Minister moved to Maximum Security

The Press and Standard/June 7, 2002
By Libby Roerig

The recent transfer of a jailed minister from the general population holding facility to maximum security is of no fault of the inmate, says Colleton County Sheriff Allan Beach.

"He's been a very model prisoner," said Beach.

Ralph Stair, 69, who is the leader of a Canadys religious community known as the Overcomer Ministry, is currently being held without bond on two counts of criminal sexual conduct and two counts of breach of trust.

Though Stair's wife Teresa says he would rather not be in jail, the minister has faith that his situation is God's work.

He's preaching the gospel in there, and they know he loves the Lord," she said. "He has his Bible so he's happy with his Bible.

Ralph Stair's incarceration has given him the opportunity to minister to a group of people he might not reach otherwise, Teresa Stair said.

"They (the inmates) love him."

Shortly after Ralph Stair's incarceration on May 16, the weather turned cold and the temperature inside the facility dropped, too. A couple of the inmates gave him their thermal underwear to help warm the chilled minister.

"He said to me, 'Teresa, I'm so cold. They won't give me more than one blanket,'" she said. "We had our wood stoves going and heaters going at the houses at the farm when it went down to 48, 50 degrees. It was cool in the trailers."

In addition to the inmates' kindness, the detention center guards are respectful of her husband and even call him prophet, a title many of his followers have given the minister.

Because members of the religious community grow much of their food organically, Ralph Stair's stay at the jail has been an adjustment.

"His diet's not the same, but he's not complaining," she said. Because of the facility's policies, the minister cannot have coffee or warm tea in the morning or goat's milk like he is accustomed.

Though Teresa Stair says it is hard being without her husband, especially since she is three months pregnant, support from the ministry's followers helps.

"We've got precious people out there who love us." She said

One woman in Columbus, Ohio sends Teresa Stair cards of encouragement. Others send e-mails.

"Fear not, God is working according to His will to accomplish His marvelous works," wrote Paul Bauer of Louisville, Ky., in an e-mail. "He never will forsake us, and He takes care of his prophets. Remember Job lost everything and was attacked in every possible way, yet God never abandoned him and in the end restored all things to him seven-fold. Daniel was thrown to the lions, but God kept him, and in the end, he was made the second highest in the Kingdom, out -ranked only by the King himself."

Despite the allegations, Teresa Stair has supported her husband and his claim of innocence since the beginning.

"Everything is not a lie that you have heard. My husband hasn't denied sinning. He has sinned. He has sinned," she said before his arrest. "My husband is a man of God, and I can't deny that, and I never will."

Two former followers claim Ralph Stair forced them to have sex with him; a claim Teresa Stair says is false. Prior to his arrest, Ralph Stair told her that he had had consensual affairs with women at the community, she said.

"Can you imagine if you were his wife, you would say, ' How many times? And what did you do with her? Was it wonderful?' He would say, 'No, no, no and please don't ask me no more. It was horrible,'" she said.

Since then, Teresa Stair says she has completely forgiven her husband and understands his sins.

"You know how you gratify the flesh, but it's not satisfying? You just please, and then it's over and you feel empty," she said. "See, I've been there. I've gone with my best friend's husband before when I was a young, 18-year-old girl. I know the torment."

Ralph Stair is a changed man, Teresa Stair said.

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