The following article about us and Someone Cares Prison Ministry
may appear in Message Magazine.
DON’T GIVE UP, GIVE IN!
I was 36, an alcoholic, a smoker, on drugs, as well as an
atheist! My past was on the wild side when I met Yvonne. All of a
sudden I found myself in a different world and in love. But to keep
this treasured gift I had to change. A pastor friend of Yvonne led me
to Christ in two hours. At the end of two hours I fell to my knees a
sinner and arose a clean, new born Christian. God took my desire
for drugs, alcohol and tobacco instantly away leaving me with no
withdrawal symptoms. I was free and clean! I was now a believer in
Christ but know very little about the teachings of the Bible or the
church. This is where I came from but God had a plan for my life!
One day I suddenly realized I have never experienced a
normal childhood like other kids. While other kids had fun learning
to skate I was learning to hate, steel and cheat. I know about hookers,
zip guns and switchblades. My life was spent in trying to win
each bet. My life depended upon being ready for the next person
who came to my door. Most often people who came to my door
would be packing a gun.
My reason for sharing these pieces of a broken life is so you,
the reader, can learn and hopefully understand and not make the
After giving my life to Jesus I found myself spending hours
studying the Bible. Someone gave me a box of cassettes containing
the sermons of Pastor Walter Pearson. I learned them well and have
preached them all. I worked and studied. I knew God was calling
me. I called Chaplain Stanley Reed of Soledad Prison. Soledad is
the largest prison in the United States. I told him that I was a new
Christian and wanted to teach the Bible to prisoners as God was
teaching me. After being a Christian for about six months I was not
teaching the Bible at Soledad Prison. Yvonne was reluctant to join
me. A few months later Chaplain Reed invited us to become full time
volunteer Chaplains. Excitedly we said yes with a big Amen! As a
team we become known as the “God Squad.” Next, we both were
trained at the Police Academy and soon became Staff Chaplains
with a salary of $1.00 a year. Many volunteered their financial support
this giving birth to our nonprofit “Someone Cares Prison Ministry.”
I was ordained and Yvonne was board certified by a Christian
organization as ministers of the gospel. One evening at prison,
Yvonne was leading her choir when I received a call from Chaplain
Reed. He said he was sick and asked me to preach two sermons on
Sabbath and two on Sunday. Thanks Pastor Pearson for those
There are ministries that go into prison, present their doctrines
and leave offering no follow up. This causes much confusion. We
have found a better way by offering consistent Bible based teachings
followed with questions and answer sessions and if we didn’t
have the answer we promised to return with the Bible answer. We
trained our volunteers to speak about Jesus and the Sabbath, Jesus
and the state of the dead, and Jesus and salvation. It was agreed
the an “All Faiths Chapel” was needed. We explained this to the
inmates and they were pleased. We soon had our chapel where
prisoners of all faiths could come and worship.
For many years Yvonne and I went from cell to cell in both
Soledad and San Quentin prisons. Up to this time Yvonne was the
only woman allowed to walk the yard and cell blocks. For over forty
years we served in many of America’s major prisons. We started
dress out programs for prisoners being released. We enrolled as
many churches as we could to collect, clean and size up clothes for
both men and women. Many inmates never no visitors so we arranged
for members from local churches to visit once a month in the
visiting area. One day Yvonne met an inmate in San Quentin who
had received no mail in years. This led Yvonne to start the “Pen
Friend Program.” An inmate hears about the program and fills out
an application with a letter and sends it to us. You inquire and we
send you the inmates information packet. You respond and address
your letter to the inmate using our address and then we forward it on
thus protecting your identity. Some choose to use a pen name.
Thousands have enrolled and finished our courses provided by the
Voice of Prophecy Bible Correspondence School and others. Inmates
have also been helped with job placement, continuing education
classes, as well as trying to be reunited with their families.
This is not always easy and often a real challenge!
In most prisons you will find many Bible study groups teaching all
kinds of doctrines as truth, which becomes a real problem. While at
Soledad we had a meeting with all volunteers and encouraged them
not to allow their doctrines to be a barrier but a bridge to Jesus.
One day an inmate by the name of Rocky asked me when I was
going to preach and Adventist sermon. I did! It was a message
about Jesus! We have preached in many Adventist churches teaching
that we must not allow our doctrines to become a barrier but a
bridge to Jesus. This plan has been very successful. How can we
teach the Sabbath if our listeners don’t know the “Lord of the Sabbath?”
Early in my walk with Jesus I found the book “Steps To
Christ” to make the Bible easier to understand. I have share this
book with many.
Please pray for us as we continue to share about Jesus and
His wonderful plan for saving all sinners!
Don and Yvonne McClure (The Adventist God Squad)
PRISON IS ...
here that is
going to be
like hell for
When I first went to prison I was
prepared. The first thing I got
was a shank (prison knife), and
then I hooked up with a prison
gang. That price was a bit too
high to pay so I made it on my
own; I was tough enough.
I think back when I first took
Yvonne to prison to minister.
She really wanted nothing to do
with it. But when she saw that in
prison there were men who had
made a mistake but could be
reached, she changed her
mind; that was forty years ago.
