How Angulus Wilson went from gang member to college chaplain.
Covered in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, Angulus Wilson’s office walls in Lower Beamer are lined with hundreds of volumes that he says are “really all about serving.” There’s a framed portrait of his wife, who he calls “Queen Mama Sharron,” and a portrait of his mother, who has since passed away, wearing a hot-pink blouse. Nestled in his shelves are two metal sculptures, one of a pair of glasses, the other of a globe. He says they’re meant to remind him to consider how he sees the world.
Wilson’s approach to the chaplainship has been shaped by ministry experience with people of many different age groups and in many different nations. He planted more than a dozen Baptist churches, developed a Bible institute that reaches five countries and served in multiple Christian organizations before returning “home” to Wheaton College, where he completed his Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Evangelism in 2002, to serve as Wheaton’s seventh chaplain.
Opening the first chapel of the year with a resounding “Grace and joy to you, family,” Wilson has already begun to impart a vision of the world that emphasizes God’s love and redemptive power. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, with a voice that fills the room, he’s making his distinctive presence on campus known.
A beautiful fabric of worship and prayer
Greg Waybright ‘75, a trustee of the college who served as interim chaplain from 2020-22, said that Wilson immediately came across as authentic, a trait that commended him to the search committee. “I don’t see hypocrisy in this man,” said Waybright. “What students see is who he is.”
In addition to his genuineness, Waybright and the search committee appreciated Wilson’s commitment to “kingdom diversity” and his ability to foster such a community organically.
“The chaplain has to maintain an optimism for what we can become and by God’s grace are becoming as well as a realism for what we are not yet,” said Waybright, who now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo. and serves remotely in his trustee role. “I think he really embodies so much of that.”
Senior Lydia Kang, student chaplain of storytelling, said that she is thankful God brought Wilson to Wheaton. The nine student chaplains are responsible for organizing worship and prayer events, listening to student prayer requests and supporting students’ spiritual needs.
“He encourages our chaplain team, points us back to the truth in God’s word and prayerfully pushes us to unity and love in the midst of differences and diversity in our campus,” Kang said.
The college’s trustees officially commissioned Wilson to serve as Chaplain under the leadership of President Ryken during the Aug. 26 chapel, but Kang says Wilson began playing a crucial role in their development as a team well earlier in the school year. Leading their Thursday meetings, Wilson mixes lighthearted discussions about best rice options in Saga with fervent prayer for team members as they step into their roles.
During the Thursday meeting before the Aug. 26 chapel, the group ended their meal together with a prayer. Wilson asked J.T. Reeves, the student chaplain of worship, to lead the group in the chorus of a song called “This I Believe (The Creed)” before asking Jediah Giller, the student chaplain of prayer, to pray over the group as they continued to hum together.
Over stacked plates full of taco meat and crushed napkins, the group held hands, humming, “I believe in God our Father,” as Giller’s petition gently rose above the chorus: a beautiful fabric of prayer and worship.
“It really is my prayer for every place that I’ve been fortunate enough to serve that the grace of God and the joy of the Lord would be amongst us in all that we say and do corporately, or gathered together,” Wilson told me afterwards in a voice possessed of music and warmth.
Discerning the implications of his new faith
Wilson, who is 58 years old, grew up in south Los Angeles. His biological father was murdered when he was four years old, so his mother raised him and his two little brothers on her own for about six years before remarrying a pastor.
“She had this radical conversion,” Wilson said, smiling. The two families combined, his mother with three kids, his step-father with four. “We were kind of like the Brady Bunch,” Wilson said.
But Wilson’s life remained tumultuous. He gravitated towards the inner city, searching for a sense of family within the gangs. When Wilson was 15, he found himself in juvenile detention at Camp Glen Rocky in southwest California.
Wilson’s stint in prison proved to be fortuitous, however, when he repented of his sins and gave his life to the Lord. A tattooed ex-biker and former convict with a long ponytail came to the facility to teach the Bible through art, painting biblical stories while preaching about their significance, and changed Wilson’s life.
“He did a lesson one night on the sower and the seed and how God sent a messenger into the world to plant these seeds in the earth, and he was looking for good ground to place his word in,” Wilson said. “I’ll never forget that. It was so profound and I heard the Lord speaking to me, ‘I am calling you to be this soil that I want to plant myself in.’”
That night, Wilson sank to his knees and prayed to God, “I don’t know if you are true or if this is real, but if you want to use me and you want to plant your word in me, I am available.” Afterwards, Wilson said, light flooded his cell and filled his spirit, and he began to weep.
In June 1981, after completing his ninth month in detention, Wilson was released and promptly returned to his neighborhood. His old friends noticed that something was different.
