Quietly Changing Lives
My greeting when we arrived for the first visit at Payson Post Office - well we have some good news and some bad news - we already have a lot of mail for you but you need an overflow box, which we now have. For the first time in 30 years we can do regular mail and bulk mail from the same post office only 3 miles away.WHAT’S GOING ON AROUND THE WORLD:
Our friend Chaplain Bill Moors sent the number 117.769. We want to reflect on that number writes Good News Prison Ministry. This is the number of inmates making a first-time or a rededication to trust Jesus or for their Salvation or who have recommitted their lives to him. In prison it’s easier to walk with Christ. Unlike the free world who can talk one way while walking another, those on the inside can’t hide.
If a man or woman decides to follow Jesus, they are under a microscope every day and it will be evident if their walk does not match their talk. God is doing a wonderful thing to build His church behind bars.
The Chaplains of Good News Prison Ministry have the incredible privilege to minister in a mission field that truly is “ripe for the harvest”.
The men and women behind walls, bars, and razor wire are finding in Jesus the one who can fill the void in their lives. He’s the one who can bring peace to the tormented, forgiveness and healing to the sin-sick, and hope of the eternal to the hopeless.
YOU make this happen as you give and, as one who met the Savior through this ministry of a Good News Chaplain, I can only say, for myself and on behalf of hundreds of thousands of others over the years, thank you. You have made, and are making, it possible for us to be a part of that great throng that will gather in worship and praise around the throne of God to proclaim Worthy is the lamb. You may not know it but your involvement with this Ministry, or other organizations, and your giving make it possible to be free in Jesus which is to be free indeed!
Thanks Chaplain Moors for sending this to us.
OUR FRIEND JEFF HILLIARD:
God led him to develop RED www.redwebzine.org. Red brings you true stories of prisoners and former prisoners around the world who have found hope, redemption, and transformation, and those who have helped transform and reclaim their lives. We were proud to be a part of its first series, PSYCHOLOGY OF INCARCERATION (P.O.I). In an interview the co-founder of this organization said: ”It’s as close to uttering truth telling in a course as one could reach teaching in a prison setting.”
There are wonderful and necessary courses being taught in prisons, but P.O.I hits deeper, it aspires to touch the individual’s thinking, and it stresses that an inmate can change his or her way of thinking, of being, and thus change his or her actions and behavior in a positive way.
Some say incarceration is a metaphor for self-imposed limitations. The person has placed a self-imposed limitation on the kind of potential he or she has. In the near future we will chat more about this. One problem - it is not everywhere and it is not open to everyone.
WE MAY BORE SOME:
Writing this newsletter monthly we try to put as much information as possible to make your job easier, or to get you involved. Here are some basics we are going to touch on. You are not Someone Cares who is writing your Pen Friend. We have found that many of you do not read the instructions, or the application the inmate filled out. Postage is going up, and this will be a burden for us and the inmates.
Inside the application is a question: If we can’t send stamps how will you respond? Paper Sunshine is what your letter should be, not all the problems of the world. They have enough. If they ask for money or anything and you can’t afford it, say so. You can go to a Church where you feel comfortable, or you may choose not to go. They do not have any choice but the Chaplain and volunteers. Jesus is the Church they need. But if they belong to a Church different from yours, ask about it and pray they ask about yours.
There is a new breed of inmate. With so many people losing jobs and homes and everything many turn to crime. Prison is not a place for just anyone, especially without street knowledge. The vultures in prison prey on the “fish”, a nickname for a new inmate. Many of you seem scared to ask prison-related questions but sometimes it helps them to write. Do not ask why they are in prison, but be blessed if they tell you.
Learning about prison can be done on the Internet by typing in their prison name. If you type in Prison Pen Pals you will be shocked at what you may see. If your friend asks you to put them on the Internet please do not. It would be neat if those of you that have had problems with pen friends and worked them out would tell us how you did it.
If you are not sure how to handle a situation, just ask, “p-l-e-a-s-e.” We all know someone with a computer and you all have our firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail. Give your Pen Friend a two-name Pen Name. Please, as your friend, do not mail to Chapel tracts - we pay additional postage.
Have your Pen Friend PRINT your name on an envelope - some write as badly as I do. Those of you that e-mail inmates remember we pay postage to inmates and their reply to you. If they ask for something have them send a slip from the prison saying it’s alright. If they only write every three or four months please ask for a new name. If you get a name you did not ask for, please write them or find someone else to write to.
Yvonne and I are amazed at the increase in the mail since we moved and it has become a bit of a problem. If you use a Pen Name, make it real names - First and last.
Below are letters we need a home for or a new writing attempt to them:Michael Cunah wrote to Carol Ann;
Brad Lewis and Marvin Robinson wrote to Beverly;
T Stone wrote to P Brennen;
Ed Kredsey wrote to Chris t C;
Bobby Gibbs to Dave;
Cliff Hoffman to Rose Kallschmidt;
Chris Stoleis to L.L;
Chris Hamblin to Laura Linda;
Frank Calandra to Ailene McCabe;
Martin Valdes to Edna Smith
Some of you may not have any idea what the inside of prison is really like. I can only share what I saw and experienced. Sometimes while working at Soledad I would have to go over to the maximum security part of the prison. It had a very long corridor (One Mile) that you would walk to get to the cell block where you were going to share Jesus. Most of the walls were covered by very nice graffiti. I always looked for the officers, and then always watched my surroundings, trying to stay out of the way of regular movement.
