Click below for Winter 2020
by Dr. Jay Thatcher, SPM Director of Ministry Relations
Editor’s note: Dr. Thatcher accompanied the women of the Keystone Krusade, the first-ever crusade conducted by a Lady Saints team. A crusade team made up of “rookies” from Cornerstone Church (Mt. Laurel, NJ) and a few veteran Lady Saints visited two prisons in PA in mid-November. Complete results were not available at the time of publication due to some procedural challenges experienced with the PA Dept. of Corrections, but the Gospel was shared with more than 100 women and at least eight made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ! This is Jay’s account of the first stop on the crusade…
As the women of the Keystone Krusade Team were making the 3 ½ hour trek to SCI Muncy in November, one of the missionary-athletes read a verse of the day aloud. Acts 4:31 – “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” In hindsight, it matched our visit that day perfectly!
Three-days prior to this trip we were informed by the Recreational Director that the volleyball event was canceled due to a structural problem with the gymnasium. Our staff developed a new plan of action; with the help of the Recreation Director, we secured a room in a basement of the building and played cornhole, Pictionary, and cards with our sisters behind bars. Whatever it takes, right?
As the team and inmates bonded over the games, we transitioned into our standard Gospel presentation. Carolyn Jefferson introduced the Saints Prison Ministry, Nicole Zook shared a powerful testimony that prepared the inmate women’s minds and hearts for the Gospel presentation by Coach Gail Gargani.
Picture a basement with a low ceiling, and a group of 30 people consisting of corrections officers, inmates, and Saints missionary-athletes. What was incredibly touching during the presentation was you could hear a pin drop. Near the end of the message, I scanned the room – through tears in my own eyes – and every woman was glued to Gail’s Gospel presentation. The Holy Spirit was palpable when Gail said, “there is no place in the world that I would rather be than in this dungeon of a space, sharing the Gospel with all who are gathered here including the COs.”
After this incredible presentation, one of the leaders of the SCI Muncy Inmate Organization handed me a letter. It read:
New Jersey Saints: Thank you for coming to SCI Muncy through the years. We always look forward to playing volleyball, talking, and catching up. Unfortunately, this year, we were unable to play volleyball due to the issues in the gymnasium. However, we have been looking forward to all of you coming to spend the day with us. As a token of our appreciation, we are donating $500 to your organization on behalf of the Muncy Inmate Organization. Thank you again. Sincerely, Muncy Inmate Organization Jesus shares in Luke 21:1-4, “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all others. All of these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
These women, who have no possessions of their own to speak of, devoted the time and energy to do whatever was necessary to raise what is in prison a monumental sum. Not out of their wealth, but in the face of conditions most of us would consider unbearable, they put the appreciation of the Saints visit above their own personal situation.
Imagine if we had never shown up due to the volleyball game being canceled. My lasting memory was there is no place on earth that I would have rather been when the Holy Spirit shook the basement and left us in awe of His majesty and goodness!
For the first time in Saints Prison Ministry history, on November 8, 2019, all of the coaches from our teams around the country met at the same time in the SPM office to compare notes, hear from the ministry leadership, and help chart a plan for future opportunities. We were also privileged to include their spouses in the invitation, and most of them were able to arrange their schedule to join us!
After flying or driving in from every direction on Friday afternoon, the first meeting of Coaches Summit 2019 occurred that evening and it included everyone – staff, coaches, spouses, and invited guests. The evening’s agenda was a discussion focused on making sure every person in a leadership position was clear on who we are, what we do (and don’t do!), and why we are on the path we currently travel. It included not only philosophical points, but also very team-specific discussions and an overview of how the support raised by these teams is spent. A
fter a brief night of rest, we met again on Saturday morning…but went separate ways. While the coaches met to discuss more “nuts-and-bolts” concepts like paperwork, support, and future direction, the office staff and spouses took a day trip to beautiful Cape May, NJ, traveling in the same Saints van the teams use for local trips. It proved to be a great time to get to know each other and they enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the landmark Blue Pig Tavern.
