Quietly Changing Lives
As I sit at my computer looking out at all that was so brown just weeks ago, and seeing color spring up, my heart is overjoyed. The trees are full of bird songs and scolding squirrels racing through the trees. Rabbits are ever watchful of our dog and cats, ready to dive for cover. And oh, the blazing color coming from the bulbs we planted before the accident.
God is so good. I got a call from a pastor telling us we would have many stars in our crowns. We already do...YOU!
Yvonne got a bit of a set-back when the doctor told her only 40% recovery in her arm and hand. But she smiled at him and told him she will do better than that. We prayerfully ask that each of you who have an active part of this ministry, are joined by those of you who do not.
TWO TUBS OF MAIL!
The folks at the Post Office here are really neat. They often share our excitement. Today I went to our PO box and it was empty, except for one piece of paper, a note — SEE ME! There were 337 requests for Pen Friends from all over the U.S! The rest of the mail was going to or from. I set the mail in proper piles and started work.
A note from Andy: “I really don’t know how to start this. I grew up on the streets of Los Angeles, and in and out of prison – mostly in. Tough on the outside but crying on the inside. I was sent an application to your organization and have no idea who gave you my name. I sent it in and forgot about it. Shortly after, we were put in a lock down due to a gang killing on the yard. Prison is terrible, but lock-downs are worse. I could not believe it when I heard my name called during mail call, my first letter ever! Jack and Jill on the envelope, someone playing a joke. (No, that really is their names). I think I read the letter a dozen times, and cried 13 times.
Someone really cares? These folks were Christians. I remember being in church a long time ago, but they were telling me about themselves and asking about me. One time I had gotten a letter from them and was humming as I read it.
The guy in the cell next to mine asked why I was so happy. I told him (we had never spoken before). His name was Angelo and we became friends. In a year’s period, 19 guys had gotten Pen Friends. Somehow, from many someones, each of us saw a chance and grabbed it.
No, I am not a Christian yet, but maybe. One thing I know, when I get out this time, I have a plan to keep me out.
My name is Harry. That sure is not much. I was, and guess I still am, a fool. Got into drinking and drugs and got 20 years for manslaughter. I served 17 of them.
I lost contact with all my friends in the first year; my dad died, and mom—who knows? When I came to prison I became a convict and part of the system. Instead of getting smarter, I got stupid. Each morning I hoped to make it to evening. No school, no job, no place to go when released. I got a bunch of clothes and a bus ticket and $88.00. I sold the bus ticket and hitch-hiked out of the state I was in, to California. Lived wherever and did what I could, but my old way caught up with me. This time: armed robbery. I was sent to a prison with a view called San Quentin. Thinking back now, it really was a lifestyle I had grown up in and into. I was put into “C” block. Hell on earth.
Several weeks later, on a very hot day, I was lying in my cell wishing I had a radio, a TV or something to read. My eyes closed. I heard a female voice say, “Want something to read?” My eyes popped open and I saw a lady and knew I was in shorts. I grabbed a blanket. She said, “Get some pants on.”
Now, let me tell you, I was shocked. She informed me God had sent her. Yeah, sure. Either she or her husband stopped to see me every couple of weeks. They got me some books and easy lessons to help with my GED. They arranged for a man to visit me once every month, the only visits I ever had. Then a Pen Friend and a Bible study. I then got transferred as an E-gang member. Sent to Avenal and a new set of friends. I will be getting out soon—this time with somewhere to go and having a job. I have put a little away each month. I’ve done the crime and am doing the time, but Thank GOD, Someone Cares.
God, through one man who asked a question, started a ministry that goes to every prison in the U.S. It has taken us to the mountaintop many times, and often through the valley. After the accident, we received over 600 notes from inmates letting us know they were praying for our healing. We can openly and honestly say, “The Joy of the Lord” has changed many. Thanks to Someone Cares, Jesus is on the main line and inmates are walking the walk and talking the talk. In a prison somewhere is a man, woman, boy or girl waiting for a friend. Might that friend be you? Many have written and gotten no answer and gave up. Many have written and gotten an answer they did not like, and gave up. Jesus never gives up. If you wrote and it did not work, try again. If you got information and decided it was not for you, did you return the information? Many did not. We have a pile of letters, maybe belonging to you but addressed to us. We don’t know where to send them. Just think — one of you may lead the last person to bend a knee to Jesus, and we will all be going home!
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
We have a problem. This ministry has grown; some problems we can work out, some we cannot. Many of you asked for a Pen Friend and we sent one. But you never wrote. Please send the information back so someone can do what you were asked to do.
Then God blessed. A bunch of you wrote, forgot to send the blue form back, and used a Pen name but did not tell us. We now are making copies of everything we do. It causes extra work, but when we make a promise we will keep it. If you wrote an inmate and have not gotten an answer, send their name and address – we may have it.
All of the pen friends who write or support the ministry are just so very special to us, and that is what Someone Cares is all about. Maybe some of you have heard of the book, “It Takes a Community,” or it takes a “Village,” or takes a “Church” to raise a successful child. Really, it takes all of the above and then some, so we want to work with you and others all we can, to hasten the soon coming of Jesus. Don has been doing so much lately, picking up the things I cannot do, with all he does anyway.
Dixie says, “I have been writing through your ministry for awhile now. I did have some inmates that did not work out (common); as of now, I am writing three inmates. I truly feel in my heart that these men were placed on Don’s pile by the Holy Spirit for me to write them. This ministry is God-breathed, I am sure. I pray the Lord will use me to do HIS will. I also want to support this ministry with $20 a month. I pray this will help and know a lot of people doing the same will make a difference. Thank you for being faithful.
