Major Len Blix: An adventure from the Lord
Salvation Army’s only contracted chaplain in the U.S.
Major Len Blix talks with an inmate at the South Fork Forest Camp.
“I count it a privilege to be here,” says Major Len Blix, as he walks down the long corridor of the Columbia River Correctional Institution, greeting inmates by name as they pass by. “The Lord has prepared me for this adventure…I’m so thankful for it.”
Blix has served as a chaplain in the Oregon Department of Corrections for the past 17 years. When he started there were two other Salvation Army officers in corrections—Major Roger Bowman and Captain Harlan Nelson. “I was the rookie,” he says with a smile. Now, there’s just Blix.
As a contracted chaplain he is responsible for all the religious programs—including Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Native American—within the Columbia River Correctional Institution (an adult release center); the South Fork Forest Camp (an adult work camp) and the Donald E. Long Home, a juvenile facility. He is the only contracted Salvation Army chaplain in the United States—all others are volunteers, he notes.
“The chaplain is the heartbeat of the institution,” he explains. “The inmates and staff come and talk to you, whether it’s about a spiritual issue or if they’re just having a tough time in the institution.”
Sensitivity to other faiths is crucial in his work. In addition to coordinating Bible studies, gospel concerts, follow-up for released prisoners and many other programs and events, Blix explains that chaplains even work with the food service to ensure different faiths are able to observe the proper dietary restrictions—no pork for Jews and Muslims, and vegetarian meals for Seventh-Day Adventists. He also oversees the monthly construction and use of a sweat lodge for Native Americans. “You really have to be in tune with other faiths and what their needs might be,” he says.
He counts on volunteers—60-80 between the three facilities—to help. “It’s important that we can work with people of all faiths and that by my action I can try to show them a Christ-like life,” Blix says. “Christ loves them as much as he loves me.”