Featured Difference Maker:
One of the most interesting characters you are likely to ever meet is Jack Roland Murphy, aka: “Murf the Surf.” He is charismatic, articulate, has a keen intellect, and can keep you spellbound for hours with his fascinating true-life adventures. His life began in a good home with loving parents and it became obvious from a young age that he was overloaded with natural God-given gifts. His skills as a musician were evident at an early age and he played the violin with the Pittsburg Symphony as a teenager. He was a star athlete especially in water sports where he held many records as a lifeguard and champion surfer including being inducted into the Surfer Legends Hall of Fame. He was and is a talented artist, a tennis pro, dance instructor, a circus high diver whose death-defying act was to dive from 125 feet high into a trough of water just 8 feet deep. He was gregarious, good looking and his adventurous spirit and charisma were intoxicating making him very popular.
In short, this talented guy could have done anything he wanted. It seemed he was destined to accomplish big things and indeed he did, but they were not the kind of things any parent would want for their child. Perhaps it was his adventurous spirit, the instability of his family moving around the country, or maybe falling in with the wrong crowd, or a combination of the foregoing, but somewhere he took a wrong turn and entered a life of crime. While other kids were away at college preparing for the professions of their dreams, he was honing his skills as a cat burglar. He became a jewel thief and a good one as exemplified when he and his partner performed the daring “Jewel Robbery of the Century” when they stole the J.P. Morgan Gem Collection, including the Star of India, the world’s largest Star Sapphire, from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Jack had little use for God in those early days, instead he opted for a pocket full of money, fast cars, and fast women, not to mention being a celebrity in the world-renowned nightlife of Miami where booze and drugs flowed like water. He loved living on the edge and the excitement and notoriety that came with committing crimes. But as the old adage says, what goes up surely must come down. Eventually his life of crime ended abruptly, and he landed in prison. Murf ended up spending a total of 21 years in Rikers Island prison in New York and some of the very toughest Florida prisons for the J.P. Morgan gem collection caper and other serious crimes; it was not so glamorous there.
It was while he was incarcerated in one of the most violent and dangerous prisons in the country that Murf made a connection with a Godly prison chaplain, “Mighty” Max Jones, who became his Spiritual mentor over the following 20 years. He finally decided to follow Christ and made his commitment public when he went forward at a Bill Glass Champions for Life Prison Ministry event for the inmates. His life was forever changed the moment he went forward and accepted Christ. From that moment on he became a model prisoner and a champion for Christ and he began working behind the walls to witness to other inmates. After several more years Murf was finally released from prison and immediately went to work for the Lord on a fulltime basis. He is still enthusiastically working for the Lord some 31 years later.
His accomplishments upon being released from prison are amazing. His book, “Jewels for the Journey,” and a TV documentary he directed, “San Quentin Homecoming Reunion” both won Hollywood Angel Awards for Evangelism. In 1986, he joined the team that produced the National Prison Invasion. At this event, 20,000 Christian volunteers went into 485 American and Canada prisons where they introduced 25,000 inmates to the Lord Jesus Christ. He became a terrific motivational speaker and was honored as the keynote speaker in Jerusalem at the 1st World Conference on Crime Prevention and Recidivism through Religion. He also became a regular on Christian Radio & TV and has even appeared on the Larry King Live show.
For 25 years Jack was a speaker and the International Director for Bill Glass Champions for Life Prison Ministry, based in Dallas, Texas. He also worked with Chaplain Ray’s International Prison Ministry (IPM) and a host of other prison ministries across the Nation. To date Murf has spoken in over 2,000 prisons in America, England, Ukraine, Siberia, Mexico, Guatemala, Barbados, Honduras, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, Peru, and South Africa.
His book, “Jewels….,” was translated into Russian and was miraculously placed in every prison in the vast Soviet Union. At that time, it was the only book allowed in the Soviet prison system and over one million copies were distributed to prisons and work camps as far away as Siberia. Many of those former inmates are now chaplains, ministers, and priests throughout the old Soviet empire including Russia.
Today, at 82 years young, Jack is as busy as ever. When he is not visiting jails or prisons, speaking to churches, or helping develop programs for inmates he can be found distributing food obtained at food banks to the hungry in his home town, Crystal River, Florida. He goes into the woods where the homeless camps are located and brings them food, clothing, and necessities like toilet paper, tents, bug spray, and bikes. He helps widows and others in need in his community and no one is turned away.
He and his wife, Kitten, began their ministry, Sonshine Adventures, in 1987. When he got out of prison he had a disturbing prison record, and obstacles that few can comprehend, but he had Jesus in his heart and a burning desire to share it with others. His former lifestyle and mistakes didn’t slow him down one iota and his ministry has thrived due to the blessings from God.
It has not been easy. His ministry has been funded entirely by gifts from those who know and love him and by love offerings given to him when he speaks. For whatever reason he has chosen not to overtly solicit funding by asking for gifts, but I am not hindered by that. Jack needs resources. He is getting up in age and is as poor as a church mouse and if you can help him keep his ministry going I urge you to do so. If you cannot give, then perhaps you can pray, or at least be inspired to begin your own ministry which he would treasure more than gold or silver.
Jack Murphy feels the Lord allowed him his dark moments in order that he could attain a platform to reach some of the toughest men and women on the planet, those who are incarcerated in jails and prison including death row. Perhaps there was no other way to reach them, but to be ministered to by one of their own. He does not pretend to understand the love of Christ, and forgiveness, or why Christ released him from his self-made prison and willingly took his punishment, but he is grateful beyond words. The reward that awaits him cannot be measured and I have no doubt that many who would have otherwise ended up separated from God forever will be deeply grateful that he cared enough to use his life and gifts to reach them for Christ.
Are you building treasure in heaven? If not, then I pray that you do so. If an ex-con like “Murf the Surf” can use his skills to accomplish mighty things for the Lord and glorify the name of Jesus, just imagine what you can do. It just requires faith, prayer, and, most importantly, that you act.
Pray for them, donate, volunteer, or start your own ministry using the platform that God has afforded you. God Bless You.
Jack can be reached by phone @ 352-804-7812 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send your tax-deductible gift to:
PO Box 1164
Crystal River, FL 34423
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