Quietly Changing Lives
It is almost impossible to believe that Christmas is almost here. I don’t know where we would put all the blessings we received this past year, even If we were to try!
I got a call this year from someone who knew me when! Trying to tell him how I had changed, reminded me again what the birth of Jesus did for me...how a grammar school dropout was led to HIM and then taken into His lifestyle... for me. A year after I accepted Christ, I was preaching in a prison — teaching God’s word as I learned it. Every inch of the way, my helpmate, Yvonne was there.
We both still laugh, thinking of my first Ingathering (I do sing very badly and was chosen to go to the door to make an appeal for funds.) As my group sang and prayed, I collected money at every door. When we were through, they asked me what I said to each householder. I told them they forgot to tell me what to say so I told everyone we were raising funds for Jesus to feed the poor and if they did not give, they might go to Hell.
Ignorance truly is bliss.
Like many Christians, it took me awhile to learn “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season.” I thought, and think, of my affluent friends with their piles of gifts under the tree. The Jesus who loves us all said, “feed, clothe, and visit the poor.”
SHOWERS OF BLESSINGS
Most of you getting this have come our way through Voice of Prophecy and their radio show. The program aired for five days in November and was a true blessing. From all over the world we received phone calls, Emails and letters wanting to share God’s love to those in prison. For the first time in a long time, we have a pile of unmatched free folks, and all our inmates are matched! ? By the time you get this, we pray you will all be busily cheering up your inmate(s).
One of our biggest blessings this year was being able to reach and repair relationships between 18 sets of parents and children. We were also able to have special prayer with several hundred folks long distance. Thank you, Jesus.
A GIFT FOR JESUS
We ususlly think of a lot of folks over the Christmas season. A few years ago we tried to think of a gift for Jesus. Like the neck tie, sweater, etc., we gave more of ourselves. We rededicated our ministry, which He gave us, but He always gives a little more to us. With your help, we pray for each of you; for “Because of you, Someone Cares.”
COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL
We are like a snowball going rapidly downhill, growing and growing. Thanks to several of you, we have the funds to start making a video on all the programs we have provided in prison over these many years. Several radio stations suggest we do a weekly radio show. Well, that would be fun and also spread the message of “I was in Prison and we visited you not.” (Matthew 25)
Or “Remember the prisoner as if chained with him/them.” Hebrews 13:3.
Jesus was not likely born in December, but He was born to die for you you and me. The last act He performed in human flesh was to stop dying to save a convict. Is the last act we are to perform, as we are commissioned, to lead a convict to HIM?
OH LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
Here we start looking at a prophecy fulfilled. Take a map and look at the condition of all the lands Jesus walked. Think of what Jesus said about wars and rumors of wars. Then there are pestilences and storms. The more signs we see, the more Yvonne, Jake and I pray that each of you, whom we know and love, is ready.
I thought it would be interesting to try to contact some of my old friends to work on them. After much effort, I found the “before Jesus friends” were all dead. When I say old, two I served time with; 12 I drank with; three I was just close to ... all dead. I think again of the power of Jesus. Prior to the day I accepted HIM as my Savior, I smoked at least three packs of cigarettes a day and drank a quart of booze, and if you did not inject it as a drug, I used it. Uppers, downers, I stayed high on something.
Today, preparing for Christmas, I am still high, but now on a natural “Jesus” high. If you, or any one of yours has an addiction, try to get them to give it to Jesus. I cold turkeyed with Jesus and to this day I have never had a second’s worth of withdrawal. Thank You, Jesus! No AA or any other self-help group, although they do a fine job. I believed and received, and praise the Lord for all my new friends, who helped me grow. Yvonne, my love, what a gift God gave me when HE put YOU in my life!
SPECIAL EVENTS ON CHRISTMAS
As a start to the Video we will be doing a scene we shot a long time ago at Soledad. We had a chance to do a video interview in a Maximum Security cell. Who better to do the interview than Yvonne? But I can still hear her saying, “I don’t want to go into a dirty cell.” Well, she did, and was a bit surprised. The inmate was Mel. He and his cell mate had a very clean, well-kept cell — neatly organized and quite comfortable, every inch well planned. Mel asked Yvonne to sit: her choice, the toilet or a bunk. She chose the bunk, quickly finding it a very thin mattress on a very hard steel slab. You may see this some time next year.
