Every year around this time of year we are especially blessed to be celebrating the birth of Christ who does so much for us, you, and Someone Cares. This year we are humble in all he has done for us.
(A) Jean is recovering from her surgery and is helping with this.
(B) I left a copy of last month’s newsletter in a restaurant, and a garage owner found it and called. He did our brakes and tuned both cars and will keep them tuned.
(C) Then a real Miracle: one of our supporters bought us a whole new computer system that will really bring us up to date. We need to get our ministry data base re-written but then we will be able to know everything from A to Z at a glance. Amen. Thanks, Shelley Ernst!
CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS
To Yvonne and I and this ministry, which we try to keep Christ centered: It seems every day we are blessed by one of Christ’s promises. It really can be tough in these times to be in a self-supporting ministry, but again it looks like we are going to end the year in the black, barely.
We are almost surprised sometimes where the funding comes from. With so many prayer partners in and out of prison, how can we fail! The birth of Jesus means more to me than most; without HIS coming into my life I would be on my way to Hell. I think back so often how, by chance, I met Yvonne. Even then, it took a very long time to accept Jesus. Every time I turn my heart to Jesus, which is often, I think of those who do not know HIM.
A Pastor once told me why we worked so hard: today, the next inmate who comes to Christ may be the last. So many of us do not know the seed planting we do by writing an inmate. Perhaps we will know in Heaven who is there because of the efforts of Someone Cares and those connected with it. There are thousands of inmates who, through this ministry and you folks, have found Jesus in a Bible Study, a Gift Bible, a letter, or a Prayer.
GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
Away in that manger came the Christ child. A babe like no other but a baby. A child like no other, but a child. A young man like no other, but a young man. The young man who would die a young man. In my mind’s eye I have watched that man take the beating he took, the stripes laid on Him, the crown of thorns, the wounds, the nails.
In a firm voice I hear Him say, “Father forgive them.” That's you and I, friends. From the Cross HE looked into our hearts, knowing why HE had to die. Can you hear the stone rolling away and then "He Is Risen!" again for you and me. It’s that same Jesus who tells us "I go to prepare a place."
Yvonne and I pray our place will be next door to yours.
AWAY IN THE MANGER
We pray that some time this Christmas season, you share with someone the miracle that happened. Share with someone the birth that prevents death: ours. Share with someone the total Peace that Passes all Understanding. Share with someone the Joy—yes even to the whole world, that Jesus will bring.
Someone cares because of Jesus. We doubt that Jesus was born in December. It is doubtful he dreamed of a White Christmas. But we do know that the Joy to the World is Eternal.
If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, the only present He would want under anything would be you. Just as you Are. We Love to Tell the Story, the old old story of Jesus and His love. What a gift it would be if every dime spent on Christmas presents, trees, and glitter was given to make this world know Jesus. Can you see the look in the faces of all if Christmas Eve, or morning, as all gathered, there were no gifts?
He gave all, we give all.
HEAVEN CAME DOWN AND GLORY FILLED MY SOUL
My wife saves every thing: boxes of cards from inmates in Christmas past.
Over the years, through your giving, we have donated millions of Christmas Cards for inmates to send to their loved ones. We have also watched with tears in our eyes as inmates have shared that they forgot me.
Before I became a Christian, 25 December was party time. I spent a couple of Christmases locked up and the only feeling I had was not getting something. We both feel a little guilty when we are not in prison over the Christmas season. I do admit the fellowship of family “In The Name Of Jesus” is pretty neat. Soon and very soon every day will be Christmas and under that tree of Life. We will forget the gift and be with the giver!
STANDING ON THE PROMISES
I learned as a young Christian how to claim God's promises. Ask in the name of Jesus. I also learned that one answer is, “not now.”
Years ago we needed a car and put it in a newsletter. Over a year later that prayer was answered. We again have need of a quality USED car. Each year we ask our supporters to try, as God grants, to equal your generosity of the previous year. Our Faith Partners are a very special group and we are sure they will have stars in their crowns in Heaven. So will our Prayer Partners, and all of you who write an inmate."
