Quietly Changing Lives
We have written a whole lot of newsletters over the years but we feel this issue is the most important one. We had no idea when Jesus who directed us into prison ministry that is was going to be a life time experience. HIS commitment on the cross was the start. We must take the Gospel seriously. He wants us to feed the hungry, care for the stranger, give drink to those that thirst, clothes to those that need them and visit the prisoner. The penalty at the end of Matthew 25 is serious. We are told to visit the prisoner. Yvonne and I have taken that seriously and devoted almost forty years doing just that.
We have clothed over 100,000 inmates leaving prison with our dress out program. There is a bit of humor here as there are many inmates who have given Yvonne pieces of string for sizes. An inmate stopped Yvonne on the yard saying he was getting released and had nothing to wear. Then and in some cases now if you did not have dress outs you bought from your meager release money they release you in the clothes you were wearing. Visiting the prisoner, we dealt with them in two ways. Working with other organizations, we were part of a “Match Two” program. We would get free people to visit inmates once a month in the prison waiting room.
This worked well. We did this and also worked as full-time credentialed chaplains, paid one dollar a year. When not doing that we raised our own funding by starting a non-profit organizatioin.
At San Quentin, California’s most infamous prison, our assignment was “C” section. It is five tiers high with 50 cells to a tier. Across from that five gun rails with armed officers.
We went cell to cell, not usually together, visiting each hard core inmate. It was here that Yvonne met a man who had not had a visit or letter in twenty-seven years. She said she would get someone to write to him. She told me about it on our two hour ride home. Unknown to us this started the Pen Friend program. This one program is the backbone of our ministry and the purpose of this newsletter. No other ministry we know of has anything like our program. Often without asking, inmates are refered to us. It has gotten so large we had to enhance it some how. Some folks like writing letters but most do not. So here is a new program. We send the inmate an application. They return their application with a letter of introduction. We send that letter and application to who ever is on top of the pile of names waiting for a Pen Friend. They read everything and do one of two things - begin writing or return everything to us. Now you can write via e-mail. No - inmates do not have computers. We send your e-mail (after trimming it) to the inmate via regular mail. They respond. We scan their letter, may add some advise and e-mail to the free person. This is super safe. Everyone we talk to is totally impressed and approves. Our problem is we have tons of inmates but not enough writers.
Both Yvonne and I have been through police academies in three states. We were fulltime - paid dollar a year - chaplains at Soledad, Paso Robles, Boys School Eddyville in Kentucky. Yvonne was fulltime staff chaplain at Coldwater Women’s Prison. I was the same at Coldwater Men’s in Michigan. Also we worked semi full-time at Jackson Prison. We have done part time at Corcoran, Avenal C.M.C., We have been through extensive police academy training in three states. We both have received special ordinations and in our spare time I have been interim pastors in five churches.
Going into prison was a real learning experience for me, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I was able to meet the needs of inmates just like the Bible says. We all need that experience of helping others and giving of ourselves. Then you realize how much joy Christ brought to the people He mingled with and why he left His example in Matthew 25 for us to follow. I intend to do this ‘till the day I die if I am able. I pray that all of you will try to follow the scriptures and live it in your own life. Sometimes the way we live is more important that what we say.
May God bless each one of you!
We would like all of you to send us your e-mail or
The inmate sends us a request and we send them a form. The form explains this is a ministry. When we get a form and letter we add it to a pile. Next to that pile are your responses to be a Pen Friend. We match the top of each pile. Currently the inmate pile is big and we have about one hundred requests for a pen friend. The other pile is empty. IF YOU GO TO OUR WEB SITE YOU WILL SEE A RADIO. CLICK ON IT AND HEAR RADIO SHOWS WE DID. Also there is a red application on left side. If you read it that, is what the inmate fills out. When you request and we send a name, we expect one of two things to happen. You write the inmate or return the information. If you write and are not comfortable return everything to us. Keep and file on writing. Write a letter. If no answer write again. If there is still no answer, return all and we will start over. We deal with the returns. Look at the word friend. When you write take your time and slowly enter God’s word. Don’t let your doctrine be a barrier but rather a bridge to Jesus. It is very hard to be a Christian in prison. Also remember that a piece of paper, a pen or pencil and stamps are not easy to get. Some join to get stuff. Do not make a promise unless you are very sure you can keep it. Before you do anything call us or the prison. If books, do not send any hardbacks. And they should be sent by vendor. Grandma has written forty inmates. She has a detailed record of each. If you have a computer you can visit the prison they are at. If you use a pen name make it two names. Not silly names - first and middle works. Follow mailing instructions on the back of the yellow form. Often inmates write themselves just to hear their name called at mail call. Years ago we were putting on a program at a church, followed by a potluck. A man walked up and said, “I want to thank you for leading me to Christ!” Years earlier his Pen Friend had done that. Most of what has been done is because of many of you and we get the credit.
