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Man honored for 27 years of prison ministry

November 28, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

SMITHSBURG - A Seventh-day Adventist elder sheds the light of God's love on the lost and forgotten.

William Spangler, who lives near Smithsburg, has spent 27 years ministering to inmates at the prison complex south of Hagerstown.

"People treat them like they're forgotten, dead people," said Spangler, 82. "But they're just lost."

He was recently inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame for his enduring volunteer work with prisoners. His biographical summary, short resume and photograph will be included in the 2000 Blue Book, an official document of MSCHF.

In 1997, Spangler received the Governor's Volunteer Award for Public Safety and a Washington County Senior Citizens Award for his longtime efforts.

Maryland Correctional Institution inmate Douglas Scott Arey nominated Spangler for the Hall of Fame and Governor's awards, calling him a "ministering angel" due to his "uncommon touch with all people."

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But it's the "happy feeling" he gets from being used as a vehicle for the Lord's message, not public recognition, that motivates him, Spangler said.

The public honors "don't belong to me," he said.

"They belong to the God who created me. The glory of God - that's what it's all about."

It was tragedy that sent Spangler on his heavenly mission.

He was working as a welder in Baltimore in 1972 when he got word that his eldest son had been killed in a car accident. Blinded by tears, Spangler sped toward Hagerstown, pulling to the roadside when he realized he was driving 95 mph, he said.

A vivid connection with God then changed his life, Spangler said.

He said he heard a voice ask, "What in the world are you doing?"

"How can I go on living?" Spangler replied.

"Now you know what it cost me when I gave my son for you," he said the voice told him.

Spangler decided to devote part of his life to sharing God's love and forgiveness, he said.

He began volunteering on Sundays at the Maryland Correctional Training Center.

Spangler now spends three to six days a week working with MCTC inmates and men at the Washington County Detention Center, Maryland Correctional Institution and Roxbury Correctional Institution.

He leads religious services and Bible studies, baptizes, listens and counsels. He visits ill inmates, keeps in touch with released prisoners, and trains fellow evangelists, he said.

Spangler enlisted the aid of his wife, Elsie, when he lost his night vision in 1997. Nocturnal journeys to minister to those in need are now a joint effort, he said.

"It seems like every day gets longer - the work, I mean - but I think it keeps me alive," Spangler said.

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