Quietly Changing Lives
There is a bit of misunderstanding regarding “Prison Ministry” vs. “Ministry in Prison.” When someone goes into prison to teach a Bible study or to preach, this is Ministry in Prison. Most of these folks are escorted in and out of the prison. Most of them teach their specific doctrine and are not allowed to visit one to one. Due to security reasons, many chaplains won’t allow outside folks to come in. People who minister in prison are limited in what they can do. Those of you who write to inmates fall into this category.
When we started at Soledad, a very large prison, there were lots of volunteers working there. We trained our volunteers to not let your doctrine be a barrier but a bridge to Jesus. One group that was volunteering tried to teach that if you don’t speak in tongues you will not go to Heaven. We don’t (speak in tongues) and we are (going to Heaven)!
Inmates today really need our help. We have said before some inmates write to themselves just to hear their name called. The biggest need for prisoners is someone to visit with them one to one. As a Christian Ministry we ask our folks to establish a friendship, bringing in religion slowly. Some inmates try to use this ministry to get things, so be cautious and do not send anything without asking us. If you are not sure, always give us a call.
Pastors have a mighty job and really need our prayers. Yvonne’s dad, Clyde, was old school and made house calls. We so often hear, “We don’t want those kinds of people in our Church.” Since the first of the year we have had three churches commit to helping our Ministry. Amen! The ads we run are bringing new and great results. Funding is off a little because of the uncertainty of the times. But we are bound for the top still. A bunch of Christian college students are writing to a bunch of inmates – more groups like this would be a great help.
I’d like to share some letters with you. This first one is a thank you from an inmate. It reads-
Praise the Lord! I love you for what you are doing for us and God loves you for what you are doing for him. Your Christian pen friend program has really been a blessing to me, to be able to talk to and fellowship with a dedicated Christian on the outside. For a person to take their time to write us and lift us up in the Lord is really a blessing from God. Jonathan faithfully writes me, and we share the word to the point that after each letter I read, I just say thank you Jesus, you really do still remember me! God bless all, Darryl
This next letter is an introduction letter. It reads-
I pray by the time this letter reaches your finger tips that you and your family are in the best of health. As for me I take one day at a time and maintaining the best I can, given my current situation. Anyhow I’ve heard a lot about your ministry, and if half of the things are true then God bless you! I’m not real sure how to start this so here goes nothing. I’m in search of a pen friend; I am a Christian so someone along that line would be nice. Race is not important, age is not important. My family background I’m not real sure of, due to the fact that I have been in several foster homes all my life. I am 26 years old, I am from Miami, Florida. I have been in prison since I was 16. I am a good guy with a boat load of bad luck. Most of the people I cared about left me when I got arrested. I was in a car with some friends after a long night of partying, we were pulled over by the police, my friend Rex reached for his cell phone to call his dad, and the cops thought he was reaching for a weapon. They put a total of 73 bullet holes in the car, they shot my friend Rex 17 times, he died on the scene, he was 15 years old. They shot my friend Amy in the head 3 times, she also died, she was 14 years old. My friend Julio was shot 7 times, he did not die, but was left a vegetable, his mom pulled life support. He was 16. The cops shot me 5 times, I was rushed to the hospital, I was in a coma for 65 days before I came to. I was later told that I died 3 times on the operating table. The cops lied and said we were involved in an armed robbery, they planted guns and drugs in the car, so once I came out of the coma I was formally charged. (The lone survivor). I came to prison a bitter young man, and I questioned all things religion based, but soon my eyes were opened, once I read about Joseph and Jesus; people who did no wrong but were persecuted. It’s real hard to be a practicing Christian in prison, due to the violent and crazy environment. I have done unchristian things in order to survive. I get very lonely at times and I long for someone to correspond with from time to time, someone to let me know that I am still human, someone who cares. I just need a break from the cut throat mentality of prison life. Well that’s it for now. I pray that you will be able to help me out. Thank you and God Bless. Livingstone
This letter (above) really
touched my heart. Some people
go through really hard times but
there is always someone out
there that has had it harder!
