Quietly Changing Lives
It does not seem possible that this is the thirty-second Christmas newsletter we have written. Over those years we have spent twenty-four of them holding some kind of Christmas service in a prison somewhere. Jesus does bring more inmates to the Chapels than any other time of year. The season also brings all faiths together, if only for a short time. We have had some very special Christmas times in prison, and we still hear from men that attended those services.
CHRISTIANS WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN
Jesus’ birth brought the hope of eternal life. It gave us an open door to spending eternity with HIM. HIS offer of a pretty nice place to live for awhile is neat. Wanting to go there is great, but there is much we need to do to get there. In HIS word HE asks us to ask you to join in the effort to lead others to HIM. A Christmas present you can offer to Jesus is to lead someone to HIM. Amen!
November and December are my two favorite months out of the year - you get to give gifts, and give of yourself just to lighten someone else’s load. All of you who are just joining us, Welcome! We are glad to have each and every one of you with us. Our goal in Paper Sunshine and life is to try and do what Jesus would do if He were on this earth. God bless each of you!
Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for preaching Jesus, after being severely beaten, but they stayed in when they had the chance to escape. You can read the whole story in Acts, chapter 16. The part I like best is when the jailer asks them, “What must I do to be saved?” They respond, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household.” This story demonstrates the power Christians can have when they show Jesus by just being Christian.
Paso Robles is a prison for hard core young folks, and I do mean hard core. When sentenced there, most know that this is a stop on the way to a real prison, that they will either die or end up in prison.
One Christmas Eve we had a party for the boys there. The local church in Templeton helped by providing all the food, and some of their members joined us. Forty youth were marched to the dorm where we were holding the party. All of them knew Yvonne, Mark and me. We started with prayer, but not many heads were bowed. Then we sang carols, most of them did not know the words but sang along. A few tried to hide tears. We had a massive amount of food, but soon all of it was gone. One young man told me he was going home soon and asked if we worked at San Quentin. I said, “Yes, why do you ask?” He said, “That’s where I want to go - not some chump change joint like this.” Sadly, he never made it there. He was gunned down in Watts the day he was released. As for the rest of the boys we served that Christmas, we were able to start a Bible study group and six of them went on to lead good productive lives, thanks to Jesus.
One Christmas Eve Yvonne received permission to sing carols in the yards outside the cell blocks at Soledad. We got a bunch of folks to join us. Since I’m not a singer I went into the cell blocks to listen. Inmates were jamming their windows open to listen and join in the singing, which went on for two hours. As I walked the halls I heard many a hard core inmate crying.
We extended an invitation to a special Christmas service the next day. That Chapel was jammed! The Watch Commander was going to cancel the service due to the amount of inmates, but the Warden stopped by and let the service continue, and Jesus was definitely there. It was the largest alter call I have ever had. Around Christmas time we still hear from some of the inmates who were there. I had preached about Paul and Silas staying in prison to tell all about Jesus. Jesus took involvement in Prison Ministry seriously, starting at the cross. Next, He gave HIS commission to all of us in Mathew 25.
As we continuously state, we do not like crime or those who commit it, but GOD said go forth, and HE meant into prison also.
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” Matthew 25:34-36
We are ready to begin a new year, but not without massive challenges. Due to a very confusing election and terrible economy we’ve been blessed with a massive workload. Prisons are over crowded (what’s new?) with staff and program cut-backs, making doing time truly “hard time.” A lot of you may say, “Good!” And you would be right in thinking that many deserve to reap what they have sown. However, we still believe that regeneration is better than rehabilitation. The only religion many prisoners get is through our Pen Friend Program and the “Paper Sunshine” you provide. We are proud that Jesus has opened so many doors through this Ministry. The birth of Christ gave us and so many in prison the path and hope of being born again. HIS shed blood makes all the Bible’s promises achievable, if we know where and how to find them.
We recently lost some control of reading inmate’s letters to you due to the massive increase of mail, but we have worked this out and are confident that all inmate mail will be read before being forwarded to you. However, if you are very comfortable with your pen friend’s correspondence and feel it is not necessary for us to read their letters, please let us know. We continue to have a need for more of you to write, and ask friends and Church brethren to get involved, too.