During her training she was told
the first thing she had to do was
search the Chapel for shanks or
any material that could be used
for a weapon. She found out
very quickly that 99% of the
inmates were there to protect
her, since they realized that she
was there for them. She
changed the Chapel to “All
Faiths.” Even I was amazed to
see inmates with all kinds of
church backgrounds praying
together, studying together and
growing together. Yvonne and I
had access to all the prison
areas without escort, which was
very unusual. Although not paid
by Church or State we were
treated as Staff. Some day I’ll tell
you about going through the
I don’t care if we are Republican
or Democrat, but what the
government is doing is such a
shame. The money wasted on
incarceration is staggering.
Someone’s brain storm was to
make sentences longer to
prevent crime. This did not
work, and instead we now have
thousands of geriatric inmates
and massive medical costs.
When a person goes to
prison, the following is what
happens in many cases. First of
all, they are placed in a prison
that could be 500 miles away
from where they committed
Let’s say they spend ten
years in prison, at a cost of over
$60,000 per year. During that
time most have no job, no
schooling and no rehabilitation.
Most have lost touch with family,
or family does not want them, or
it is impossible to visit due to the
distance. When paroled they
must return to the county where
the crime was committed.
However, they just spent the last
ten years receiving no skills or
training, have no money, no job
to go to and usually no place to
stay. Is it any wonder that when
they get out they are desperate
and commit another crime?
Then, back to prison they go.
Prison Ministry can be crime
prevention. When we started we
had re-entry programs to help
inmates. We provided clothes
and some training. If an inmate
comes out of minimum custody
and is not violent, re-entry into a
group home or ranch would be
a good idea. Since it costs so
much to house prisoners, one
suggestion we made in California
to save money was that
instead of giving out $200
release money, they could be
given $1000.00 for staying out of
prison for a year. One man
named Paul spent eleven years
in prison, during which time he
did odd jobs and saved
$700.00. When he was released
we gave him free clothes, and
the State gave him $100 at the
gate and another $100 when he
reported to the parole office. He
had no job, no family and was
an ex-convict. He built a lean to
and spent seven months in it.
Finally he landed a job at a car
wash and was able to make it.
Recidivism (returning to prison)
is about 70% because the
system does not work. During
the Iraq war a friend of ours
suggested that the government
use thousands of trained,
non-violent crime inmates to
fight for our country. This is
something you might want to
talk to your senator about.
Never Give Up! That’s the title of a wonderful song
written by Chuck Fulmore! It has lifted us up many times over
the years. I would like to try to explain to you how little an
inmate has. The state issues their clothes which are prisonmade
and not many. They are forced to stay in a cell 23 hours
a day with no radio or TV. Hardcore inmates are not bothered;
others are scared to death. Their food is so bad you wouldn’t
feed it to your dog, and they only have a short time to eat and
get out of the mess hall. Luxury to them is a small light bulb,
soap that doesn’t make your skin break out, shampoo, a
pencil, a piece of paper, and an envelope. In order to mail a
letter they may give up a meal or two for a stamp. They may
ask for money. Five or ten dollars once in awhile is ok, but stay
in control, and if you do not want to send any, do not. Gang
members often put pressure on weaker inmates for money and
make them write free folks. Good news - we now have additional
staff, and all letters should again be read by us. We want
you to know how important you are to this Ministry, and want to
help you in this process. Don’t forget, if an inmate bothers you
we will provide you with a new one.
When the Lord, via a Warden
friend, called us to San Quentin it was a
real challenge. Yvonne was raised in the
Church with Christian parents…was she
ready for this? We met with the warden
who introduced us to the Chaplain, Harry
Howard (now deceased).
Harry knew of our work and training, and
assigned us to “C” Section - a terrible
place reserved for very hard-core inmates.
It was five tiers high with fifty men
to a tier, single celled. The guard opened the door leading to this hell
on earth, and when we entered we could feel and smell the tension.
The very first cell housed a man like no other. His hair was to
the floor, his beard the same. He heard us at his cell and charged
the door. We tried talking with him, but he was having none of that.
Once a week for over a year we visited C Section, passing his cell.
One day after we had passed him by, the guard came to tell us the
bearded man wanted to talk with us. We went back, and I had
Yvonne stand behind me. The man said, “I have money and want to
buy what you are selling. I’ve seen many men change and even
All this went over my head, but Yvonne stepped in front of
me and said, “What we have is not for sale - it has been paid for by
Jesus.” Then, like a mother to a child, Yvonne told him about Jesus.
I noticed the gun rail guards had moved behind us. For about sixty
minutes Yvonne talked about Jesus. Then a tear came down the
man’s face into his beard. “Will Jesus take someone like me?” he
asked. “Sure,” she replied. “Let’s pray about it.” I moved next to
Yvonne and we both took his hands, while behind us we could hear
the guns being clipped and aimed. Yvonne prayed, and then in
gutter-language that I have heard no other person pray in, he asked
Jesus to forgive him. I closed with prayer. One guard told me later,
two seconds more and he would have shot someone.
One month later we moved to Paso Robles, but kept in touch
with the bearded man, matching him with a Pen Friend and enrolling
him in a study. He was moved. Later we were asked to do a Christmas
program at San Quentin, where the man had been moved to a
new cell block. When we found his cell it was clean and
well-ordered, as was the man, who had shaved his beard and cut his
hair short. He reached out a hand and we prayed again. We moved
to Kentucky, but kept in touch. After thirty-three years he was
released to be free in Jesus.
No, we don’t like crime or criminals, neither does Jesus. But
on the Cross he invited two to go home with Him - one accepted the
other did not.