PLEASE REMEMBER ALL DONATIONS ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE. RECEIPTS WILL
BE OUT THE END OF JANUARY.
MY NAME IS CECIL
I got hooked up with your Pen Friend Program in 1990. Not even sure why, and had no idea what the results would be. I was arrested the first time at 16 and In and out of jail for 6 years. Then I got prison—LIFE. Scared and very lonely, I attended a Chapel Service you and your wife held. I say attended; the truth: I was almost dragged to it. The moment I entered the Chapel I felt a warmth like I had never felt.
While singing “He Lives” for the very first time, the words were digging into my heart. Don preached a sermon on James and told us to read that book and look for ourselves. As the sermon was ending, Don walked over to me and said, “My friend, you need Jesus! Yvonne then taught us who did not know it The Lord’s Prayer. We closed with Amazing Grace and then an altar call.
With head bowed I felt strong hands lifting me to the Throne Of Grace. I accepted Christ that night. The transformation was really powerful. God's grace, The Bible, and a lot of Prayer got me a full Pardon in 2001. I am married have a neat job and am Free In Jesus.
I spent last Christmas with my Pen Friends. On the way home I helped a lady with a flat tire, that lady is my wife. She and I are Pen Friends, Prayer Partners, and Faith Partners. Don says often, "If ever asked to do anything in the name of Jesus, say ‘I’ll be Happy to.’"
Hook up with
ON A HILL FAR AWAY
When I was seventeen I sang that song as part of a youth Christmas special. I had a good voice and really enjoyed singing. Then came drugs and leaving the Church. When you say drugs you almost always say prison. I got 10 years for possession, for sale.
Prison is a really frightening place when you grow up in a semi-normal, middle class family. But drug addiction does not go away with conviction. I was sent to Soledad and met Yvonne when she and an Assistant Warden came to F wing. She gave me a Bible and said it was the only book for getting me out of prison for good. I started reading it a bit.
One day Don stopped by and we talked for a hour or so and I knew I had better find Someone who Cared. I, like thousands of inmates, became a Pen Friend and my matched couple sealed my re-conviction to Jesus. I finally got out of F wing and was sent to the yard that Don and Chaplain Reed worked. Finally, by God’s grace, I was sent to South were Yvonne was Chaplain. Bible studies, singing, getting back with my family and growing in Christ ... Don and Yvonne were putting on a special program for Christmas and asked me to sing.
I said I would.
Yvonne asked me what I wanted to sing.
I asked if The Old Rugged Cross was O.K.
“Fine,” she said.
The all Faiths Chapel at South Facility was gleaming with Christmas Joy. When it came for me to sing I asked Yvonne If I could pray first.
After prayer my song—during which a very strange feeling came over me. I felt a power I had never felt. The Holy Spirit had moved in and I was Set Free!
Prison is a terrible place, but in a way I’m glad I was sent there. I’m free now, thanks to a loving family, and my Pen Friends who got me a job upon release. I attend church regularly and have met a wonderful woman.
If you can help Don and Yvonne serve Jesus through Someone Cares, please do. A lot of us would still be in prison if it were not for them. Prison Ministry is crime prevention.
KEEP IT SIMPLE, SAINT!!
Living in a large city, we see so much, people who are out of work, folks who are
homeless, others who don't know where to go or where to turn for help, many do not know or believe in God. I ask myself many times how can we be more effective as Christians in at least letting them know about Jesus and the free gift He gives to all who will believe.
You and I know that it all starts at home with each one of us, and the family, and children. Several years ago there used to be a saying "The Family that Prays Together stays Together" I don't know if that is still true or not, but it sure wouldn't hurt to try it. Being raised in a Godly home, I used to learn a lot of prayers. Some I remember and some I don't, but as Christmas comes and goes every year I have been trying to recall some of them.
This was a simple one:
"Dear Jesus, my Teacher, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Teach me the truths You have given to us all. Fill my soul with your grace that I may love God above all, and my neighbor as myself. For You I want to obey my parents and teachers who take Your place. Jesus, the Friend of children, bless me and the children of the whole world.
