Category Archives: Summer 2018

Ben’s First Crusade

*Editor’s note: Ben is a member of the Illinois Saints softball team and, after years of prodding from their coach, he joined 14 of his brothers-in-arms on the Arizona crusade in April. The crusade ended right after our Spring edition went to print, but this is his reaction to that experience as recounted at the time.

All last week, I was telling my co-workers and customers that I was headed to prison for 4 days. After a short moment of silence and discomfort from them, I explained that my passion in this life is to see men get free from guilt, shame, condemnation and truly step into becoming “free indeed”.

Similar to the 80’s movie classic “The Breakfast Club” our team was comprised of men from all walks of life—business men, factory workers, church and ministry leaders, current and former military personnel, an IT wizard, an addiction counselor and even a 76 year old former professional baseball player. This was God’s plan. Through these men, we experienced breakthroughs in both the prison yard and in our personal lives.

We played 13 games in prison, winning 7 of them. The most significant day though, was our fourth and final visit—a second trip back to FCI Phoenix to play their all-star team. Crusade veterans speak of the 4th day as traditionally a white towel waving experience of exhaustion and body aches. Instead, we were lead into battle by two of our most talented leaders Rodney and Rob with prayers of Holy Spirit healing and a 100% all-in mentality. With Andy and Gibby as our coaches, we forged the path to rise up and win all three games that day! Most of us experienced a miraculous sense of fresh legs and endurance; and on top of that—we had capped off a crusade that saw 76 men give professions of faith to Jesus Christ. This can only be explained by God’s abundance of grace. We don’t even deserve it, yet He pours out His grace freely like the Good Father that He is. 

After the last visit, we spent close to 2 hours in a hotel conference room eating pizza, investing time in God’s Word and speaking life over one another through encouraging speech in what we dubbed word gifts—knowing that each of our lives have meaning and value through the shed blood of Jesus. It was in this time that our team of seemingly random strangers a few days earlier became a brotherhood of sons sent to accomplish the Father’s work. This night was transformational and encapsulated the Holy Spirit’s influence on our week.

It’s safe to say that after my first crusade, I will never be the same. Sunday afternoon, I will come back to Peoria, Illinois with a passion to love my family, to serve my workplace and to give grace as the Father flows through me—all because of 15 men that were willing to lay down their lives for one another. To God be the glory! 

“Wait ‘til it stops rolling and go pick it up…”

A Helpful Guide on Joining a Saints Prison Ministry Team

I am excited that you are interested in joining our ministry and that you want to use your athletic ability to share the Gospel in prison. Don’t worry about all of the horror stories you were told…we don’t even own that bus anymore! You will need to complete “just a few” forms, possess a valid ID, and provide your uniform size. You may also find it helpful to review this list to determine where you can help fill some of the needed positions for the Saints:

Shortstop (Softball) – Let’s not mince words: you are the superstar. You are without a doubt the coach’s favorite and things like showing up on time, carrying equipment, and raising support most certainly don’t apply to you. The coach will move heaven and earth to make sure that he can accommodate your schedule and batting order preference.

Center (Basketball)- You’re tall and that is all we are looking for! Can’t shoot? No problem! Passing? That’s for the short guys! We just need you to use whatever coordination you have to get through as much of the game before getting your 5th foul!

Goalkeeper (Soccer) – You’re job is to make the tough stops between the pipes and put your team in a spot to win late. Oh, is this your strength? Awesome! You already have your own helmet with a cool design and know how to keep the puck from going into the net at all costs and…what’s that? Umm, sorry, we don’t need that kind of goalie! Try the Canadian Ministering Mounties Prison Ministry.

Third Base (Softball) Unless your last name is Robinson, Schimdt, or Santo, you get to play third because no one else wants to. This is also the position that is closest to the inmate bench. The first rocket that goes past you becomes the butt of every inmate joke for the next five hours. What is the best way to field a ball at third base? Wait until it stops rolling and go pick it up!

Left Field (Softball) You are most likely the youngest and/or fastest guy on the team. You will be playing all 252 innings this summer so don’t plan on aging or anything!

Point Guard (Basketball)- You are the guy who makes things happen and you get the attention of the inmate crowds. We lean on you to be the quarterback of the team while we are trying to get through the day. Too bad most of your SportsCenter Top 10 drives to the basket get messed up by the uncoordinated center!

Server (Women’s Volleyball) Can you get the ball over the net without interrupting the conversation you have been having with six women seated courtside since we entered the gym? You’re perfect! (Ignore the coach trying to tell you to focus and stop talking – everyone else does!)

Right-Center (Softball) – Let’s face it; this is the Jan Brady of softball positions. Should you be playing left center? Absolutely! If only it wasn’t for the coach’s buddy playing over there! You will get a ball hit once every twelve batters or so, but be prepared to be called off by the left-center fielder….also known as Coach’s Favorite #2.

Left Fullback (Soccer) You have one very key duty in this position – don’t get noticed! Since everyone on the inmate team wants to score goals, playing this position means you will not see much traffic because they are all bunched in the middle of the field! This allows you to focus on important things like what is happening over on the bocce court. As long as you kick the ball out of bounds the three times it comes near you, the coach will never have a reason to take you out of the game.

As you can see, every Saints athlete has a role on the team and I have no doubt you will be successful…

unless, of course, your role is writing a column for the newsletter!

Announcements

 

We are proud to announce that Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has renewed our membership for the 22nd consecutive year! The Saints Prison Ministry has also been awarded the Gold Seal of Transparency by Guidestar!

Click here for more information

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Softball crusade season is here!

June 20-24: Softball Crusade to Indiana
July 10-14: Softball Crusade to Colorado
August 8-11: Softball Crusade to New England
August 13-18: Softball Crusade to Michigan
August 14-17: Softball Crusade to Western NY