Quietly Changing Lives
…We can face tomorrow. Very early in this ministry I learned the best way to teach the Bible is to teach inmates to sing Praise to God, with the assistance of my helpmate, Yvonne, to play and lead. (My singing is not a tool I could use to bring men to the Chapel but to chase them away!) While preaching in over 400 churches over the years, I have been amazed to see that so many people in church do not sing the hymns or pray the prayers.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Psalms 98:4
THE WONDROUS STORY
He left His home in Glory to become the wondrous story. We will sing this wondrous story of Jesus and His love. I have written often of a riot at San Quentin and a very lengthy lock down, when the inmates were kept in their cell twenty-four hours a day. On the day they were released Yvonne took twelve of the men into the Chapel and they sang and sang. Those twelve were the hard core of the prison and Yvonne had to teach the songs. Although they were full of sin, the words from the songs freed them all.
On that hill far away, with us in mind, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, and by accepting that truth we are saved. I still remember so many years ago being told that by just accepting Jesus as Savior, He would clean me forever, even though at the time my body was full of drugs and alcohol. Once I made that decision not only did I never again take any more drugs, or drink, or smoke or intake anything else that was bad, but most importantly I was set free by the blood of The Lamb.
As the simple song says, “A world of lost sinners was slain.” We teach to all that in their mind’s eye they should picture going to the foot of the cross, looking up into the eyes of Jesus, and accepting what will come. Then, look forward to receiving a crown.
Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary
So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown
Christians know that they
Jesus, keep me near the cross,
Raul was a young inmate raised in a Christian family. He never studied God’s Word, but he could sing like an angel. I met him in the hospital at San Quentin after he was stabbed five times. His body was scarred with hatred, but after only three visits we were able to bring back the peace that passes all understanding. He started studying his Bible and singing God’s Word. A pen friend got him a cassette player and we gave him cassettes. He called us last year and thanked us for leading him back to Jesus. He now has a street ministry. Amen!
LETTER FROM THE INSIDE
Below is an excerpt from an inmate’s letter to his female Pen Friend, expressing the impact Paper Sunshine has had on his life.
“… During the sixteen and a half years I was at Central, you’ve been my faithful pen-friend. Soon after I arrived there you wrote responding to a letter requesting a pen-pal. Ironically, I had requested a male pen-pal thinking that I would be able to relate to a more “level headed” individual. Having you as a pen friend has changed my thoughts on such matters. Your letters have always been interesting, entertaining, and even quite heart-felt. There is a zeal for life that has been like a life’s blood to me. When you talk about your travels I feel as if I’ve gone with you for a few moments. And you mention your family as if I am part of it. At times it feels like a surrogate family. It takes the place of the lack of correspondence with my family.”
LEANING ON THE EVERLASTING
When I first became a Christian we moved to the Santa Cruz area in California and joined a small church, where I was eventually asked to be a youth leader! I felt ill-equipped since I did not have much of a life as a youth, but instead grew up too fast and furious. This group of kids loved to sing, so I learned many songs. (Later I thought maybe they wanted to keep me singing instead of teaching.) Without the experience of growing up in the church, I tried to find different ways for us as a group to witness. Nearby was an Academy for youth (their leader, Dick Cadavero, is a neat friend who needs our prayers right now) and we joined with a bunch of kids from there to share God’s love through song at a local mental hospital. The hospital was a locked facility, and it was one of the only times a teacher told the kids they could hold hands if scared. We really don’t know the overall effect we had there, but we know we made a difference to many.
Getting our young people involved in Ministry is vital for their growth, and it is vital to this Ministry as well. We have tried getting young people to write as Pen Friends, but their attention span is short. You can benefit your children and this Ministry by making a family project out of writing to inmates.I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY
Long ago when we lived in Aptos we decided to plan a sun down vespers at one of the beaches in the area. The young people wanted to go to a beach that did not have the best of reputations, so there we went. We built a large fire and started singing. There was a cement wall behind and around us. Many of the beach kids wandered over and sat and listened, and some joined in with us. It was a really great night.
As we returned home and pulled into our driveway the phone was ringing. It continued to ring for quite some time as parents called us asking, “how could you take our children to such a place?” The next day eleven of these beach youth came to our Church, invited by our youth, who showed them JESUS AND HIS LOVE. A funny side note is that when we lived in Aptos I remember dreaming of retirement and spending time on the beach and fishing, never thinking that someday as I near 80 years of age we would still be working in this Ministry, planning our next five years!
I pray this morning, Lord, for the soul who lost the fight.
His life was taken from us in the middle of the night.
A very senseless killing, but aren’t they all!?
I’m sorry it was here that he took his final fall.
I’m asking you this morning for mercy of his soul.
I knew him from the Chapel, Lord, you were his only goal.
Sunday in the Chapel he stood and sang a song.
He offered his life to you, Lord, this morning he is gone.
I pray his prayers were answered.
That he crossed the line to roam
Within the realm he searched so hard to find.
I’m praying for his family, whose prayers may fall today.
Help them through the heartache, Lord,
Which may now have come their way.
I wish like you, Lord, we knew his final thoughts.
Steve sent the above poem with a note, telling us the fate of this young Cuban man who had prayer with us for helping him reach his new status in life. He was stabbed to death in his cell.Yvonne’s Corner
Yes, I agree music does make a difference. And by the way, Jake also plays the guitar and I must admit I enjoy some of the same music that he does. Music has a way of breaking down barriers or indifference. A person can come to Chapel or Church and not have a smile on their face but once they start praising God by singing they soon get that smile and happy feeling and hopefully receive that blessing that God has for each of us.
If any of you would like to write to Jake, you may do so.
BUT WE KNOW WHO HOLDS THE FUTURE.
Of all the songs out there that have an influence on young people, it’s the rap and hip hop that they listen to most, some hard rock ‘n roll and heavy metal. I’m not saying I’ve never listened to these music genres, but I’ve found that there are songs that can give you such a good feeling when you’re listening to and singing them. There is a country song called “Alright” by Darius Rucker, which is one of my favorite songs of all time. Another favorite is a rock song called “Higher” by Creed. I believe the lead singer is a Christian because they often sing about God and how He impacts their lives. In their song called “With Arms Wide Open” the lead singer is singing about his soon to be born child, praying for guidance and wondering if he is ready for this responsibility. And then he sings about how God will show them everything with arms wide open, leaving him with the feeling that God will support him and take care of his family.
To the parents of young people who are reading this, will you give Christian rock and Christian rap a chance? Not all songs in those genres are like those performed by Lil Wayne (a popular, secular rap artist) or others like him. No matter the beat of the music, a person can listen to the kind of Christian music they most connect with and get a feeling that is indescribable because they are singing God’s Word. I get goose bumps all the time when I sing “Higher.” That is the song that I want to sing in church when I get the chance to do so with my grandparents. My grandfather can preach, I’ll sing and my grandma will hopefully get to play the piano. Please to all the parents out there, look up the lyrics to Creed’s song called Higher. I promise there is no profanity and songs like this will have an influence on teens and you parents. (Creed does sing songs with a more aggressive tone but they are not bad.) Just because a music style doesn’t suit your taste, give it a chance. God Bless.
Up high I feel like I’m