Category Archives: Current

Inside Story – No Games Doesn’t Mean No Blessings!

by Frank Zeidler, Jr., Executive Director

Compiling the content for this edition of the Insider Online was challenging to say the least. The ministry has not been inside a prison since Saturday, March 7th – basketball in Virginia and softball in Florida the same day. Since then you are aware of the happenings nationwide, so I have no need to recount them yet again. Instead, I ask your indulgence as I share a story with you that seems self-serving, but is really intended to demonstrate the goodness of God and His continued blessing on the Saints Prison Ministry.

At the beginning of this nationwide slow down (which led to a shut down of many businesses and ministries), I was forwarded two videos from ministries that were sharing their plight with the viewer. After viewing each of them, I could not help but feel the videos conveyed a sense of desperation. I’m certain this was not the intention of the producers, but the choice of imagery and language used did not sound optimistic. That observation set the course for our ministry.

I conveyed to both our Board and our staff that, despite facing a very uncertain summer season and possibly even losing all prison events the rest of the calendar year, we will not send out a message of desperation. If we believe “…my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19) on a personal level, then we must also believe that He will see His ministry through the difficult times as He sees fit. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and if the Lord wants to use SPM in 2021, He will see that we are still here to serve.

As the staff set about conveying that message through intentional conversations, we saw very small, simple signs that we were on the right path. But the real validation – if you will let me be so bold – that our message was the message that God honors came late on a Friday afternoon. Jay Thatcher, Director of Ministry Relations, called me about 5:30pm to share that our ministry was to be the recipient of a $15,000 estate gift! The story can be hard to follow, but the short version is that a woman in another state passed away leaving no living heirs; she left instructions for a law firm to disperse her estate with the condition that all the money had to go to missions organizations; one of the attorneys on that team knew of our ministry through Jay’s friendship and communication, and she advocated on our behalf to be included on the list of organizations blessed by this woman’s final wishes!

This has been a challenging summer, to say the least, and we are all frustrated by the lack of opportunities to serve inside prison. But one of the most common phrases we hear in prison chapel services rings very true today: God is good…all the time; and all the time…God is good!

 

Inside the Mind of Gibby – I Declare a Do-Over

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

As of this writing I am social distancing in the basement of the Mind of Gibby headquarters. I am hunkered down with quarantine survival supplies, which amounts to delivery pizza and the 2016 Chicago Cubs World Series DVD.

Yes, 2020 is off to a flying halt thanks to the COVID-19 that took America by storm the first half of the year. Doing home projects and playing video games replaced the grind of getting up early and traveling to prisons on Saturdays. 2020 could use a lot more hand sanitizer and a lot less Facebook; but the one thing that 2020 needs most is a do-over!

I repeatedly wished I had a do-over after a crummy math test or a bad at-bat in little league. After 33 years, The Saints Prison Ministry would like to have a do-over or two. There have been countless transportation gaffes and several prison softball/basketball/volleyball games gone awry, so there are plenty of missteps that we wish we could have back.

Do-over #1 – Man vs Food

Playing sports in prison works up an appetite. We often will get a quick meal in between yard times before returning to play more games. Occasionally, that food can be a Mexican, Italian, or breakfast food buffet in between games…on a 95-degree day…against the Kentucky State Reformatory all-stars. Was it nice to have an authentic Mexican meal with some pals? Absolutely! Can you be a competitive sports ministry team when half of your outfield cannot – or should not – move? Absolutely not!

Do-over #2 – The Illinois Bus

There is also that one time we bought a bus for the IL team…Ok, Ok, I know telling this story again is like beating a dead horse. Of course, buying a dead horse would have been a better deal than that bus! If we had a time machine and had the ability to go back to that fateful day, we would have tackled our lead negotiator Kurt Hand before he shook hands on that deal.

Do-over #3 – Uniforms

Picking out uniforms is fun! Picking uniform colors that don’t mix well with dirt and sweat stains is the pits! To my knowledge there have only been two teams guilty of this offense: The IL team (white pants with blue pinstripes) and the GA team (white jerseys). We always looked

good on Opening Day, but both teams looked like they had been changing oil with their Saints uniforms on by the end of the year. All the Illinois and Georgia wives would like this do-over…

Do-over #4 – That Time we Visited that One Prison

We have a good team of professional staff that makes arrangements for our prison visits and there are professional staff across the country that invite our sports teams in to play and share the Gospel. Sometimes miscommunications happen and things go haywire. Did we book a softball visit to a prison that did not have a softball field? Yes. We. Did. How about the day a chaplain told us that we would see only 30 guys, but it turned out there were 300 guys in the yard? You should have seen the look on the guy’s face who packed our literature that day! Ha! You should have seen the look on the guy’s face who had to walk back to the bus to get more literature.

