Pastor works with “Forgotten Sinners” in the Heights
by Michael Sudhalter
When Rod Walsh thinks about his ministry, “Forgotten Sinners,” he likes to keep in mind a verse in the Book of Luke that says those who have been forgiven often, show more love.
Walsh, 62, says he’s living proof of it.
During much of his first 47 years, Walsh was a nightclub owner who abused alcohol and drugs, while staying as far away from religion as much as he could.
His life changed on May 18, 1997 when he reluctantly walked into the Northside Christian Church in Spring. He saw a married couple of motorcyclists wearing their motorcycle vests.
He expected the church members to be judgmental toward the bikers, but they embraced them.
Rod Walsh, a pastor from Pasadena, hosts “Forgotten Sinners” every Friday at the Heights Church of Christ for ex-prisoners and others who have faced difficult circumstances. (Photo by Michael Sudhalter)
That changed Walsh’s outlook on the Christian faith, and he soon began “teaching and preaching” the Bible seven days per week.
“The main ingredient is unconditional love,” Walsh said.
Much of his work has been working with inmates in the Harris County Jail and a few Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons.
His work was effective at times, but he’d see recidivism as prevalent because inmates would be released from prison and return to old habits.
“It hurt my heart,” Walsh said. “Everyone is shunning them (when they’re released). Churches don’t want them, neither do apartments or jobs. I wanted to help them through the turmoil. If you’re going to change people’s lives, you’ve got to (work with them on the inside and outside of prison).”
Walsh, a Pasadena resident, started Forgotten Sinners four years ago. The program invites prisoners, prostitutes, drug dealers and addicts among others to learn about Jesus Christ, and eventually accept Him as their personal savior.
The people who attended the non-denominational meetings chose the name.
“It’s not that they were forgotten by God, but they were forgotten by society,” Walsh said. “Those are the people the churches aren’t going to go after, but the Bible says we’re supposed to.”
Walsh initially started the program on the south side of Houston, but a year ago, he received a call from Dr. Lynn Mitchell, head minister at the Heights Church of Christ, 1548 Heights Blvd.
“We’re glad to have him,” said Mitchell, a Heights resident who is the director of religious studies at the University of Houston. “It’s one of the most interesting, exciting and most fulfilling parts of our ministry at the Heights Church of Christ.”
He said there are about 20 people who attend the meetings, which are held at 6:30 p.m. every Friday.
About half of the attendees have been to prison, and the other half were doing things that could have landed them in prison.
He’s seen big life changes in many of the attendees since they began attending the meetings, which begin with a large meal, provided either by one of the attendees or a church group.
After some inspirational music, Walsh usually gives a sermon.
“You can stop me in the middle of the sermon and ask questions,” Walsh said. “That’s the way to learn. The sermons are always about the gospel and how to live as a Christian.”
Walsh would like to expand Forgotten Sinners to other parts of Houston and eventually start a Christian version of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“AA uses a higher power,” Walsh said. “We’re not afraid to say the higher power is Jesus.”
Walsh credits his home church, New Beginnings in Clear Lake, with “supporting us with money, prayer and encouragement.”
Among the goals that Walsh listed for “Forgotten Sinners” was “to restore communities one person at a time, which will reduce crime in all neighborhoods (and) to bring hope, joy and love to people who only see darkness and despair.”
For more information, contact Walsh at 832-421-4802.