Category Archives: Winter 2016

Meet Jay Thatcher!

Jay was called by God to be our NE Regional Director and it seems appropriate that we introduce him to the family!

I am so thankful to the Lord and the Saints Leadership team for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of this organization. My first passion in life growing up in Easton, PA from the age of five years old was the game of basketball. I had the opportunity to play at Susquehanna University and be a part of two NCAA tournament teams. I also had the privilege to be the team captain my junior and senior year and scored 1,000 points during my career.

It was not until after I graduated college at the age of twenty-two years old that I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I am grateful to have grown up with loving parents and siblings. I am beyond blessed to be married to my best friend and soul mate. My wife and I are blessed with five wonderful children between the ages of seven years-old and twenty-two years old.

The two things that have remained constant in my life through the highs and lows of pastoral ministry are the call to preach the Gospel for the transformation of lives and my heart for racial reconciliation. Since January 2015, I have been pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry from Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA. Although I have been praying, studying, and preparing for what is next in my life, I did not realize that the Lord was preparing me for prison ministry. The Lord Jesus used Dr. Damone B. Jones, Sr., a gifted Seminary Professor, to change the course of my life by taking our seminary class on a field trip to a Philadelphia correctional facility. My heart began to break when I witnessed the de-humanizing conditions that many of the inmates face twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I believe a call to ministry is when God breaks your heart for what breaks His heart. When I saw men, women, and youth physically locked up behind bars, God began breaking my heart for His love and desire to be reconciled to each and every inmate.

 Beginning October 1, 2016, I answered God’s call to a new full-time position as the Northeast Regional Director of the Saints Prison Ministry. Both sports and the Gospel have been used by God to shape and mold my life for spiritual battle. I am convinced today more than ever “that our struggle is not against flesh and blood …but against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). The Saints Prison Ministry teams are entering into a spiritual battle each and every time we enter a prison.

This spiritual battle can only be won when Christians come together as the body of Christ. I have discovered, painfully I should add, that the key to life and ministry is developing and growing partnerships in the Gospel …trusting that God will fulfill his mission and purpose through these partnerships. So I conclude this introduction through the words of the Apostle Paul, “I thank God every time I remember you… I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion, until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6).

One Man’s Story

It took months to plan the SE Regional Crusade to South Carolina – and it took one day to turn our plans upside down.  The crusade was planned for the first week of October; but we didn’t realize that hurricane Matthew had made reservations in South Carolina for that week too!  

By now you have probably heard or read about the tremendous heart shown by these men, as they turned their attention from softball to the pending storm and jumped in to help with disaster preparation.  But as those plans were being made and as we were scrambling to line up service projects to fill the ensuing days, one man had the presence of mind to chronicle what he was thinking during this chaos.

Ray Koonce of the Illinois Saints softball team – Papa Ray to all of us – recorded some brief thoughts as the days unfolded and it provides a glimpse behind the curtain you may never get again.  In his own words…

Day 1

Day one began to be somewhat of a letdown due to the cancellations coming in because of the weather issues (Hurricane Matthew).  The opportunity to do what we normally do and what we had traveled so far to do was no longer an option.  It seemed as though we may have to head home before we even started.  That possibility lasted only a few seconds.  We serve an awesome God and he has a plan!

The opportunity to serve at a local church arose – and as servers that is what we did.  No softball turned into playing with kids, giving testimonies, and preaching the Gospel just as we do in prisons, except for the kids of course.  Cancellations kept coming, but opportunities to serve kept coming as well.  We are going to be able to help the area for a few more days.  We are going where God leads us – that’s what we (Saints) do.

Day 2

Pretty simple tpapa-ray_2houghts today.  Started by helping a local food bank with offloading donations from one of their support partners.  14 guys unloading one truck – well, that took all of about 10-15 minutes.  We stayed around for a few more hours doing whatever we could to help out this organization, which serves around 7,000 people on a regular basis.

One thought that holds strong in my mind today is how God will always answer prayers.  It may not be exactly what you asked for, but today it was a whole lot more.  The leader of this organization that we were helping had prayed for ONE man from God to come help her – and God gave her 14 Saints!  That allowed all the smaller prayers they were asking for to be answered as well; cleanup, stacking, marking food products, and helping unload donations in preparation for the upcoming storm.  We stayed until we were no longer needed.

