Quietly Changing Lives
Many years ago we were invited to put on a program on prison ministry. We arrived at the church dressed like street people. The greeters did not greet us. When we sat down, folks moved. When the time come for me to speak, I took my Bible and went forward. Yvonne sat at the piano and played. We explained that the church was open to all. Jesus said remember those in prison as if chained with them. Then he reminded all HE was in prison and no one visited. Read all of Matthew 25.
When I was led from my old life to a new one with Jesus I had a lot to learn. Not only had I been led to Yvonne, she had led me to Jesus. Our Lord then put me into prison ministry. Amen.
Ministry in prison is where you or several of you go to prison to preach or teach. You are not allowed to have one-to-one with the inmate. Prison Ministry is what we do. We go to school, attend staff meetings and are well trained. Yvonne and I were made staff chaplains and worked for $1.00 a year. We formed Someone Cares and became the “God Squad.” We attend staff meetings and other prison training. There are plenty of volunteers so we worked with them. We are an “All Faiths Ministry.” Do not let your doctrine be a barrier but rather a bridge to Jesus. Then we started other programs. First was a remedial reading program using the bible. Then a two care program which is a visitation program once a month with an assigned inmate in the visiting room.
This provides decent clothes for inmates when they are released. This also stops them from using release money to buy the clothes they are wearing. Helps a lot if you use the Bible.
We are not totally sure of the number but well over a million inmates have been a part of this program, half of those completing Bible studies. This is how this works. Inmates hear of the program and fill out a complete application. We explain to them this is a ministry and not pen pal program. It is Christian. The inmate sends the application and letter to us. It goes in a pile. You inquire about writing and your name goes in another pile. The inmates write you at our address and we forward to you. You write the inmate, seal it and put it in an envelope to us. We mail it from Fort Wayne.
EVERY TONGUE CONFESS
Many of those in prison are guilty of not having an attorney. Many have done more than what they are charged with. Many will try to use anything to get something. With us controlling the mail this does not happen a lot. When we match you with an inmate, we ask you to write a letter. If there is no response write a second letter. Keep a record of your writing. If you still do not receive an answer return the inmate’s information to us and we will rematch you.
Most people use a pen name. Make it two names, a first and middle name. Someone cares should not be on the envelope addressed to the inmate. All will be explained in the paperwork we send. A problem area we are working on is that inmates often can’t get paper, pen, pencil or stamps. They will ask you for things. If you can, give. If not explain.
Most are rated from 1 to 6 or Death Row. Prisons have a lot of gang activity. Writing through us protects you. If you are not sure ask, e-mail or call us. If you get a packet and are not comfortable with your match, please return everything to us. Many folks have joined, gotten a letter but are not comfortable with the inmate and never write again or return the inmate’s information.
Most inmates live in a cell with two bunks and a toilet/sink combination. There is little storage. They can spend up to 23 hours a day in their cell. If allowed out it may be to another cage or outdoors. Good can be a hot meal of???? And a bag lunch. No money, no radio or TV. We have seen gyms used as cell blocks and chapels also. Most chaplains have no budget to speak of. Gangs are a large problem and they prey on inmates with money on their books. We have a video of a gang leader selling two pieces of bread and a little peanut butter for $4.00. The reporter asked what if he didn’t pay. The answer he would pay. JESUS PAID ALSO ON THE CROSS FOR ALL OF US. SOME WILL BE IN HEAVEN BECAUSE OF THIS MINISTRY
BUT RATHER A BRIDGE TO JESUS
Chaplains have a tough time. Yvonne and I have both been there. They have no budget and not much help. The Pen Friend programs lets you go into prison but not go in. We spend a lot of time on the yard, in the cell blocks, on death row and in the visiting room. God drew us to start this ministry and has kept it going for a long time. We have served as full-time staff chaplains in five prisons over eighteen years, part of the time on a dollar a year. That is why we formed a 501 C3 non-profit ministry. We are so proud of all the Pen Friends and supporters. It is you who are Someone Who Cares. With our country and its prison system in trouble and laws changing we are looking for $500 a month supporters. A little or a lot more will help lots.