I am writing you again to thank you all. You visited me in the hospital after the Crypts, a gang, jumped me. No one has cared for me in a long time. I got busted at 13 a long time ago. This is my second visit to prison. Yvonne told me about your Pen Friend Program. I was matched with a nice person but her letters were Bible cover to cover. I told Yvonne and she got me a different friend. We have written a long time. In fact her husband writes and so do her two boys. I have taken several Bible studies. I was out on the yard when I was stopped by two gang members. They wanted me to get money from you guys. I said no. Holy Boldness? One of them pulled a shank when Don arrived. He told them to get rid of the shank. Or what? He informed them he would deal with them right here on the yard. They took a step toward him. In a flash one was flying through the other Don had grounded. Staff showed up and took them away. Don asked the warden to talk to the inmates, all of them. Don told them in different groups that he was sent by their God to help each one of them. He and his wife had quite a reputation. Working in some of California’s prisons the Blacks found out that the black gangs in California made them “Honorary Blacks.” Yvonne walked the yard unescorted often. We had a special service in the Chapel with half the prison present. They told us the only chance most of us had was to be free in Jesus. Many turned to Christ and away from gang life. I have had three Pen Friends over the last twenty years. Two of them visited me here. I’m getting out in two weeks and going HOME, a place I thought I would never see. I’m lucky as there are some here ready for parole with no place to go. Some states release them anyway and they come right back. Someone said maybe Don and Yvonne will come back again, someone else said they are too old. Don is in his 80s and I don’t think some of these tough guy would tangle with him or his boss, Jesus.
I found your newsletter on the road. I found it extremely interesting
and want to commend you on your Ministry. I have known all
along that you both were of the foremost in this field. I am now
convinced. As of this writing I am still gathering information and am
astounded on how many are in this type (of ministry), most of it
under directed. I see very few of the people doing this, have no
training but are very dedicated. I pray that in the near future this will
change. While there are highly directed programs such as yours we
need if nothing to be a clearing house for those who need help. I
pray your Ministry as an example will help. Perry Peterson
I have been hooked up with
Someone Cares for a long time,
written 60 inmates. I learned the
hard way to be a friend first and
get to Jesus a bit at a time.
Thirteen of my inmates have
been released and we stay in
touch with twelve of them. Let
your inmate know you can still
write when they are released. I
have gotten ten church members
to join and in all no trouble.
Sure they ask for things since
they have nothing. If you are not
sure ask Don or Yvonne or
Ronna. Make sure if you say you
will do something, do it. I talked
to Don and he says they need
help. Believe me these folks
believe in doing what they do. If
you need a place to send your
tithe send it to them.
Not a Pen Friend yet? We’d like to encourage you to become
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were
There are a great number of prisoners to remember - over two million men and women are locked up in our country alone. Many have been forgotten by friends and family, and they desperately long for contact from the outside. They want to know that Someone Cares, and you have the opportunity to be that Someone!
In Matthew 25:36 Jesus said, “I was a prisoner and you came to visit me.” He explained by adding, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
It is clear that Jesus is an advocate for “the least of these,” and He tells us that by serving them it is the same as serving Him!
Visiting inmates in person is not always possible, but as evidenced through this Ministry there is another way to “visit” these folks. An easy, safe and economical way to “remember those in prison” is from the comfort of your own home. The investment is minimal – a pen, some paper and envelopes, some stamps, your time – but the payoff is huge. It is virtually one of the easiest ways to perform Christian outreach. Through your caring correspondence (also known as “Paper Sunshine”) you can let the love of Jesus shine by offering friendship and encouragement to those in great need. Many souls have been brought to Jesus as a result of this Ministry.
Contact us now to find out how you can help transform an inmate’s life! What are you waiting for?
In the words of singer/songwriter Matthew West …
If not us, then who