On Saturday night, everyone reconvened at Easton Bible Church and each coach hosted a table of supporters as we celebrated God’s goodness this past year (see page 4 for details). It was a whirlwind weekend, but everyone involved left the event looking forward to the next time we can all gather together to embody the message: Multiple Teams…One Ministry…One Message!
by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach
This is one of the most exciting ministries on the planet! Taking the Great Commission to prisons across the country is exciting, challenging, and fulfilling. But let me just level with you; sometimes the trip to exciting and fulfilling is a lot of “meh,” with the occasional “ugh” mixed in for good measure. Maybe Ed Mosely, Chris Copeland, or Vinny Maggio didn’t show up to keep everyone on their toes. Perhaps the NJ Gamemeister (Hugh Dwyer to the rest of us) chose open heart surgery that week, leaving the back of the bus to discuss boring things like the weather, the stock market, or the NHL. Perhaps the drive is the same corn field for miles and miles and miles… it can happen on any Saturday, but on a crusade this becomes magnified because tomorrow might not be any better! If at some point you find yourself in this situation, here are four ways of turning a “Humdrum Crusade” into an “Epic Crusade!”
Let anyone from the NE Region – past or present – drive the bus
After four games in a prison, your expectations are to sit in your seat and drift off to sleep as you pass by corn fields and herds of cattle. This is usually what happens… unless you are riding in a vehicle with someone who is from north of Virginia and east of Ohio! For some unknown reason, they will mistake rural Indiana for the New Jersey Turnpike! You will want to make sure that your seat belts are fastened with your seat backs and tray tables in the upright and locked position as you make your way home!
Sit in and play drums with a local band in the middle of Nowhere, AL
Sometimes you are enjoying a nice meal with teammates when suddenly you are drug on stage and asked to sit in with a local band. This is rare and requires a few years of drum lessons, and a year or two in your local high school marching band, but nothing breaks up the monotony of a long drive back to the hotel like a prison minister…dressed in full softball uniform…playing a Brooks and Dunn song during dinner!
Create your own transportation crisis
Break up the monotony of the interstate by turning and asking for directions. Joe Technology – insisting his smartphone app is the only right way to go – will have you driving across a cow pasture to get back to the state road; while Captain Knowitall – absolutely sure he’s “been here before” – will have you visiting all five boroughs of NY before arriving in NJ!
Go to church with Alice Cooper
A few years ago, on the last day of an Arizona trip, most of the team flew home while the IL guys stayed behind an extra day. Flights to Peoria were “better” the next day, but really someone (we’ll just call him Zrank Feidler to protect his identity!) was just too cheap to send us home on time… but I digress. Since we had the extra day, and we now controlled where the van went, the IL guys searched for a local church. My pastor recommended a church with solid expository preaching and oh by the way, Alice Cooper goes to church there too! Of course, being the nice guy I am, I was happy to let him get his picture taken with a pseudo-famous newsletter author.
2020 will no doubt be great but will also have its moments where it is less than exciting. So, if any missionary-athlete reading this find yourself bored outside the prison walls this upcoming season, remember, these are four surefire ways to liven up any Saints trip!
by Robert C., CFRC Main Unit, FL
I am writing you in regard to all the birthday cards I have received from you all throughout the years. God has placed it on my heart to reflect back to the very day we met. I was housed at Okeechobee CI and the Saints showed up to play us a game of softball. I believe the year was 2007. I was already a Christian so I fully understood the love from Jesus that all of you showed us. What I never thought about was the dedication the Saints have shown me over the years by making sure I felt loved and thought of on my birthday. No matter if I changed institutions, six times since 2007, the Saints birthday card always found me at the right address and with a smile on my face. You all have a better record than bill collectors. Ha Ha. I just wanted you all to know how much these cards have meant to me. Thank you. I have another seven years to go before my release date and carry the joy of Jesus with me every day and will never stop praying for all of you at the Saints Prison Ministry. God is shining down on all of you at the Saints. Keep up the great work for God. “We are saved to serve.”
On November 9th, with coaches representing our athletic teams from all over the country in attendance, the Saints Prison Ministry gathered in the gym at Easton Bible Church to celebrate God’s goodness over the past year. Having a different team represented at each table allowed guests to hear stories from the front lines and we were blessed to hear a testimony and saxophone solo from Michael, an ex-offender who credits the Saints Prison Ministry – and specifically, Dr. Omar Fisher of our NJ basketball team – for making a huge impact on his life coming out of SCI Chester. The evening culminated with Pastor Dave MacMurray challenging us from the book of Nehemiah, in keeping with the ministry’s tagline of Multiple Teams…One Ministry…One Message. The most important takeaway from that celebration? God was glorified for His provision and blessing!