“It changed everything,” Wilson said.
Even so, at 16, he struggled to discern the implications of his new faith. It was then that he met Jackie Miramonte, a high school teacher who ran a Bible study at noon in her classroom called Campus Life. She began to mentor Wilson through his senior year.
Miramonte helped Wilson understand that the Holy Spirit had filled him that night when he pleaded for salvation in his cell. She also gave him his first Bible verse, 1 Cor. 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
“I don’t think she knew what the Lord was going to do with me,” Wilson said. “But that verse would become my life verse and I’ve held onto that when we’ve been planting churches, starting a Bible Institute that works in five countries, serving four different universities and going all around this world. It’s been my life verse.”
“And Jackie gave it to me,” he said, nodding his head in gratitude.
He describes himself during this season as a “sponge,” where Miramonte was Paul and he was her Timothy, the young Christian trained by the great apostle.
Miramonte left Wilson’s high school in 1982, the same year he graduated. For two years, the two lost touch, and Wilson grew to deeply miss their meetings and time of discipleship. In 1984, Miramonte called Wilson and said that she felt Jesus telling her that he and his two friends, Tommy and Dean, needed to move to where she now lived and had her roots: Fresno, a city four hours northwest of Los Angeles.
“So, my friends and I got a little U-Haul truck, threw all our stuff in, and moved to Fresno,” Wilson chuckled.
Wilson deems that moment a turning point in his spiritual formation. “It was a call to step out in faith,” he said.
In the first days after their arrival in Fresno, Miramonte helped the young men find and move-into an apartment as well as enroll in college classes at Fresno Pacific University (FPU), a Christian university in the area.
Wilson immediately realized how different Fresno was from the inner city of Los Angeles. “It was night and day from where I was from,” Wilson said. With a slower pace, there was a freedom there that he hadn’t experienced before. “I didn’t have to turn around and watch my back,” Wilson said. “It was a brand new start.”
Without the looming threat of gang activity and other external pressures, Wilson could focus on college and pursue seemingly endless opportunities.
He remembers praying during those first days, giving God thanks for the chance to be in Fresno. He couldn’t help but compare his life to what it might have been. He thought of friends from his neighborhood who were going to prison, on drugs, or who had passed away. Looking back, Wilson doesn’t believe that he would have ended up on the same life trajectory if he hadn’t left LA.
A chaplain in training
After graduating in 1989 with his Bachelor of Arts from FPC, Wilson was ordained by Grace Community Baptist Church in Fresno as an itinerant evangelist, which allowed him to share the gospel and his own testimony with prisoners, drug addicts and gang offenders.
It was Wilson’s evangelistic work that first brought him to Wheaton College 20 years ago. While pursuing his graduate degree, he worked as the director for the Institute of Prison Ministries, a branch of the Billy Graham Center that provides certification for chaplains to minister in correctional facilities.
He trained and equipped students to engage with external constituencies, local churches and evangelistic pastors. But at the time, he was not yet equipped for the role of chaplain. “God had to take me to several other places to get that experience,” Wilson said.
During his time in Fresno, Wilson met his wife, Sharon, at Grace Community Baptist Church in 1991, the same church that ordained him as an itinerant evangelist. “I went there looking for fellowship and there she was,” he said, smiling.
After a friendship built on young-adult ministry events held at Sharon’s home, Angulus proposed, and they were married 31 days later.
“We didn’t have a courtship, just a friendship,” said Sharon. They were married 31 days after Angulus proposed, and had their first son after one year of marriage.
In the years that followed, Sharon worked at home with their three sons while being involved in women’s ministries and missions in the various churches where they served. Wilson, referring to her as “Queen Mama Sharon,” says she is like the “first lady” of the churches he’s pastored.
Wilson’s acceptance of the position at Wheaton came after years of prayer. Beginning with Chaplain Stephen Kellough’s departure in 2014, the couple prayed that God would give Wheaton a chaplain that “loved the Lord and would love the students,” according to Sharon Wilson.
The couple says they remained in prayer for healing following Chaplain Timothy Blackmon’s departure from the college in 2020. They also began to realize how much they had missed their time working with students in Christian higher education. They heard about the job opening from connections they still had on campus.
“We also had students reach out to us and say, ‘Wheaton’s looking for a chaplain and you were so impactful in our lives, would you consider it?”’ Sharon Wilson said.
When asked whether he had reservations coming into Wheaton following so much upheaval in the chaplain’s office, Wilson said no.
“It’s my honor,” he continued. “I’m going to do this until God comes to get me. That’s my privilege. It really is a privilege to be here.”