With the COVID-19 messing up 2020 plans for everyone, it reminds us that we need to be flexible when doing prison ministry…or we could just start declaring do-overs!

 

A Covid Experience

by James P., inmate

Greetings of love, peace and thanksgiving from me through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I pray you all are safe and well during these troubling and difficult times. I am well (now) after recovering from testing positive with Covid-19. It was the most horrendous ordeal imaginable. At the time, I wasn’t thinking of my birthday (thank you ever so much for the card and devotional material)…just trying to survive.

As I reflect on the 12 days of my sickness, I am reminded of Jesus’ word spoken, stating: “we are to come as little babes…” Meaning, our total dependence is to be placed “IN HIM.” Giving up on self-will and efforts to sustain our being. This was made evident on days 6-8 of Covid. I got sick, feeling bad with a 102.3 fever on April 1, 2020 in my cell. The nurse escorted me to the infirmary where I was examined and tested positive for Covid-19. Then I was placed in isolation until the test results were in. I thought I was dealing with annual sinus issues, no big deal. I was weak and cold, like flu or sinus issues, for 8-9 days before my fever broke. The fever returned on and off for the next two weeks. I received a positive test on day four, my body progressively and aggressively deteriorated with fever, aches and pains that I never experienced. Days 6-8 were the worst. I withered in symptoms with hot and cold sweats that were more profound in the early morning hours. I would awaken from restless sleeps, fall to the floor, and crawl to the toilet. Those mornings as I sit backwards trying to brace myself, I found my body acting like it wanted to separate my flesh, soul and spirit. I know I was dying so I called upon Jesus to have a walk and talk to cleanse things as I was ready to go with Him, I could smell the rotten stench of death. This happened for 2-3 days.

In retrospect, to me, it was Job 2:1-7. I remember Jesus saying something about my faith (I’m a firm believer in the Cross), His grace and peace. I recall thanking Him for His grace and mercy – again this happened during my most difficult and darkest moments of the battle. The peace He spoke of was, in my estimation, a sanctifying peace, not of peace with God at salvation, but one where the finished work on the cross (and my faith therein), all things in His Gospel, would come to pass. I could rest in this assurance.

Days 9-12 were still very hard and the constant fever took a toll on my organs and physical being. Yet today I am feeling great (even after my blood pressure dropped to 107/54). It was after releasing all of my self-efforts to fight the virus, and call upon the Lord, did He restore my health to the point where I got to see my 67th birthday.

I know I was saved for a reason. I studied God’s Word through reading and via radio in my cell at night. In 2000, I was introduced/given knowledge to the meaning of the cross as taught by the Apostle Paul (it was made known to him – Gal. 2:16-17). I prayed for greater understanding and wisdom on this topic. I feel compelled to share what I received so my goal, if it is God’s will, he kept me through this ordeal for a reason, as again, I know I was at death’s door a month ago.

We are still on lockdown/ quarantine and isolation but I want to share my lessons and this experience with the church here (and there in NJ) and when The Saints team comes again, whether softball for basketball, I would like to address the inmates and brothers on your team if that would be all right. Thank you again!

PS- I lost my eldest brother due to complications of the virus on 4/20/2020. His name was Curtis and he was 73. His wife, Ida, tested positive. I am told she’s going to be okay. Please pray for her and my 90-year-old mother, Betty Sue.

 

 

Inmate Letters

THANK YOU!!!!!  For remembering my B-Day .  I wasn’t expecting this lovely card coming from Saints Prison Ministry.  54 years young!!!  Is still a big blessing from the Lord and Savior AMEN.  I’m also sending y’all my sincere greetings of peace and love during this time of total devastation around the world with this very ugly CORONAVIRUS.   Our country isn’t looking good right about now!  However, I’m still believing Scripture 1 TIMOTHY 2:8.  I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.  John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled:  ye believe in GOD, believe also in me. So YES!!!  I’m standing on the only thing I can stand on and that’s the Word of GOD AMEN.  I’m hoping and praying that you’re standing with e and agreeing with me on this topic of praying for the world healing asap?  The power of prayer is truly powerful…being incarcerated at this present time is rough.  All safety procedures are being taken for all inmate and staff members!!  Social distancing and masks on 24/7 Amen.  To be very honest with the ministry?  I don’t know when we’re going to play another baseball game around here, or have another big gathering of men.  Keep us in prayer and I’ll do the same for y’all on the streets.  Please stay safe and CORONAVIRUS FREE.
– Lenny M., SCI Frackville, PA