Myself and 13 other men are being led around the area to where we are needed – thank you, Jesus!  Super great bunch of guys, proud to call all of them my friend and brother in Christ!

Day 3

A little drizzly out, really not much rain or wind yet.  We left early to get to an old church which helps veterans, as well as was being set up to help hurricane refugees who were being brought here from the coast.  After helping to move boxes and many other items out of a storage room to make more space, we offered to help bring up mattresses to set in place.

Angela was the lady letting us know what to do and God again used the Saints to bless those who help others.  Angela was so overwhelmed tears poured out.  As we left there to continue on to our next stop, Angela said a prayer over us that overwhelmed us all.  She was extremely passionate for all parties involved.  It was incredible.

Our Walmart visit was next and we greeted customers, helping to raise snacks for a local Snack Pack program.  Went fantastic, raised a lot of product for the program and was able to bless and serve a lot of locals.  God is good.

Ended our day with dinner at Steve’s Classic Burgers in Columbia.  Awesome place!  The owner opened the place after being told by God to do so.  Very, very nice place.  Feeling blessed by God.

Day 4

Hurricane Matthew is here.  Too much weather, so we’re heading home.  Opportunities to serve ran out.

Over the past 4 days I was able to catch up with old friends and make new ones.  Not the typical crusade but all in all a very rewarding trip.  God has a plan for everyone and everything in life.  When He shows you the plan…Run with it! You won’t be disappointed – I’m not.

I love each and every one of my new Saints teammates as much as I do my old friends.  It’s a brother I will carry with me for life.  Thank you to the Saints Prison Ministry for this opportunity to serve.  Praise God!

Inmate Letters_Winter 2016

I would like to thank you for sending me a birthday card ON my birthday!  It means a lot to me when I receive a letter or card from your ministry.  It lets me know there is still hope and I know someone is still praying for me to see a brighter day – a wonderful future with God by my side.  I would ask that y’all continue to pray for me and my family and I will continue to keep your ministry in my prayers.  I hope that you al have a blessed end of the year and a wonderful 2017.  Thanks again for remembering me and may God bless everyone that is involved in the ministry!

Charles R., Stanton CF, Alabama

God bless you and thank you for the consistent birthday wishes for the past 10 years. If no one else, I could always depend on my friends at the Saints Prison Ministry for sincere birthday wishes.  I’m also writing to inform my friends that I have been granted parole after 19 years!  By the time Christmas gets here, I will be with my family at home and embarking on continuing to pay my debt to society from the outside, Lord willing!  Thank you again for helping me to get through and for your continuous prayers, friendship, and generosity of time.it will always be remembered and highly appreciated.

Anthony W., Gouverneur CF, New York

Amazon Smile…to make prisoners smile!

You are right in the middle of the busiest shopping season of the year and we have a unique way to accomplish your gift-buying adventures, while continuing your commitment to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them”!

Amazon Smile is a simple way for you to support the Saints Prison Ministry every time you shop online, at no cost to you.  This program offers the same shopping destination that millions around the world use every day – the exact prices, selection and shopping experience you expect – with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible purchases to the Saints Prison Ministry!

To sign up, simply head to smile.amazon.com and type our name into the search bar. We are listed as Saints Prison Ministries, Inc. on their menu of choices.  The site will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make all year will result in a donation to your favorite ministry!  Note: If you have an Amazon account, this site accepts the same login information.

Just last month we received a check from Amazon for $225 – what a blessing!  Imagine the potential impact on the lives of men and women when ALL of our friends get involved!

This entry was tagged as

Inmate Art_Winter 2016

michael-m_sterling-cf_colorado Michael M., Sterling CF, Colorado

lorenzo-m_allendale_south-carolinaLorenzo M., Allendale CI, South Caroina

kenneth-w_autry-sp_georgia Kenneth W., Autry SP, Georgia

kevin-w_lee-ci_south-carolinaKevin W., Lee CI, South Carolina

eric-r_sci-smithfield_pennsyvaniaEric R., SCI Smithfield, Pennsylvania

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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