Click below for Spring 2016
by Frank Zeidler, Jr.
Ocean tides are widely regarded as relatively stable and predictable. Fishermen and those living in coastal areas are very familiar with the high tides and low tides – so much so that they rarely have to consult a chart to know when to expect each on a given day.
However, even the most casual beachgoer knows the changing of the tide is not instantaneous. That subtle shift from low tide to high tide is not something anyone actually sees – it usually takes six to seven hours – but the evidence of the tidal change is obvious to any vacationer who fell asleep in a beach chair and woke up on a raft!
For many years, the Saints Prison Ministry’s interaction with prisons in the Northeast was as stable and predictable as the ocean tides. Sure, on occasion we were cancelled but it was rare and usually for a very obvious and serious reason. We enjoyed almost unfettered access to more prisons than we could accommodate, and any opposition to our visit was a huge anomaly.
We opened a Southeast Regional office in 2010 to very similar results. After just one softball season our reputation preceded us and by the third year we needed three teams operating in the state of Georgia! Again, we were seeing incredible access and being greeted with open arms. The Saints Prison Ministry has been faithful to the principles we were founded on and God is blessing that faithfulness every bit as much as He did in 1987. Except today the tide is turning.
It has been subtle to be sure. Maybe it comes in the form of an increasing Muslim presence that leads to a slight change in procedure. Or an individual prison that finds itself short-staffed so they ask to reschedule the event. We respond to these changes – but much like the beachgoer who sees the tide coming in but only moves the chair a few yards rather than overreact and leave the beach, we have been accommodating and remain optimistic.
But as I look at “the beach” that is our mission field, I see a very distinct line where the tide used to be – and I cannot believe how far it moved while I was right in the middle of things! Consider these recent developments:
The list goes on: restricted access to only certain parts of the recreation yard, crowds that used to be 200 now restricted to 30, places that used to be regular stops for our teams in the NE now telling us the rules make it “not worth the effort”, a Muslim population that is growing at an alarming rate…..stop me when you’ve read enough.
Friends, the tide is indeed turning and unlike the coastal tides we have no expectation that in short order it will return. This could very well be our new normal – a mission field that has pockets of administrative resistance, areas we cannot reach, and a target audience that is increasingly fraught with those hostile to the Gospel
We intend to continue to move the beach chair incrementally rather than give up the beach, but it is important that you are aware that the enemy has intensified his efforts. The ministry that God has entrusted to you and to us is being challenged on more fronts than ever, with a vigor that we have not seen before. I see only one course of action that will keep the tide from reaching our chair… pray!
We know the One who made the sun stand still for Joshua and we know the One who has the ability to stop the tide, even reverse it if He so desires! He and He alone, can influence corrections officials to change their policies, their minds, and their hearts. It is to Him that we turn for direction, guidance, and intervention.
We invite you to join the Saints Board of Trustees as we commit to making every Friday a day of prayer for this specific need. It does not matter what time of day, nor does it matter for how long. What matters is that our Heavenly Father hears our prayers and knows that His children are resting in the knowledge found in Isaiah 55: 9-11:
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
It is time to turn the tide back again!
Due to some scheduling issues, recognition of these two incredible people did not make it into our previous issue. But it gives us great pleasure nonetheless to announce to you our 2015 Volunteers of the Year.
In the Southeast Region, many functions are still taking root as we transition the leadership team, and Jimmy would not only have his hands full but be pulling his hair out if Julie Flores had not stepped up and completely embraced one of the most important tasks that we need done. She completely took ownership of making sure not a single inmate fell through the cracks as teams from all over the region sent Inmate Response Cards to her in the mail. Her tireless efforts to ensure every card was entered properly and quickly made Jimmy’s life that much easier as the SE Region took on entering their own response cards full time.
In the NE Region, one of our long-time Saints Prison Ministry Board members not only wore that hat again in 2015, but also took on the responsibility of chairing our Annual Charity Auction in the fall. And take it on he did! Robert Bartosz immersed himself in learning the nuances of running an auction, choosing the perfect venue, pushing foray auction-specific website, launching our first foray into online auctions, and even ending the experience by convincing our auction attendees that Billy the Singing Bass was worth bidding on! While many were involved in the execution of this event, our largest Saints fundraiser of the year was successful due in great part to Bob’s tireless efforts.
Our belated thanks to both of these very special members of the Saints Prison Ministry family!