This is my first time writing you guys.  I should have done so many times ago. I am writing to thank you for sending me a birthday card.  Every birthday since Tucson, AZ to Petersburg, VA and to my present facility of Seagoville, TX, I have received a card from the Saints on my birthday.  Thank you so much.  It’s been a long time since I received a birthday card from anyone else outside.  Most of my family have gone to be with Jesus.  Some just don’t care anymore.  The Saints never forget and I am blessed to be connected with such a fine organization of friends.  The memories of playing against the team in Tucson, AZ and Petersburg, VA will always be etched in my heart. You guys couldn’t play softball here.  You all hit too many home runs and they would have to shut down the whole yard. I’ll never forget your kindness and your prayers.  Be well and be safe, God is still on the throne.
– James V., FCI Seagoville, TX

Thank you for remembering my birthday again this year.  I turned 50.  My second 25th birthday…As the years go by, less people remember this day and it means so much that you do.  Also thank you for coming to see us and play ball.  I can’t play, but I love to watch the game and hear your ministering. I spend my time writing to people that have less fortunate situations than I.  My celly’s nephew died from overdose, so I minister to his sister who was the you man’s mother.  That’s one example of many.  Anyway, I look forward to the day I can help with ministry from outside the jail fences.  Incidentally, I was born and raised in Woodbury, New Jersey!  I lived in South Jersey for 31 years.  I used to attend Gloucester County Community Church when it was in a movie theater in Pitman, NJ.
– Paul B., SCI Waymart, PA

I am very thankful for your birthday cards in which you all have sent me all through the years along with the Creation pamphlets.  I have enjoyed each and every card and pamphlet you all have sent me. I am sorry that I took too long to reply back to you, all moving from institution to institution.  I go up for parole in August of this year, will you please pray that I will be able t make it (God willing).  I love you all and I miss you all, the good time playing softball and watching you all play against the d/m in the gym.  It was fun along with the Word of Life.
– George J., Broad River CI, SC

I sincerely hope this letter finds the entire Saints Prison Ministry Family well in health and high in spirit, as for myself and the prisoners here at Lincoln CC with you all well during this difficult time. I will also like to extend our thanks to you all for sharing time with all prisoners around the world, especially those times you all came to the prison to play baseball.  The presence of you all touched us in so many ways, and through the prayers that were given, God heard them and blessed us in this journey of incarceration. Thank you for the birthday cards you all send out each year, hopefully when I am released we will continue to communicate and perhaps have service together.
– Michael B., Lincoln CC, IL

I just wanted to say thank you to everybody involved in your ministry.  It has been a breath of fresh air getting to play softball with you guys these past few years.  It is nice to interact with people that genuinely care about your well being and are not sinister in nature.  I’ve been locked up for 8 ½ years.  This is my last year here.  I will be home for Christmas. I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the birthday greetings you send me every year.  This year really hit home with Isaiah 40:31.  I have been blessed with a family that loves me and a great support system and there is no doubt in my mind that this was my first and last time in prison.  There is also no doubt in my mind that without the strength God has given me day after day, I would still be the same thought process I had when I entered this place. I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life and will be forever grateful to you guys for the part you played in my rehabilitation.
– James E., Centralia CC, IL

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the card you sent me for my birthday.  I hope and pray that this short letter finds you all in the best of spirits, well and health due to this situation that we are going through because of the coronavirus.  This is all for now.  May God bless you all and continue to prosper you all in every area of your life.
– Ramon M., SCI Phoenix, PA

 

Amazon Smile

Due to the shelter-in-home restrictions, many of us discovered the benefits of using Amazon to get what we need.  Did you know that the Saints Prison Ministry can benefit from your Amazon purchases?

The Amazon Smile program offers the same shopping destination that millions around the world use every day with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible purchases to the Saints Prison Ministry!

If you are an Amazon shopper, this is really easy.  Simply enter smile.amazon.com into your web browser, and enter Saints Prison Ministries (sorry, we can’t correct that but it is us!) as your preferred charity.  Then continue on as you always have – same site, same login information, same shopping experience – but the inmates, who depend on us to shine the light into their dark world, reap a benefit every time you purchase something.

Imagine the potential impact when ALL of our friends get involved!

Click here to shop now!

Announcements

Covid-19 takes a backseat

As a ministry called to introduce inmates to Jesus Christ,  the current culture dictates that we are ministering to a predominantly minority population.   It is important that we recognize this, even as we acknowledge that the Good News of Jesus Christ’s atoning work is free to all.

Even as protests appear to be waning in some areas, it is escalating in others.  The issue of racism in America is as relevant and important today as it was the day George Floyd was heinously murdered on the streets of Minneapolis.

It has become expedient that I address the racial climate of today, and express what we believe as regards to racism in America  and our response as believers.  To that end, I invite you to click on the link below:

Open Letter from the Executive Director

Serving Him gladly,

 

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Southeast Golf Classic
August 24, 2020 at the Fairways of Canton Golf Club

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September 21, 2020 at Merchantville Country Club

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