Quietly Changing Lives
I forgot in my last newsletter to say Happy Birthday to my bride! Yvonne is 73, and is “as old as her tongue and a little older than her teeth.” The day after her birthday we celebrated our 43rd anniversary. It has been an amazing journey. She helped lead me to Christ, put up with thirteen moves with me and even more with her pastor father, Clyde Groomer. The road was a rough one, as she did not have much to work with.
Together with Yvonne every day was a better day, and when this Ministry started God led us, directed us, corrected us, taught us, and loved us. Those of you who are new to Someone Cares should visit our website at www.someonecares.org and read the many archived newsletters to see what God has done through us over the years. I love you, Honey! With my 80th birthday coming up maybe I can finally take you on that honeymoon or vacation before I turn 100 (and if Jesus tarries).
Someone Cares Ministry is what we refer to as “Paper Sunshine,” AKA the “Pen Friend Program.” With all the confusion going on in Washington, prison ministry is much in demand. No, we do not like crime, nor we like criminals, but Jesus loves them. Massive over-crowding and even more massive cut-backs make prison life very difficult. I could help Washington save millions and cut down recidivism if they would only listen.
At least four times a week, every week, we get a phone call from someone telling us that their pen friend is getting out of prison and needs help. He or she does not have a place to live, does not have a job, and has no money.
One man wrote to eighteen churches asking for help; four of them sent his letters to us. I will use one man, Hank, as an example. He went to prison at the age of eighteen, being sentenced to ten years. After he was raped twice he fought back and stabbed his intended rapist, which got him another five years added to his sentence. He was a high school graduate, and after seeing the writing on the wall he spent all his time learning. Then he wrote to eight different churches in the area he was paroling to, but not one answered.
His pen friend called me for advice. Luckily he was in California, and I contacted several friends in that area, and he got a job. He’s been on parole for awhile now, is married and goes to church. He is also starting a program on bullying. (A true success story, partly due to the fact that Someone Cared!)
Inmates spend a lot of time just trying to survive. Many prisons have cut back to two meals a day, and those are not very good ones. An inmate will join the Pen Friend Program and is then matched with someone from the outside. We have two piles of letter requests, inmates and free people. Whoever is on top of each pile are matched together.
Most of you have no idea what prison life is like. If you follow our rules you should not have a problem. However, if you do encounter any problems please call or email us right away and we will take care of it. Some of the stories we’ve heard regarding inmates asking for money are pretty good and not a problem. If you decide to give money to your pen friend and they keep asking you, you are wasting your time.
All of our free people who have decided to become pen friends and write to inmates are Christians, but many of the inmates are not. Remember that friendship takes time, and one thing we do not do is use our friendship. If you are a Christian and they are not, build a friendship first before you talk about Jesus. Ask questions, read and re-read their letters and keep their application. If they ask a question you can’t answer, call or email us. Also, do not make a promise you cannot keep.
There are a couple of people in my life that have asked me, “Why are you taking on so much? Why don’t you take your time and get through college?” I answer, “Because there is not enough time to do whatwe need to get done, and Iwill never stop taking care of what I love.”
I have grown up watching my grandfather build this Ministry, and have been a part of it since I was born. I love this Ministry because I see what it does for people like my father and me. I see the need to get more young people involved; not any specific age, just people in their twenties and thirties. We want to make them aware of this Ministry, and have been trying to figure out a way to get their attention. We’ve been trying radio stations, magazines, Facebook, and anything we can think of to get the word out there and have as many people as possible see us and what we do.
We don’t want to forget about the older folks, though, as they are the backbone, or foundation, of this Ministry. God wants more believers. There are more people out there who believe in God and pray every now and again then there are believers who act for and do the will of our God. We need people to help us change the world. And trust me, it is up to us, God’s followers, to change what isn’t right.
Act! Make a difference. Take our hand and follow us. I don’t know
where you want to go, but I want to go wherever Jesus leads me.
We could use a good quality car. Jake has a whole lot of miles on his car, which he uses as he helps us and this Ministry, goes to college full time, and works another part time job. We pray the Lord will provide funding to pay him so he can work with us and finish school. Jake is only eighteen years old!