On left: Bob Bartosz accepting the award from Executive Director, Frank Zeidler, Jr.
On right: Julie Flores accepting her award from SE Regional Director, Jimmy Cochran
I am writing to say thank you for the birthday card that I received this past week. I think it is great that you take the time to go around to the prisons and devote your personal time to those of us that society turned their backs upon. I honestly believe this world needs more people like you who are willing to devote their time to those in need and not pass judgment on others. Again, thank you to all of you at the Saints Prison Ministry.
Ian E., SCI Albion, Pennsylvania
I am a prisoner at EKCC in Kentucky and I wanted to write to say thank you. I received your card for my birthday and it meant a lot – you are the only ones who remembered! You remembered my birthday when my family didn’t. Well, they probably remembered but it meant the world to me to get a card from someone I don’t even know. Thank you for peppin’ up my birthday (and I’m sure I’m not the only one). Keep it up and God bless every one of you.
James H., Eastern Kentucky CC, Kentucky
Well, the reason for this letter is thanking you for putting a smile on my face and my heart on my birthday. I really appreciate y’all for that. The birthday card was beautiful and I enjoyed the newspaper too. I just had to write y’all this letter to let y’all know that what y’all do for us really goes a long way. God bless you and thank you for all y’all do for us.
Arnaldo G., FCI Fort Dix, New Jersey
I would like to take time out to say thank you and thank God for such wonderful people as the Saints Ministry team softball players. I thank you all for playing such a big role in my life and the life of my family. From reading the Word of God I have learned that having God in your life is the answer to our heart. We all face many choices daily but having God in your life daily is the difference in making good decisions. I have a wonderful wife and three beautiful children who I will be returning home to this summer. They have stayed with me through this journey and the Saints Prison Ministry has never forgotten me and been there for me too. Thanks a lot and God bless you all.
Stacey C.,Washington SP, Georgia
I pray this letter finds you in good spirits. Thank you for your Bible Study. I don’t know how I skipped doing lesson #7, but I guess I’m showing my age. Big booboo! Anyway, it shows I’m human and God is good, so patient with his children. You are doing a good thing, being stewards in God’s work. We might be incarcerated but we are still people too. Society and families might have written us off, but we are still somebody in God’s eyes. Be safe and keep fighting the good fight. God loves me and you. Because He lives, we live too!
Michael S., CTF Soledad, California
I must thank you for the thought of sending me a birthday card because my family doesn’t seem to have the time for me. Since my mother passed away six years ago, my family doesn’t write me. Three months ago, my brother wrote me after 15 years. He sent me two letters. He had a drug problem and is two years clean. He got married in April and now after only two letters, I’m still waiting to hear from him again. I pray he didn’t backslide. Anyway, I’m sending you all this drawing (see drawing below) and I pray that I will hear from you again.
Johnson A., SCI Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
Hello and God bless You all. How are you doing? I hope and pray that you are all great. I want to first thank you for the Birthday wishes. God bless You all and may he continue to bless You as much as you bless all of us! I hope that the basketball is going great as well and it’s always a blessing when you come in here to play. God is great and no matter where we are at, He is always taking care of us. I thank you for all you do for so many people and all Glory be to God!
Norman G., SCI Coal Twp, Pennsylvania
Thank you all for helping make my birthday special and fun! I appreciate you all and thank the Lord for bringing us together in His timing and ways. My family and friends helped me bring much joy for my 52nd birthday and we played cards, ate good food and we loved the fellowship in the Lord. Again, thanks for being there for me in love, prayer and support. I was in prison and you came and visited me! You all will hear those words when you see Jesus! Smile!
Rocha R., Thumb CF, Michigan
I just wanted to say thanks for the birthday letter you guys were nice enough to send me. You came to this prison in Maryland three years ago and I went to the baseball game and for the two years you sent me a birthday greeting. Makes you feel good to be remembered.
Harden R., Eastern CI, Maryland
Just a brief note to say thank you for sending me a birthday card once again and for remembering me. I truly feel blessed. I’m not sure anymore just how much longer I’ll be on this globe, but I know God has a plan for me which he wants fulfilled before He calls me home. Things have gone a whole lot smoother since I’ve given myself over the Him and have let him guide me. Thanks again for the card and remembrances.
Grover S., SCI Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
(Editor’s Note: This gentleman is living for the Lord in prison at 73-years-old.)