Our friend Sandy writes, telling a common story. Back on drugs, back to prison. He has been released to a recovery home — a first for him. He has a problem when he gets out as he never has a place to go, no car, no job and at 43 not wanting to live at home. Sure would have been nice if he got recovery training in prison. Sandy asks for prayer that he finds the Lord who, we all know, IS THERE ALL THE TIME. With the Lord, he will be drug free.
Please pray for Sandy and her son, and all the other parents looking for the same answer. Also, please send your prayers for us, plus several others: Mark, Mona Michelle, and, of course, we do pray for each of you.
WHAT HAVE I DONE FOR THE LORD?
Jesus tells us to go forth. Where have you gone? I had an experience that I will never forget. Reading mail can get a bit dull, so as a diversion I play games on the Internet. When I enter a game, I always say, “Hi, and God Bless you all.” A favorite is Bowling on Pogo. The other night I read the chat in a room. They were all talking about an upcoming surgery. I said, “Let’s have prayer for her.” Without stopping, I Typed a prayer for a stranger. After that, some chat with people in that room. The result: all read my profile, seeing what I do.
The next thing I knew, six of the folks became Pen Friends! All six have been matched and all have written these folks. My barber is a Pen Friend; as is the mail carrier, several at the Post Office, and one of our doctors and his family! It makes everything I do a bit of fun.
I got stopped because a tail light was out - a new door to open. Due to the stress of the job, many officers drink and do drugs. Do I have time to meet with those who request help? Of course not, but I’ll do It anyway.
BRIGHTEN THE CORNER WHERE YOU ARE
Before this ministry, a long time ago, I played a lot of Bridge and became a Life Master (that means pretty good players.) Through a few groups, mostly women, we have given the CD of the last radio program and they all promised to play it for their groups. A video we were doing got put on hold for a bit, but very soon Yvonne and I are going to do a video that any of you who wish can play in your group. Neat for Sabbath or Sunday school. There is a job to be done and a victory to be WON. The only victory is Victory in Jesus.
If everyone who gets our newsletter and passes it on, how many might join us? If each of you went to our web page and send the newsletter from that page to all your address books on your computers, the snowball would be growing. If each of you could take one more name to write, the Heavenly Choir will be singing a joyful song. One day soon, there is going to be a party in Heaven; Yvonne and I pray we meet each of you there.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
If you listen to the news or read a paper, it is really a shame the state of affairs in our country seems to be in. I cannot, nor will not, make a statement here. Our Bible says that the earth will burn up. We see our country butting heads with Iran, China, Korea, all looking for power. We see religious leaders making strong political statements, in spite of God’s word, about the position of separation of church and state. We see too many youngsters dying. Three doors down from us, a young man full of life, went to fight in a war he did not understand.
Now he never will, because he died there. America needs God’s blessing. As Jean takes over, let me tell you that every one of you who gets this newsletter, you, your families and our inmates are being prayed for. We sure do love you all the time.
What a glorious spring season this year - the flowers have been extra vivid, or so it seems. The variety of birds courting in the trees have such rich colors and voices that the grinding cold of winter had to make way for the vibrance that cheers our spirits. It’s good to close the work day outside, around the fire pit in the side yard. A robin leads the evening chorus from the lower limb of a sycamore tree, encouraging a nearby cherry tree to produce fine fruit in the high branches where humans are not allowed due to age and condition of themselves and the condition of the tree.
Don and Yvonne offered me a dog this spring, a long journey from here. The elderly dog who lived here succumbed to the ravages of age, and there was a huge void in the family’s lives.
Shirley, our church’s Personal and Prison Ministries leader checked the paper often, and found a new dog that is a good gatekeeper, bodyguard, clown, comforter, cat control, and would share the couch or bed if allowed. She is willing to share breakfast on the porch swing with me, and has already cheered my spirit immensely.
In addition to our prison ministry, Shirley was asked to preach recently and did an excellent presentation, all of it right from scripture. Then we went on to the prison where she encouraged our group.
Dear readers, the training the prisons require for religious volunteer status isn’t that difficult! The Chaplain does a one or two class orientation; you fill in the blanks or take an easy test, have a photo ID done, and hopefully you can find a partner from your church to complement your skills. For instance, I’m usually the song leader and Shirley plays the organ. The guys love to sing, so we have them choose the songs. We can either do a study from the Bible, or often Shirley will find an uplifting article that our group reads, paragraph by paragraph, around the table. It improves our inmates’ reading skills; gives them self-confidence; and soon others are helping when a buddy is stuck on a word.
Our group is all reading well now; if a member needs help, someone else will join in, but always in a kind, uplifting way.
One of our group slid into place as “program director,” He prepares the program for that day, and is very good at it.
The guards know us and our inmates respect us. The Chaplain is helpful when we have needed him. We try to make these people feel as relaxed as possible with us; that we are trustworthy and there to make their lives easy.
They are professional at what they do; and we feel safe with them.
At a recent church potluck, several of us were talking about the prison ministry and they wondered about being afraid to do that kind of “job.” It was an opportunity to share how God blesses us in this ministry. For example:
One day, Shirley had forgotten her I.D. card and was not allowed in. She had to go off campus, as well. A guard pressed a button, opening the back door with an ominous thud. I pushed open two heavy locks and with a quick prayer, I was outside in the sensation of being snugly wrapped in awe - peace and angel wings. I also knew I had an off-campus prayer warrior, interceding for my safety. God is Good.