I dropped out of school and was in and out of trouble. I ran away, joined and started a gang. I did time, did drugs, smoked and was an atheist. Then I met Yvonne. At forty, because of Yvonne, I quit drugs, quit smoking, quit drinking and accepted Christ. Four months later I was teaching Bible at Soledad Prison. To God Give the Glory!
I am 84 - Yvonne 77. This program is spreading through the entire United States prison system. This does take money. It also will be to big for us as we are so overloaded we need lots of people. Putting the United States into four sections or one couple in each state means finding couples who are as crazy as we are to volunteer or to hire three couples. This takes money. To do the website, to advertise and to get new equipment we nee to raise $100,000. We also need more dedicated monthly supporters via Pay Pal or our website. Forty years ago we got one hundred folks to give $1.50 a month for seven years. Advertising is expensive as is revamping our website. With our Board of Directors and family, no matter what we do Someone Cares will go forth. But how large can it get?
From the get-go, we have grown on small donations. Once, the head of another ministry told us not to waste our time on little donors. Thank God, with a lot of help, we did not listen. We are a non-profit organization and your donations are tax-deductible.
We get a lot of checks from inmates and in the past, sent them back. But inmates learning God’s word want to pay God’s tithe to this ministry. We are happy to accept. The dollar will go a long way when God grants the increase. You do not have to support this ministry to be a part of it. (Sure helps, though.)
We live in a nice manufactured home. I wish it was near a fishing pond or river. It is paid for. The ministry pays our business expenses, health insurance and medical expenses. Our deaths are paid for here to go there. We draw $1000.00 each month. We have a cash reserve of $31,000 and no debt. At 84 I can play golf, still play tennis and ping pong. Yvonne, since the car accident, does not do that but goes along. When she played no one hit the ball straighter. Lots of folks say we have done it, why not relax and enjoy life. Let me have Yvonne explain:
WHAT WILL BE DONE CAN BE DONE BECAUSE OF YOU.
WE THANK JESUS BECAUSE WITHOUT HIM NONE OF IT COULD
HAVE BEEN DONE.
We prayerfully need more of you and yours.
A CHRISTIAN DOES
This is a very personal ministry and as such lets us get to know both church member and inmate - two different worlds. While preaching and holding seminars in many churches we have really had to bite our tongues at times. God’s wish for us to go forth to the whole world is quite a job. One thing nice about asking questions in church is you get honest answers, well almost always. Is being a Christian just going to church? When Jesus said in Hebrews 13:3, “remember the Prisoner as if chained with them,” what did he mean? Was this just a reference to persecuted believers? When Jesus said, “I was in prison and you visited me not,“ are we to visit prisoners? Is being a Christian trying to make others believe as we do, or should we lead them to Jesus and let HIM do the directing? I was an atheist until a met Yvonne, Euell and Daryl. I learned the Bible by reading and listening to what others told me. Like many inmates I got confused by the do’s and don’ts of some doctrines.
The Bible says study and that I did. Do I teach what I think it said or what it really said? Yvonne laughed when after I accepted Christ I tried to get a bush to burn! It did not burn in my back yard but is still burning in my heart. To help those in prison, attempt to be a friend not a pal. Before you load them with your knowledge of the Bible, attempt to find out where they are. If they are not at all interested in being a Christian attempt to be a friend anyway or turn them back over to us.
Ronna - our daughter - first off needs prayer. She is facing some health issues. She is a big help to us.
Her car, donated years ago, needs replacing before it just dies. A quality used car and a tax deduction.