Quietly Changing Lives
This was my motto as a youth.
We went to Washington D.C. to help get help for our organization and to make sure that creditability and accountability were handled correctly. We are proud to say we have the credentials to support what we say and do in Jesus’ name. Then we went to Payson, Arizona to slow down a bit and spend some time on the Pen Friend program. Now, a series of things happened and we returned to Indiana. The murder of our daughter and several other things took a lot out of us, but Jesus was on the main line. We, over the phone, bought a mobile home in Fort Wayne and moved again. We have always planned God’s work for us and worked God’s plan. At Soledad we worked with many religious volunteers, talked and trained. Do not let your doctrine be a barrier but rather a bridge to Jesus.
Jesus has been the cornerstone of this Ministry. HE saw it start, stepped in often to direct us and knows where it is going. With no schooling in the Bible and my wife as a teacher, I grew in my walk with HIM. We got deeply involved and the ministry grew rapidly. However Satan was working over time to stop us. Prisons were at about 600,000 inmates. They are now at over two million people. You have listened to me say prison was for punishment, not as punishment. The conditions in prison are terrible and getting worse. 70 percent of those who make it out go back. The “we don’t want those kinds of people in our church” attitude made it difficult as we knew it was for Jesus. As I grew and learned I was also often asked to fill in for the prison chaplain. At one time I had two churches as well as prison. We started at Soledad and then worked Soledad and San Quentin. Then we added Avenal and Corcoran prisons and the Paso Robles boys school. California’s high cost of everything took us to Kentucky’s Eddyville Prison and several churches. Then we were offered a prison In Michigan. We have never been paid by church or state. But we raise the funding to do what we do as a non-profit organization. Your donations are tax deductible. In Michigan, I took the men’s prison and Yvonne the women’s prison. The chaplains who were state paid tried to get us out as their salaries were at stake. We again won.
In the past we spoke in at least two Churches a month. The love offerings were always good and we kept growing. I can still preach and teach at churches close by so Ronna can drive us. Also, we can teach by video and share all that we do. This newsletter is to try to establish a solid monthly funding base for two years. At 85 - Lord willing - I will still be an overseer. We have been through the Police Academy three time in three states. We have been through two major riots. We have taken in and gone to the hardest of hardcore inmates. I pray after every newsletter that some one of you will be the person “to get the last knee to bend” for Jesus to return. A bit of a miracle I think - my blood sugar went to 1143 I did not go into a come and in 8 days was back to normal. I say “Amen - God still needs us.”
28 years ago Yvonne came to my cell door. I was sitting with shorts on in my bunk. I grabbed a towel. She told me Jesus sent here and could we chat. At the time I was a resident of ag sag for hard core inmates, and was one bad dude. She said she had a gift from Jesus! That gift turned me and many others like me around. A small tract written about me! No - not me but someone just like me. I was full of anger and hate and it would take a book to explain. Yvonne and Don - the God Squad - saved my life with an introduction to Jesus. I got a Pen Friend, actually three of them. They are the first real friends I have ever had. If you desire to write someone like me, I have a bit of advise. Don’t start off preachy. I now know His last name is not damn. Establish a common ground, be willing to ask and to share. We spend twenty-three hours a day in a hell hole. We shower once a week if they cuff us and take us. We eat garbage for food and not much of it. Hate is everywhere. Don and the salvation of Jesus helped me hook up with my folks. The Jesus is in them - Don and Yvonne - became of the Jesus in me. When they moved to Kentucky they kept in touch with me. All this madness will soon be over and we will meet in heaven. Thanks to them I really know Someone Cares. Do you? Please write someone in prison.
My name is Margaret, and I met Don through Yvonne’s parents Clyde and Vera Groomer. I joined their Ministry and have written a whole lot of inmates - probably over fifty . Twelve duds, fifteen lookers, and the rest have become regular friends. 70 percent have been released, and I hear from most of them. Six have visited me. Only one returned to prison and two have died of old age. I must say also that there are terrible people in prison and they will try anything. Probably as I write this several thousand are looking for something to mold into a shank or prison knife for protection. The high expense is causing some states to release inmates early.
We had a guest speaker at Soledad that told a story about a cell block he had been in. An Indian was sent there. He could not read or write. He was not allowed to talk to anyone. He had to use his fingers to eat as anything else he would have used to kill him self. He was in that cell with no one to talk to, no TV or Radio for fifty years. A young Chaplain got permission to take him out for a ride. He had never been in a car or seen a plane. Such a shame. God gives all the glory to those who take Him at His word...”I was In Prison.”
If you have watched the news lately, an attempt is being made to lover the recidivism rate down in prison. Our Ministry is being used by many others and we have to make a decision. The Pen Friend Program has led thousands of men, women, boys and girls to a knowledge of Christ. Many more have made a change in their lifestyle. Paper Sunshine does bring changes to hardened hearts. Also - not always a change but at least the process can be started. We have access to thousands of inmates and that is really neat. The problem is that not enough of you are writing. Over many years we have collected hundreds of inmate’s poems and stories. We have video footage of church services, in-cell ministry and baptisms. Putting them together will not be easy but it will be done. Part of this will be placed on the church’s website. There is many ways to get folks involved: word-of-mouth, church bulletins, newspaper stories and ads. All are expensive. We are really happy to say we have done well to keep growing A very special gift gave us a reserve to work on. Thanks R. S. and family.
IS THERE AN EASY WAY?
We will take a little time to enter the mindset of an inmate. Male or female, black or white, prison is a place where everyone is forced to change. They enter a place full of hate and little place to hide. Boredom is the worst enemy of all. Some, not many, are tough enough to adjust. The rest try to make it through whatever.
Contact by the outside world is vital to sanity. Our Pen Friend Program serves a mixture of inmates via a mixture of Pen Pals. Some interesting human “slow cooker recipes” are developed, making life for the prisoners more palatable.
Most are looking for someone of the opposite sex, for all the wrong reasons. When we receive an application, and a letter or request, we never choose who we match with whom. We have a pile of inmates opposite a pile of free folks. We match top of pile to top of pile. We try sometimes to match race with race. Often a college grad gets matched with a high school or world dropout. It is trial and error.
If you are or have been matched with an inmate and it does not work out, don’t just quit. Let us know. We will take that inmate and give you another.
Walk before you run. Don’t jump in with Bible at the ready to do spiritual battle. Take your time. You need to learn about your new Pen Friend, his/her background, and what it’s like where they lived. Deal with their letter and find out about them by asking questions, but write and write again before letting us know that we need to rematch you.