Category Archives: Summer 2016

2016 Crusade Update

2016 Crusade Update

God has blessed abundantly through our crusades of this year and we anxiously await more fantastic stories of His transforming power as we finish the last few crusades of 2016!

March 3-6                        Ohio                                                NJ Saints basketball team

*116 decisions / 925 Gospels distributed

 

March 9-13                      Central Florida                              Ministry-wide softball team

*31 decisions / 1,189 Gospels distributed

 

April 13-17                       South Carolina                              Coastal Christian Ocean City team

*33 decisions / 510 Gospels distributed

 

June 2-5                          Western Pennsylvania                Calvary Chapel Mercer County  team

*31 decisions / 765 Gospels distributed

 

July 6-10                          Adirondack Region (NY)             PA Saints softball team

August 16-21                  Wisconsin                                      NJ Saints softball team

September 23-25           Allegheny Mountains (MD)         VA Saints softball team

October 5-9                     West Virginia                                 NE Region (open)

October 5-9                     Western Tennessee                     SE Region (open)

 

We are excited about all the doors God is opening for us, even in the face of challenges. Praise the Lord for those who have made the life-changing decision to put Jesus first in their lives!  We are thrilled that God allowed us to be there when He revealed Himself to them and wrote their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life!

Please be in prayer for all the men that will participate in the remaining crusades, that God will use each and every one of them to His glory and the furtherance of His Kingdom!

The Changing Tide_Part2

by Frank Zeidler, Jr., Executive Director

Ebb and flow is an idiom familiar to most of us, used most often to describe a fluctuation of both a positive and a negative nature in daily situations. But the etymology of these terms is rooted in the seas – ebb being the flow back to the ocean of tidal waters; flow referring to a strong progression comparable to a river or stream. In my last article, I described for you the negative side of those fluctuations as they apply to our ministry – the flow of once unimpeded access to prisons “stealing away our beach” and the challenges we are facing in repelling the tide such as we have never historically faced.

I appreciate the many who contacted our office in response to that article to indicate they would be joining our Board in dedicated prayer for the Saints Prison Ministry on Fridays.  It is an immeasurable blessing to know we have such dedicated followers, supporters, and friends.

Shortly after submitting that piece – and hopefully instilling in you my strong faith that God would continue to lead us as he has for almost 30 years – He proved once again that He and He alone controls the ebb and flow of this our His ministry.

Even while the last issue of our newsletter was being printed, SPM had a softball team on the Citrus Country II Crusade to Central Florida.  Following a standard crusade schedule they were to visit 8 prisons in five days, including a morning and afternoon visit on Friday, and a single visit Sunday morning before heading home.  On Thursday, I received a call from Jimmy Cochran in FL informing me that in the span of just a few hours both of our Friday visits were cancelled. Knowing the enemy is constantly attacking we chalked this up to “more of the same” and began considering alternate activities for Friday.  But then….God.

That same Thursday evening, my cell phone rang with a Florida area code on the ID screen.  Knowing I had a team in Florida, I excused myself and took the call.  It was the Director of the Central Regional for the Florida Department of Corrections…calling me on a Thursday evening from his home!  He apologized for his department treating out-of-state guests poorly and indicated that if we were still willing, he would arrange for us to be allowed access to at least one of the prisons originally scheduled for Friday!  After clearly indicating our willingness, the next call I received was from the Warden of that facility – calling from his home at 8 PM on a weeknight!  He made it clear that he was also embarrassed by the situation and would not only welcome us back, but have extra security at the gate to see that we got through immediately upon our arrival.  We agreed to a visit from 8 AM to 11 AM the next morning and I called Jimmy with the news.

8 AM to 11 AM?  Not with God in charge!  Our team showed up on time and, as promised, was very quickly escorted through security and led to the ball field.  After just a brief time had passed, the decision was made that this day was going to be extended.  Our team spent the entire morning in the recreation yard with the inmates, had lunch at the facility with the team, and then returned to the yard for an entire afternoon with a different portion of the inmate population!  We left the prison at 4 PM, exhausted but overwhelmed at what a mighty God we serve!

But wait…there’s more.

While our men were ministering that morning, I chose to confirm yet again the visits scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.  After speaking with the chaplain at each institution I breathed a little easier, satisfied that the worst was behind us and the weekend was settled.  But by now you know better, right?

Just a few minutes after I left Jimmy a very positive and encouraging voicemail message about his remaining schedule, my phone rang again and Sunday morning’s visit was called off – Warden’s decision.  No real explanation; just a decision that we were expected to respect.  Since the Central Region Director had called on my cell phone the night before….that’s right, I hit redial!  He not only remembered who I was, but he was dismayed when I stated unequivocally, “It happened again”.

He asked for a few minutes to find out what was going on, and this time when the call came back it was much more to the point.  “You are approved – just show up as expected originally”.  No explanation again; but this time a decision we were happy to respect!

In less than 24 hours, the tide had begun creeping in on us again.  But while we were deciding how far to move our beach chairs, God decreed that an ebb was in order.  He pushed back the tide to reveal not only the beach we previously enjoyed, but a far greater beach He had prepared – one that included one-on-one time with the inmates over lunch, a new and dynamic relationship with a Florida DOC administrator, and a team of 14 men who once again stood in awe of being on the front lines watching God work His sovereign will in our lives!

The ocean tides are a mighty force, and we can never dismiss the power of those changing tides.  But even more important, let’s never lose sight of the power of the very One who created and controls those tides at His pleasure!  To God be the Glory!

This entry was tagged as

Inmate Letters_Spring and Summer 2016

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

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.)

