Quietly Changing Lives
As a result of the automobile accident we were in, a lot has happened.
Yvonne has had two surgeries, and may have a third. Her right arm and hand were seriously damaged. She has a plate in her arm above the wrist. (I’d better be good).
My right shoulder is going to have surgery at a later date. The accident was not our fault; the other driver has good insurance and admitted fault. We were helped by your Emails, cards and phone calls. Thanks to Ronna, we were able to keep the flow of mail moving, although some of it was not read. We pray that no problems result.
This program has grown so big that we are going to spend a bit of time right here. We average about 20 requests daily for Pen Friends, and so far we have been able to keep up. We ask each of you writing to take one more name. We ask those of you not writing, to let us send you a packet for inspection, and if you are comfortable, go for it.
We ask all of you to ask your pastors to put an appeal in your church bulletin. Please. This program is risk-free with one exception: we have opened this ministry to anyone in prison. It means some of those signing up are the worst of the worst. They will try anything. Writing through us prevents problems, and of course, keeps your location secure.
The basic idea of this ministry was to establish a friend for any inmate. This is something many have never had, since they come from all walks of life. Your friend is chosen by a two-pile experience. When an inmate sends an application, we put it on the bottom of Pile 1. When you request an inmate, your application goes under Pile 2. This is very scientific, as God does the matching. When the names reach the top, a packet is sent to the inmate with the Pen Friend’s information, in care of Someone Cares, of course.
A problem we have is a problem I had many years ago. Every Christian told me the “don’t-do’s.” I already really knew that drinking, drugs, etc., were not good for me. But could dancing really keep me out of Heaven?
Well, when you accept Christ and start learning HIS Word, all the broken pieces come together. We had a Grandma who did it right. She wrote, asking questions about the inmate’s past, not his crime. She told about her life, and what Jesus meant to her. It took two years and a lot of time, but they established a friendship. After that he took a Bible study and the Lord took over.
Then there are inmates who know the Bible very well, and can give you a run for your money. We have had a pastor or two stonewalled. I’m lucky to have a bunch friends who help me if I get stuck.
A STEP BACK IN TIME
I was born in Canada and came to the United States after the deaths of my father and sister, 38 days apart.
My mother moved to California thinking her father would take us in. Not so. My mom had to work and I was headed for reform school. I learned to hate at a very early age. My mom met and married a man who had lost a son he loved very much, and he was not about to let me take his place. At thirteen, I beat him up and ran. The running took me to the inner cities of the U.S. ... Gangs and trouble. ... Busted so many times I still don’t know how God put the pieces together. But He did! Prison or jail was not a problem. I made big bucks and lived a high life on Satan’s fast track.
When I was seventeen, a judge said to me, “I should send you to prison but I’m going to give you one more chance, if you join the service (military).
I did and my problems now took me to a military jail and prison. Somehow I got an honorable discharge and went right back to the fast track of life.
I met Yvonne, a preacher’s daughter, and things really changed.
She had gone through a bad marriage and divorce. Her church blamed her. Out of her secure world and into the world of mine, was a fantasy trip. I lost everything, through drinking and drugs. We ended up in a dump of an apartment with no furniture, no job, and no friends. I remember contacting a friend for help during this time. He said, “Sorry, Don, I can’t help you. You’re not far enough down.”
It was from there that Yvonne went back to her roots and tried to being me to Jesus. Then an army of her family and friends tried to help me. They told me what not to do. They told me what Jesus wanted me to be. But no one thought that there were people like me who knew nothing about Jesus.
Thanks to Euell Atchley and Darryl Retzer, my final plunge was into a baptismal tank. I came up out of the water higher than I had ever been, but a new kind of high. To be free in Jesus is so sweet!
I mentioned a few months ago, when I was locked up in reform school, a man came by where I was sitting on the yard. He tried to tell me about Jesus, but I would not listen. As he left, he said, “God Bless You.”
If only he had come back again. My prayer is that some day I’ll meet him in Heaven and let him know that God did bless me.
ALL OF THAT TO SAY THIS
Try being a Pen Friend. Don’t rush. Let them know you care and are sincere in wanting to help them change. They, like me, probably will not believe you. But God’s will can be done if we take our time. It is hard, but I have told many a Pastor, trying to bring someone up to their level without being willing to get down to where they are, is tough. So here is a challenge for 2007: Write an inmate. Better yet, write two.
TALKING OR WRITING ABOUT JESUS
The Bible is a book we can make difficult, or spend time learning. In prison, those who know the Bible better have a habit of “Directional Christianity..” For instance, “I sure do believe in once-saved-(sort of) always-saved.”
Most Chaplains, like some Pastors, stay in their own comfort zone. Most in prison look to the cross. Jesus stopped dying to save a convict.
Paul and Silas broke into a prison to hold a revival. The saving of a jailer has a powerful message: Believe in Jesus and you and your family will be saved. Amen!
Think about what else happened. The wall came down and no one escaped!
We have seen tough men and women humble themselves at the foot of the cross and totally change. We have also watched many try to use the Bible and Christ to get favors or release. We do our very best to protect you, as all they know, we know.
Most of what they have done, I have done.
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by HIS blood.
Ever think of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus? When told he was sick, Jesus took three days to get to what had become the tomb! Do you think that if His friend was in Hell, would not He have pulled him (Lazarus) up right away? If Lazarus was in Heaven, why ever would He (Jesus) have any reason to go to visit the grave or family?
