Four Questions for Chris Hoke

Bio: Jail chaplain and gang pastor with Tierra Nueva in Skagit Valley, Washington;
Underground Coffee Project co-founder. Website:

1. What delights you in your daily work? As a chaplain in a county jail, I get to meet and commune with some of the most interesting people in my community. When a few of them become my roommates, musical collaborators, groomsmen, business partners, or co-authors, it is pure delight.

I’ve found the greatest joy of the gospel to be what we at Tierra Nueva call “bridging divergent worlds”: fly-fishing for salmon with young Chicano gang members. Doing theology in a jail with uncensored classmates already living a modern monastic life, well aware of their sin. Holding a collect call from prison on speakerphone above rows of organic kale, so the farmer can talk composting with a man in solitary confinement who is starting to design a gang recovery farm for when he’s released next year. It’s hearing from suburban church ladies, like my mother, that the letters read through our ministry from a gang leader in prison made them cry—then hearing that they now write each other directly!

2. What frustrations do you face? Banging on the doors of some churches and businesses and courtrooms that are used to the familiar way of doing things. It’s also a frustrating process to let go of my incorrect assumption that men and women in those realms would be more reliable in their commitments than the folks we’re working with in addiction recovery.

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