PASO ROBLES BOYS SCHOOL,
A prison for youth gangs. This is still in my mind as in the top ten blessings we have received in prison. We got permission to hold a Pot Luck Christmas party. Getting volunteers to do the cooking was easy. Getting those to go into the joint was not so easy.
But God put together an excellent crew, the event was very tearful, the food was devoured, and with smiles of contentment we ended with a sing-along. Looking at tough street kids singing praises to Jesus was neat. Surprise! There were many who knew the words!
JESUS ON THE MAIN LINE
One year at San Quentin we gave 5,678 inmates a book called Steps To Christ and a one dollar chit for the commissary. We received over 1500 kites (prison notes) thanking us.
CHRISTMAS ON DEATH ROW
Yvonne got the AKA (also known as) of Double Trouble for getting things done that were not usually done in prison. We contacted the Warden at Eddyville prison and arranged for a Death Row Christmas Party, with invitations to as many inmate families as possible. There were 38 inmates on the Row; 20 came with 16 family members. Contact visits on Death Row! Thank You, Jesus.
I WALK THE LINE
Another year, we were allowed to bring a bunch in from local churches to carol the cell blocks from the yard at Soledad. The feedback we got from officers was terrific.
If you looked at the windows, they were crowded with faces. Many of the inmates sang along with us. One cell block Sargent let us into the entrance and we sang into the cells. God Is So Good!
God is so Good. For the past several years, we have usually spent Christmas Day in prison. The last thing the inmates expect is the Chapel to be opened on Christmas Day, as everyone is usually trying to get it off to be with family and friends. God is so good to allow us to cross paths with so many different people. When I was at Soledad South facility, I had a friend whose name was Angelo. He was kind and friendly and usually came to most of the chapel services. One year we were decorating the chapel for Christmas when Angelo walked over to me and said, “If Jesus were going to be at your house Christmas morning, what gift would you give Him?”
I just looked at him; this was not the first time he had asked me an impossible question. He took great time and joy in doing this. It did make me stop and think, but after some thought I said, “The only gift I could give would be myself, my life, all that I have.”
Angelo smiled and said, “You’re right.”
I sighed with relief — I had passed another one of his tests. But every year at Christmas time I think of Angelo and his many questions, how would you have answered that question? Do You know what you would’ve said? The last few years we have been able to enjoy family and what a blessing it is to be able to be with family and enjoy children and Grandchildren. What a wonderful reunion we will have in heaven around the sea of glass, looking forward to meeting you all.
This has been a year of such abundant blessing. What joy to see a tiny group of folks band together and with a bit of encouragement, give their talent to Jesus, which He multiplied abundantly.
It’s a joy to help people and experience their response by working hard for Him. Shirley and I helped the women start a mid-week prayer and study group, and rejoiced when ladies who had been absent from church for a long time began drifting back into the fellowship. The church grew.
A series of evangelistic meetings drew new people to our group, and the church has doubled in size again. We just need to nurture everyone now, and rejoice once more as we bring more friends into the ministry.
So it is with Prison Ministry. The Pastor panicked when he learned that we had a new inmate and an earlier service to do in addition to the afternoon session. With some prayer and finagling, our Heavenly Father worked it all out. He can’t resist taking care of His own. We can go directly to our morning ministry and be back in time to play for the church service. The Pastor’s wife is a dear, and has agreed to do the closing hymn on those days. We can just leave the church service a bit early in order to be at the prison on time. Don’t we serve an Awesome God?
He has provided people to help me so many times when I felt stymied by a problem. His timing is always perfect, even though He makes us wait on Him. One of the advantages of aging is that our impatience, when turned over to Him, wears thin less often. The computer has still tested me, but in the end, everything turns out well. He has provided a way to send the newsletter to its two major destinations each month now.
The printing company has some compatible software, and can capture the electronic edition along with the web site. That was tested last month and it worked! No more snail mail or sweating over the time factors.
As the newsletter has progressed from autumn into frosts, I found it shocking that once the election was over, the pumpkins disappeared and everyone was putting up Christmas lights! Whatever happened to giving thanks somewhere in that time period? A family member, my son, made a decision to turn his culinary skills toward drugs, despite the risks. He was caught, and could spend a lot of time locked up. It isn’t likely that I can see him now, as he is only allowed one 15-minute visit per week and that goes to his fiancee, of course. It breaks a mother’s heart to be limited to Paper Sunshine, and of course I try to make those letters newsy and cheerful. None of us is immune to the pain of “losing a loved one” to the system. I covet your prayers for my family.