around, he said.
In 1994, he started ministering at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Surprisingly, his own background was not what motivated him to minister at Parchman. In fact, the opposite is true.
“I had grown up around criminals. I hadn’t expected to stay around them,” he said. Yet, Parchman was the first place that he was able to minister.
Two years later, in 1996, Horn became pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in French Camp. But, he didn’t let Parchman go.
In 1997, Horn found himself volunteering at both Delta Correctional Facility and Parchman in addition to pastoring at his church and working as a nurse in Jackson. He would do Bible studies in the mornings and then go home to change into his scrubs. He worked three to four days a week, being sure to have Wednesdays and Sundays off for church.
When asked how it had been to juggle so much at once, Horn smiled and replied, “Well, it was great.”
Over 20 years has passed and not a thing has changed. “I actually have not slowed down from that pace,” Horn said.
Right now, Horn usually works Sunday through Thursday at the Carroll Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility. Every Friday, he volunteers at the Winston Choctaw County Regional Correctional Facility in Louisville. Four times a year, he revisits Parchman to volunteer for a couple of days. He quit nursing in 2004 and went full-time at his church, where he has now pastored for 22 years.
Although he has been ministering at the Carroll-Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility for 16 years, he has been serving in the capacity as chaplain for only eight. The difference in roles mostly has to do with energy and time required. Horn compared the two to the role of a parent versus a grandparent. As a chaplain, Horn has learned to manage the “day-to-day drama” of prison life.
In addition to the many hats he wears, Horn is also a husband and father of four adult children.
Even with such a tireless schedule, Horn stays motivated.
“Every human being has to go somewhere when they die and I want to make sure it’s heaven.”
It is this fact that keeps him going, he said.
Retirement for Horn is nowhere in sight.
“I never saw in the Bible where a preacher stopped preaching,” he said.
When asked what he wished the people of Carroll and Montgomery counties could know about him, Horn replied, “I want them to know that I would be there for them. Jesus loves them and if they need a friend or someone to talk to, I would be there.”