If you use a pen name make it a first and last name. On the envelope to inmate use your name or pen name and our address. The inmates name, number and address does not go on this at all. Seal it and mail it to us. We do not read your letters. The inmate will write you at our address and we will forward it to you. Ask inmates to print as some have sloppy hand writing. If you have a computer go to Someonecares.org and click on the radio icon. You can listen to the twenty-six radio shows we have done. Share these with your church and friends. Inmates will ask you for things. Be sure before you send. Look prisons and even inmate.
If you know anyone in prison ministry please give us their
information. Our doctor says we will live long enough to keep on
keeping on. We are receiving and average of twenty requests a day
for Pen Friends. There are two million, five hundred thousand peope
in prison. That is bunch of stamps! God Bless You and yours.
through our website: www.someonecares.org
Don and Yvonne have sent me a lot of names – sixty - that someone else had rejected. I took them all, got rid of eighteen. Three are out of prison and are now pastors, two are teachers, and most are church members. None have gone back to prison.
We write this in memory of Chaplain Bill Moors He spent a lifetime in prison ministry and chaplain of Vacaville Prison. We learned a lot from Bill and he helped Someone Cares.
It seems like yesterday that we were called to this ministry. I cannot believe that over forty years a little or a lot of every day had been sent because Someone Cares. Yvonne’s Birthday is tomorrow, 78 and mine in June, 85. I plan to try to beat Jake, our grandson, at golf bowling, tennis, and table tennis while resting pool.
Reprinted from our March, 2008 newsletter.
This is an election year and our votes count. No, we are not going to tell you who to vote for (though some pastors have done so), shame on them!
The cost of prisons is terrible; the graft is terrible; and men who are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment, deserve a chance. Cutting costs in prisons could eliminate the national debt.
80% of those in prison are getting out some day. Will they be better off for their time served? No.
If Jesus had not lifted me, where would I be?
In a cell somewhere is a man or woman, boy or girl. From the comfort and safety of your home, you might help change a life.
Our God Is An Awesome God. Paper Sunshine has entered many a cell to bring the Light of Jesus to many. Please let your light shine.
This article is reprinted from our March, 2008 newsletter.
This can be a very confusing topic. When we first started it was very challenging. Most inmates have had a little religion as they were growing up. Some had learned just enough to be dangerous. We always had a plan and God directed it.
I had a rule that we would take any question on the topic we were studying. The answers would be revealed the following week, giving me time to make sure of the answer. Most inmates can get a Bible; mostly just the New Testament . Some had study Bibles with notes, giving someone else’s idea of what is said. This is why we taught not to let our doctrine be a barrier, but a bridge to Jesus. Doing a lot with prayer helps control the way a ministry in prison goes.
We also established an All-Faiths Chapel and have kept that idea over the years. Since chapels (if there is one) are shared, and we are careful in what we allow. (Writing an inmate who is trying to go slow, get help; do not push “religion,” but Jesus.) I learned the Bible as I taught it and learned well. We have found the Message easy to teach from. Message reads: in Hebrews 13:3: Remember the prisoner as if in prison with them.”
Ask lots of questions and be careful of the answer. I love to preach and teach, but Yvonne and I spent most of our time in prison; on the yard; in the cell blocks; and as much as we can in the visiting room. One-to-one is why Paper Sunshine really works. Getting into prison, due to severe over-crowding and gang problems, make Paper Sunshine letter writing a total package. The best preacher going into prison to preach will minister to tough men and women. But when they are gone, then what? The best teacher, even if going into prison weekly, will teach men and women.
The greatest problem with ministry in prison is that you are not allowed to spend private, one-to-one time with those in attendance. We know many good Chaplains whose hands are tied with paperwork, and the system wants them to play policeman. Often, like pastors on the street, the Chaplain’s Doctrine will be the base of most programs. We also know a lot of good Christian inmates who do services in prison, but they are also limited. Like all the Christian inmates he has to be in a constant survival mode. We often get notes telling us some inmates are trying to use our programs for one scam or another. That is why writing through us is a safety net.
Soon there will be 2.5 million inmates in prison. Rehabilitation instead of warehousing would be neat. Overcrowded and understaffed is rough. Keep in mind that you can get almost anything in prison that you can outside, often from staff.