Shortly after I had gone over, Don said, “Well, what did you think?” I told him I was scared, but I followed all the rules I had been taught. I realize now it was my faith in God that gave me the strength. I heard some very foul language, but I would just say “that was no way to talk.” Then Don and I were appointed fulltime volunteer Chaplains and even though we were not paid, we were staff. If an inmate got out of line we were forced to write a ticket.
I would like to share some information for training. It is easy to get discouraged.
Let’s walk down to “D” wing, it is daytime so most of the inmates are asleep. I was shocked in here at night as everyone is yelling at someone - how do they understand! Most do not have TVs but they try to listen without watching the TV’s that some have on. The stench can be terrible. They are locked in their cells 23 hours a day and get a shower only three times a week.
You can see they have little to write about.
Ask questions. They may not answer them, but try.
Now “F” wing is a very bad place. An advantage you have is the comfort and safety of your home, but here you might have to wear a bullet-proof vest. I often think of the friends I grew up with being with me, Also I often think and would love to hear from friends about my meeting Don, an Atheist, called to start this Ministry. Learning to preach and teach he would go where many fear to tread. I know most thought it would never last. His life on the streets makes it easier for him - not me. He is a good teacher. I often ask how come we are in cell blocks, on the yard, or Death Row. Why not the Chapel? Where would Jesus be? We have tried to Minister to the worst of the inmates. We win some, lose many - but we keep on trying.
Let’s do lunch. We go to the mess hall and get a tray and go through a line, not many choices. We do not sit with staff but mingle with inmates. We pray a lot.
Next month join me in the hospital.
The years, the accident, and the knee replacement have slowed her down. In fact, me too. I think often of days past. In our first major riot the inmates took care of her. She was at San Quentin talking to an inmate through the bars when shots were fired. The inmate dove under his bunk, but she had nowhere to go. She and I were in “C” section Administrative Segregation. This is a mad house. Five tiers of 50 cells and across from them are five gun rails manned by sharp shooters. We have to walk up metal stairs that are wet to the top. The shots were fired in the next cell block waking every one. I was delayed playing chess with an inmate. The watch commander told us the prison was being locked down and a riot was expected. A group of inmates surrounded Yvonne and escorted her to the gate and safety.
At times she took on Wardens and officers to get programs passed. She prayed with dying inmates. Then came the Pen Friend Program. Here was born a Ministry that has changed the lives of many inmates. Yvonne has worked from the bottom up.
While driving across the Golden Gate Bridge Yvonne told me she met an inmate who had not gotten any mail in years – many years. I said that is pretty bad, trying to find a ballgame on the radio. She turned the radio off and said “We are getting him someone to write!” “OK we will try.”
We did find several to write and then forgot about it. The folks we picked did a neat job and word spread through the Prison to the warden’s office. Adding rules and protection and Paper Sunshine was born. Over the years thousands of inmates met Jesus, from the comfort and safety of YOUR home.
Chaplain Moors talked about joining forces with other Ministries and God Blessed us. Thousands of Bible studies were finished, turning lives over to Jesus.
Double Trouble has made a difference to many. She bent some rules making programs that changed lives.
There are problems because some will never change. If you were matched, can you find someone new or we will switch to another for you. Yvonne will find someone new. I preach and teach and also listen.
As the mailman passes by my cell,
This lonely place where I dwell.
He looks at me with sad dismay
For he has no mail for me today.
He must think that I am quite insane,
Suffering with this constant pain.
My friends have let me down once more,
As he quickly passes by my door.
Write, my friends, to ease my mind.
Please don't be cruel, cold, unkind.
Send me a letter of friendship and cheer,
Then let me bend your ear.
Maybe tomorrow the mailman will stop here.
I’M HAPPY TODAY:
Got a call and a letter from several Women’s clubs wanting to become Pen Friends. It was nice to accept them in “Paper Sunshine” but better yet tell them they will have to wait as we have inmates waiting for letters. One inmate really touched me…
I met you and Yvonne years ago at Avenal and blew it not taking your invitation. Like Sinatra “I did it my way”. A friendship did grow but none of it for me. I got out and did my thing staying out of trouble. It was neat and I was making good money.
My wife left me and I was devastated. I was hurt and angry and going the wrong direction in life. I remember one of you or both of you telling me HE was always there for me. What was in it for me EVERYTHING.
I contacted V.O.P and got your number. Don, our chat your prayer there would be Peace. After our chat I went out to eat and walked right into my wife. We talked and I promised her a victory.
The God Squad has done so much for so many - I pray you can publish this. If you do I pray all those you and your army of Inmates who had forgotten were your Friend came from and send them thanks. JESUS TOOK MY SINS AWAY
We are behind due to our move and a massive amount of mail from closed Ministries. Pray for them and us. God Bless