We are still allowing you to send your letters via email, which works like this: You email your inmate pen friend starting the email with their full name, inmate number and full address. We then print your email (but we cut off the part that shows your email address), place a stamp on an envelope and “snail mail” that letter to your pen friend. Later, we mail their answer to you. This does add a bit of extra expense to us, so those of you who do not wish to write could help greatly by providing us with a “mite.” To save a stamp, tell us if you wish to have the inmate’s letter to you scanned and emailed back to you.
His name is Don McClure, who is so born again he vibrates when he walks. His love for Jesus exudes from every pore. Some of you have heard our interviews with him - he loves to talk about Jesus and Heaven and escape from this planet earth. But Don’s passion for a Mansion just over the hill top does not stop him and his wife, Yvonne, from invading America’s prisons right here right now. And yes, he preaches the Gospel. They take those convicts tracts and Discover Bible studies. They tell them Jesus is coming soon and the prisons will be as empty as the freeways. Don & Yvonne know that those inmates are lonely, desperate and hungry for a bit of agape love. They know there is nothing better than a ray of sunshine that comes in a letter in the mail. Many tears are shed when they do not hear their name called for mail. Don’s idea of stewardship is to deliver Paper Sunshine, a letter writing program started by Yvonne. They have hundreds of men and women who write letters in complete safety using the Ministry as a safe conduit.
We thank Lonnie and VOP for all they do for us, and ask that you all pray for them, as they do need help. Don & Yvonne
Paper Sunshine is when you write a letter to someone in prison. We become a clearing house for your safety. You write a letter to an inmate, put it in a stamped envelope that has been addressed to the inmate’s name, inmate number and address, and in the return address you put your name (or pen name) and our address (but never put the Ministry name of “Someone Cares”). You place that in another envelope addressed to us, and in the return address use your real name and real address.
Once again we have a stack of letters from inmates and have no idea where to send them.
If you haven’t done so recently, please send or email us the following information:
• Your full real name and also your Pen Name if using one (this must be a real-sounding first and last name, not some thing like “Christian Writer”);
• Your contact information: Mailing address, phone number and Email address;
• The name(s) of who you are writing to.
Note: Remember, if the inmate assigned to you has not answered or you are not comfortable with them, return their introduction information, noting the reason why, and we will rematch both.
Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year ever since I was little. When my dad was around we would always go around town so I could see all the Christmas lights, which I liked to call “Lu Lu” lights. I always loved Christmas because it was a time of love, family coming together, and just an all-around awesome time of being in the Christmas spirit.
My family has always taught me that Christmas isn’t about presents, or how much money is spent or if you get what you asked for. Christmas is a time to look at the year and everything that God blessed you with and realize how far you have come in life. Christmas is a time to give, no matter if all you give someone is a smile or a hug. That expression could mean more to that person than any other thing in the world. I feel so bad for people in prison that have to spend Christmas by themselves. Life in prison isn’t easy but life in prison over holidays is so horrible. I read some of the letters that come through around this time and Thanksgiving, and there are so many emotions it’s almost hard to read.
Ever since I was about thirteen years old I have
had the same New Year’s resolution: be better.
That’s one of the best parts for me through this
time of year. Once you see everyone in your life all
together laughing and having a good time it gives
you such an indescribable feeling, it’s amazing.
Look at everything you have done over the past
year, everyone you have made an impact on in
their life and everyone you have lost. Life answers
questions for you, it’s just a simple fact of realizing
how to improve yourself, but there isn’t a single
person on earth who can improve themselves
without the help of our Awesome God. So everyone
that has a family and everyone that cares
even the littlest bit about someone, do what Jesus
would do. And make them smile. Look at everyone
you love, tell them and show them you love them,
and have a Merry Christmas.
The New Year is going to bring a lot of changes, and we pray the first is the return of Jesus. Postage is going up. Many more people are going to prison. Tons of programs for inmates will be cut, including one meal a day. Some can’t afford to continue this Ministry, so we ask if you have a little extra to help us so we can keep everything intact. An increase in funding will help put both Jake and Ronna on salary instead of a stipend. Yvonne will be doing more reading of letters from inmates as my eyes are getting a little worse. Jesus can deal with that, though. Donations can be made through Pay Pal on our web page.
Receipts for this year will be sent with our February newsletter, which brings me to an uncomfortable matter. By the time you receive this letter in December, confusion in Washington may do away with or cut charitable donations, which would hurt us a lot. This Ministry has always been the recipient of a widow’s mite, but larger donations would keep us way ahead of Satan and his tricks.