One time in prison his inmate said to me "I don't know how to pray,” and I responded “well it is just talking to God, and he said, “Oh, O.K. Growing up in a Minister's home I thought everyone should know that, but I found out that few people know. The things we take for granted and sometimes get so bored with, remember others are longing to know.
We want to wish all of you a safe and Blessed Holiday Season!
We try to prepare these newsletters a month ahead, so let me say that now I can look forward to celebrating, with thanksgiving, Thanksgiving! I’m upright, above ground, (as my ministry partner says, “on the right side of the grass”) and have so much to praise God for this year! He always provides well for His children.
He created our bodies to heal themselves, given the right nutrients to work with. He blessed me with a sweet, gentle, skillful surgeon; she saw me through four sessions in 2-1/2 weeks, plus an anes-thesiologist who listened when I told him about sensitivity to his probable wares in the past. There was an on-the-ball hospital staff to care for me (including food fit for a cruise ship), a generous daughter and son-in-law who lovingly took me in for six weeks because there was no heat in my house, and a wonderful team of very encouraging visiting nurses who taught me to do my own open wound care.
It’s good to be home!!! My animals missed me, especially the dog. She went into depression and Shirley brought me out here several times so she’d know I was still thinking of her. The day I drove my car into the driveway, with Shirley’s car behind, it, she greeted me with excited yips and barks, then ran to her as if to say “Thank You!”, then back and forth, her old self again.
One furnace contractor was to fix the old one, and kept putting me off for a month, “due to lack of parts,” then one afternoon I left two messages on his machine–one to tell him I was calling the other bidder, and one to tell him I was pulling the plug on his services. He left one on my daughter’s machine after 9 p.m., saying the parts had come in that day, (three days later than the latest promise). The other contractor had a new furnace installed in less than three hours! It cranks!
May God richly bless him!! Also the friends who looked after things at the house, and especially those from Someone Cares and my church family around the world who kept me on their prayer lists. There were several prison groups included. I think God has a special place in His heart for the prayers of inmates.
It was so wonderful to be back into the ministry again after coming home. Our afternoon group has added a new member, a man who is learning to play a keyboard, and has a very moving vocal style. We have a new Level 1 Chaplain with a cheerful demeanor, who is handling the duties of the one who died several months ago. We think he will do well. He wants to visit our church and get acquainted with the people, as the main Chaplain has in the past. What a nice touch.
Those of you out there who might hesitate to do Two-Care visits, Pen Friend letters, or even one-on-one visits, these inmates are people like you and me who have made mistakes. Yes, some worse than others. They need a friend. They need a friend like Jesus, like you, who cares for them unconditionally.
I think of George Wells who wrote so eloquently about being set free while in prison. He’s not alone in what happen-ed to him.
A man who attended a church I once did, said much the same thing after serving four years. “It was the best four years I ever spent,” he declar-ed. “It gave me time to think about my life, get my priorities straight, and turn my life over to God.“ He now has a good job at a university.
When I was at a very low point in my own life, God sent me a Pen Friend from a prison 600 miles away. It was amazing what material made it through the mail room and what didn’t. But God works in mysterious ways and ours is not to question how or why.
It turned out that we were both interested in natural heal-ing. Because of my Pen Friend,
I had a conversation with the school and enrolled. He had a scholarship there because of being an inmate, and is doing well.
Although his first letters ex-pressed anger about his circum-stances, we still encouraged one another and now that he is free, he, too, says it was time that God gave him to set his priori-ties straight with his Creator.
He’s actually ahead of me in his studies, working hard to put his new skills to work. So our Pen Friends can be our inspira-tion as much as we are theirs.
And don’t forget that pretty paper to brighten up their drab world. Now is the time of year to especially brighten their cells with color. The trees are shivering in the cold outside, razor wire coils atop fences don’t do much for morale. We can practice cheering each other during these dreary months.
A Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year poem on approp-riate bright letterhead will be something they can mount by their desk to bring a smile. You can write your letter on separate pages so they can keep it more for just themselves. Warm their hearts with God’s love, stories about current life on the outside. Things change a lot while they are locked away. The news is not a realistic yardstick.