Jesus arrived at the tomb and called, “Lazarus, come forth!” Interesting.
When I realized how deep into sin I had gone, I tried everything to change. AA, DA. But a bottle of booze a day, three packs of cigarettes; and if you did not inject it, all the drugs you can think of, I could not kick.
In a Pastor’s study in Mountain View, California, Euell told me about Jesus. Not that I had to give up, but give in. I went down on my knees and Jesus moved in. I never had a drink or drug again, and through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, I never had a second’s withdrawal symptom! As I learned the Bible, I spent a long time in a Pastor’s class, a grammar school dropout. As I learned, I taught it; I learned how to live it.
Sure, there have been many valleys, but thanks to most of you — many more Mountain Top experiences. Yes, I’ve seen the promised land. I know how many men and women who have been touched by Jesus in prison; they will be there. Many we have never met will be there. WE pray our home will be next to yours.
WHAT A PARTY!!!
Over a million inmates have completed Bible studies. When God puts our two ministries together, great things seem to happen. It takes the free will offering of all of us to get God’s word to Someone. We ask for your support and your prayers.
MY NAME IS JACKSON SMITH
I went to prison for a very long time, for a crime I really did not commit. I had the joy of meeting Don and Yvonne and learning about Someone Cares. Then I took a Bible study through Voice of Prophecy. I met Jesus on the main line. When I accepted Christ, my energy took a different direction. With no money, I filed my own appeal. With the faith I learned of, I have won that appeal and am now free. Let me tell you all:
Prison Ministry is Crime Prevention!
MY NAME IS CHAPLAIN TIM O’DELL
I received a call from Someone Cares Prison Ministry, by Don. He told me he had thrown a dart in a U.S. map and it landed in Kentucky. I came to know him and his wife, Yvonne, as “The God Squad.” They were moving my way. Did I need a couple of semi-full-time volunteers? After asking very few questions, I said yes.
About a month later, I got a call from Hopkinsville, across the state. I met them for lunch and invited them on board. My impression grew rapidly, as these two knew what they were doing. In Kentucky, there were many off-shoot religions that had gotten into the system, and there were doctrinal problems all over the place.
This strong team, in a heart beat, saved me months of work and I was proud to work with them. They started an All Faiths Group that invited everyone to the Chapel (or, in Yvonne’s case, a class under a tree by the Chapel).
Using the Bible only, they corrected some teachings without stepping on toes. I was stunned, knowing that Don grew up not believing in any God at all, how he was able to easily guide men to Bible truths.
They introduced the Pen Friend Program to several prisons in Kentucky.
They have moved on, but the groundwork they laid and the Paper Sunshine they started still flourishes. One-to-one is really the only effective ministry in prison. Even I learned to let my doctrine be not a barrier, but a bridge to Jesus. They also supplied almost all inmates with Bibles.
I must admit, writing this with one hand (my left hand) is quite difficult, but the joy in waiting is hearing my doctor say, “You will, once again, play the piano and organ.” I am overwhelmed by the notes, letters, cards and Emails, wishing me well. When that car hit us, it knocked me off a mountain top. On the way to the Emergency Department, I was so scared.
But when I found out that the doctor, doing my surgery, specialized in arms and hands, all I could think of was, “Thank You, Jesus!” It will be awhile, but this ministry, with you and us, is going back to the mountain top. Meet us there!!
Every once in awhile, the devil is thwarted in his efforts to throw a javelin into our wheel’s spokes. This newsletter has been one of those times, so I know it’s a special issue.
We had a heavy-duty ice storm. I’m grateful that my power stayed on, the propane was delivered, and somehow, despite the computer becoming temperamental, God watched over us as He put on a dazzling light show for three days. Every gemstone color in the rainbow glittered, glowed, iridesced, and scintillated!! It certainly took our minds off any problems as we cheerfully enjoyed His love for us. No jewelry display could rival what we had right outside our windows.
We thank those who have offered vehicles since the accident. God even led out in that adventure when Don was driving a borrowed car and turned down a strange side street one day. A man had just pulled a car out of his garage, parked it, and was putting a “FOR SALE” sign on it. They talked about it, the owner set a price, and just enough money had come in to buy it. Don learned of another donor a long way off, but God is in charge of all our needs, isn’t He?
Our church is growing lately, Some members we haven’t seen in awhile are coming back. It’s like having a family reunion every time we see a family we’ve missed for a long time.
We have a thriving women’s ministry, a Bible study group, a Sunshine Band, an End-time Events study at prayer meeting, and of course, our Prison Ministry.
We’re happily blessed with a group of inmates who are good Bible students and improving their reading skills as they practice. We’re helping one of our group arrange for baptism.
This week, our Chapel Clerk told us he’d grown up at the same location Shirley and I had, adding another blessing to our day. Hopefully this young man can join our group. It takes awhile for all the paper work to clear.
This week brought another blessing: the opportunity for our church to minister to a young man who showed up, not sure of his welcome, but needing a pastor. Shirley’s husband, Steve, lovingly persuaded him to come in and get warm. He’d been sleeping near a dumpster in town in bitter temperatures. Our pastor that day, and his wife, took the man home with them, and solved his problems with God’s guidance. Our spirits were lifted; we were able to participate as Good Samaritans and as a church with a mission. The man is probably back with his family by now. Be very careful about making friends, sight seen or unseen, via the Internet!
There’s nothing as exciting as working under God’s direction, whether it’s encouraging an inmate or putting ointment on a wound, whether of flesh or spirit.