God at work…… in me

by Andy Solomon, Coach, Middle GA Saints softball team

I joined the Saints Prison Ministry about five years ago. At the time, God was teaching me that He desired for me to use all the skills, talents, abilities and passions He had given me to honor Him, even if they didn’t necessarily fit within the context of typical church ministry. As I thought about what that specifically meant for me, my thoughts drifted toward softball.  I enjoy the game and I am pretty good at it (depending on who you ask). So I began exploring how I could use my passion for softball to honor God and point others to him.

I saw a post about the Saints Prison Ministry on a softball message board so I sent an email to the coach of the North Georgia team. I just wanted to see if this ministry might be what I was looking for. Instead of getting an email with information about the ministry, I was asked if I would meet with the SE Regional Director of the Saints to talk about possibly forming a new team in the Macon, GA area. I reluctantly agreed. In the beginning, I was uneasy with the idea. I just wanted information on the ministry, I wasn’t looking to jump in with both feet quite yet. After meeting with the Director I was sold on the ministry and with a lot of help from a lot of people, the Middle Georgia Saints team was formed.

In the five years I’ve been a part of the team, I have seen many men profess faith in Christ. I’ve heard firsthand stories of how the ministry has changed lives. I’ve seen countless smiles on faces of men who probably didn’t have much to smile about. I’ve heard numerous words of appreciation for the encouragement the ministry brings. I’ve made many friends among the men I’ve ministered alongside.

But, I can also look back and see how much I’ve grown spiritually during this time. Much of this spiritual growth can be directly attributed to my participation in the ministry. Five years ago, the thought of sharing my testimony in front of a group of 100 people, much less inmates, terrified me. Five years ago I would not be one of the first people to volunteer to share the gospel in front of a large group. Today, I regularly share both my testimony and the gospel during our ministry time in the institutions. My ability to communicate the gospel has improved because of the many opportunities this ministry gives me to share. My boldness in sharing the gospel has grown. Hearing the many stories of how God changed others’ lives constantly inspires me to share the life-changing message of the gospel more.

I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities this ministry has given me to serve and minister. I’m thankful for the growth that this ministry has spurred in my life. I know many other Missionary Athletes can testify to the same spiritual growth in their lives because of this ministry. It is amazing how God works through this ministry not only to draw inmates to him, but also to grow the participants of the ministry, to build us up in the faith so that we can minister to others better and serve him more.

 

Announcements

God’s Got This!

As the impact of the novel coronavirus Covid-19 continues to unfold before our eyes, I keep hearing the same voice in the back of my head.  A former teammate of mine, and a friend to many in the Saints family, offers the same deeply held belief every time the ministry (or he personally) must face a difficult situation… “God’s got this!”

As a child of the King, that is our reality; and those words bring comfort and peace in a plethora of situations.  Yes, this virus is nasty. Yes, we must exercise caution and be part of the solution, not the problem.  Yes, the situation is unprecedented for most of us.  But none of this changes the fact that “God’s got this”.

As I have reminded you of this before, my chief concern as the Director is guiding this ministry as God is leading it; never to force my agenda or ideas, but diligently trying not to lag behind His plans either”.  I am more committed to that than ever, and through this “crisis” I have felt God’s Spirit guiding our staff and Board at every turn.

Recently, the prisons have begun closing their doors to visitors and volunteers.  As news came out that state after state was taking this necessary step, our staff took the initiative to contact the prisons where we had softball games already scheduled.  As a result of taking this action, we were able to shift the opening of our softball season back from April 25th to June 4th.  Will the doors be open by June 4th?  I have no idea.  But clearly the Spirit was leading this decision, as evidenced by this email received from a Recreation Supervisor in IL:

Thank you for reaching out to us to reschedule.  You are the only one that has so far, and I think most are just waiting to see what happens.  Look forward to seeing you guys again sometime this summer”

Or this phone message from a Chaplain in Delaware:

“Thank you for taking the time to call me.  I just assumed we would lose the games because I didn’t think rescheduling would be an option with how busy you guys always are.”

Given the uncertainty of the next few weeks and months, it is important that you know we continue to serve those behind bars as much as we are able.  The other aspects of our ministry (birthday cards, follow up discipleship, fall scheduling, etc.) go on as always.  We have taken necessary steps to be ready for mandatory work-from-home announcements and our Board has reviewed our budget for potential modifications should the current financial uncertainty become a prolonged situation.

As partners with us in reaching men and women behind bars, you may rest assured the Saints Prison Ministry maintains committed to our mission and we value our partnership as much as ever.   For understandable reasons we will have no personal interaction with any of you soon, but there are two things you can do to continue working with us. First, include the inmates we serve in your prayers.  In grim times we all suffer from tunnel vision a little bit, so I’m going to suggest a way to be intentional about this.  Think back over the stories you’ve heard or articles you’ve read and come up with one item: a crusade, a prison name, a Missionary-Athlete’s name, a program like Birthday Cards or the Glove Exchange, maybe even an inmate’s name.  Make that single item the focus of your prayers for the ministry over the next few weeks.  Thank God for His providence and pray for His direction.

Second, if you are able, please make your regular gifts online instead of mailing in a check.  Obviously, we want to make supporting this work as easy as possible; if you are not comfortable online feel free to continue to use the US mail.  But in the interest of caution, the less mail our staff handles at this time the better.  Who knows – you may find you like it!

“God’s got this” – and He has all along.  It is the greatest comfort I can offer you and at the same time the only comfort any of us should need.

Serving Him gladly,

 

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