Due to a special gift we received, we have been able to advertise in several magazines, and we also need to get on the radio until VOP gets things back together.
With prison over-crowding we are getting about thirty requests for pen friends every day. We could use the help of Sabbath Schools and Sunday Schools, Women’s Groups and Men’s Groups and you and yours to write to these desperate souls who need friendship and the Good News Jesus has to offer them. Getting as large as this Ministry has become, and getting a little bit older and slower, it’s getting harder and harder as we continue to jump around for Jesus.
With the state of the Nation in such a mess, folks are scared. If we could get five hundred people to donate just two dollars a month for two years we could hire Jake full time! Ronna, Jake’s mom, could also come on part time. Since I am looking at turning 80 years old soon I need to cover all the bases I can. What we have been able to accomplish through this tough economy is a bit scary, but we continue to have the will to do the job that Jesus calls us to do.
(Oh, by the way Jake will be nineteen years old on March 26th, and Don will turn eighty on June 8th.)
As we are growing so fast we want to thank you all for your patience. Like some of you, it takes me longer to do things than it used to. We appreciate each and every one of you and your families that have joined this Paper Sunshine Ministry. Your letters can really be sunshine to someone in a cell. May God Bless you!
We would love to share your letters and inmates’ poems, so please share with us. We want to print in our Newsletters anything that will motivate others to write to someone in prison, because Jesus cares.
When I was a little younger than Jake I had a gang. Our weapons, if we had anything other than bare knuckles, might have been brass knuckles, a baseball bat, a shive (AKA a knife) and a zip gun. A zip gun was a weapon made of wood or pipe, a nail and a rubber band and one bullet. If you pulled the trigger this is what could happen...nothing! It would fall apart, the bullet might hurt you and maybe someone would get shot. You sure could not go into a classroom or a theater or a shopping center and do a lot of damage.
Don & Yvonne, I want to thank you so very much for my freedom. I would have died in prison without Jesus and you and your wife. I met you on the yard at Avenal. The two years you worked with me and others were directly related to my being released. Fourteen years was cut off my sentence. I cannot enclose my name as I am on my way to (???). I do not wish to carry the ex-con title in the U.S. and risk going back to prison. I’m leaving for (?). Jesus is going with me and I plan in a country somewhere to serve Him.
God bless you all, and let
When I joined the Church things were a lot different. Pastors made house calls, and doctors did as well. People knew everyone and took time to visit one another. We had potlucks and invited the poor to eat with us. We collected clothes and gave them to the needy. If you did not attend church service, sooner or later your name was dropped. Pastors were not required to have additional training, but today there are so many problems in the church that pastors need to be educated on all kinds of issues, such as sex, alcohol and drug problems. We get calls all the time about a lot of things other than prison. Our kids need folks trained to deal with the problems they are facing today. I have mentioned this before, but this is a reminder.
Some time ago we spoke at a University for pastors and pastoral students. There were about four hundred people in attendance. To get an idea of what direction to go forward in, we asked the audience how many had been to an AA, NA, or an EA meeting, and few hands went up.
As Jesus hung on the cross after being beaten, skin torn, stabbed, a thorny crown on his head and naked, He stopped dying in order to save a convict hanging next to Him. That powerful act needs to be shared by all of us. No, we don’t want “those kinds of people” in our church! But Jesus does. The weight of our sins Jesus was carrying, as He carried His cross on the road to Calvary, was so heavy that He dropped it. Who helped Him then?
These places I go, I don’t even know.
These tears that I cry, I can’t seem to find why.
Why has this happened, what have I done?
Why is the past always haunting?
Why are these demons always taunting?
Can’t I find a way to make it go away?
Is there another way to find the light of day?
I walk upon the darkness, I can’t seem to stop this.
This life of mine is fading fast.
I need a way to make it last.
I need to look from within, if ever I wish to win.
Out of the darkness and into the light,
Is the only way I’ll win this fight.
I need to forgive, I need to forget,
I need to get past all that I regret.
I give you my life, I give you my plans.
If I give you my best,
Will you do the rest?