Reputation Matters

Reputation Matters

By Frank Zeidler, Jr., SPM DirectorFrank_TBN

 Anyone that has ministered alongside me or worked on our staff knows that I am fiercely protective of the reputation of the Saints Prison Ministry.  Everything that we do as a ministry is done for a reason, and more often than not that reason can be traced back to reputation.

I recently fielded a call from a Chaplain in Kentucky unlike any other call in which I had ever engaged.  He opened the conversation by suggesting that if he had been born an explorer instead of a prison chaplain he would search high and low for three things: Bigfoot, the Lochness Monster, and the Saints Prison Ministry.   Obviously intrigued, I asked how we found ourselves among such legendary company.  His answer astounded me:

I have been a chaplain at four different federal institutions, in four different regions, prior to this assignment.  At every prison in which I served, I heard of this ministry that I had ‘just missed’ – the Saints Prison Ministry. I would ask staff about who they found effective or easy to work with and the answer was the same ministry each time.  The legend of this softball team was the same at every stop – “they don’t come in with the attitude that these godless heathens need what we’re selling.  Instead they come to play a ballgame, have some conversations, share a personal message, and interact with the men because they genuinely care.”

He then ended his explanation with this comment – “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they were describing Christians!” 

He shared that his current warden is opposed to any outside teams coming into the prison, so he has no intention of trying to have us visit but he called because he finally had to track down this ministry just to see if they were for real!  He went on to share that he had been told the facility would be getting a new warden this year, and if the situation changed he would like to try to work something out for the fall.

I have shared stories – both personally and in my writings – of chaplains, staff, and inmates thanking us for showing we care, making an impact, or simply being so professional.  I’ve gone on endlessly about the need to protect our reputation because of the doors it can open or close along the way.  But this chaplain validated every word I have ever spoken or written; his first-hand account of our reputation traveling around the country demonstrates that we are being watched and we are being talked about at many levels.

God has done amazing things through this ministry and the number of lives He has touched are almost innumerable.  Perhaps one of the greatest things He has done is to call men and women to serve on the front lines who genuinely understand that they represent Him first, the ministry second, their teammates, our supporters, their own families, and finally, themselves last.  Without the quality of personnel that God has called, this ministry’s reputation would not be what it is.

John Wooden, legendary basketball coach at UCLA, wisely said “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, your reputation is merely what others think you are”.  While I don’t disagree with Coach Wooden, I suggest that our reputation of excellence has traveled beyond the 34 states in which we have ministered in large part because of the character of the men and women involved.  To them I say “Thank you” – not for heeding my admonitions to protect our reputation, but for answering the call of the One on whom that reputation has been built!

 

Inside the Mind of Gibby…

gibbyThis is the first installment of Inside the Mind of Gibby, a recurring column in The Insider.  Using a style all his own Tom Gibson, coach of our IL Saints softball team, offers you a peek into some of the lesser known aspects of being “on the road” with our teams.  Enjoy!

 Remove the Sharp Objects from the Room!

One of my least favorite things in life is when a good idea does not turn out as planned.  As I sat looking at my notes for the Saints team Bible study that I was attempting to lead that evening, I realized that the discussion amongst my Saints teammates had nothing to do with what I originally planned to talk about!

One of the best aspects of going on a Saints Crusade is the daily team devotions.  After we visit a prison we will usually eat dinner and return to the hotel.  We will typically meet in the breakfast area of the hotel and have a Bible study before we get some rest.  These are great times to learn and study God’s Word as a team.

The topic for this particular evening was the beatitudes in Matthew 5.  I had heard an excellent sermon from one of my favorite authors, Kyle Idleman, and decided that I would use some of his material for the devotions on this particular Saints Crusade.  I did my research and prepared not only the devotions but handouts so that each of my teammates could follow along and perhaps appreciate my hard work even more!

The thought process and terminology that flowed so well from Kyle Idleman’s sermon fell flat as I presented it.  I would bring up what I thought was a life changing discussion question only to hear the sound of crickets amongst the awkward silence.  As we moved along in the devotion, I had a clear definition of Matthew 5:3 on my nice professional looking handout, but it seemed like most in the room had a different way of interpreting “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.  The rest of the room was fighting sleep after a long day of softball and prison ministry and had trouble staying engaged.   We soldiered through the devotions during that week but each topic I had brought up had taken a turn into another topic, which turned into another topic, none of which I knew how to tie back together into a beatitudes devotion!

By the fourth night I was planning to lop off a few points so we could get done in around twenty minutes and enjoy the Sunday Night Football game together.  An hour later, the room was still hung up on Matthew 5:10 and what being “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” really meant.  At this point my devotion was now officially hijacked and I was trying to figure out if I could slip out of the room and make it to and from the Taco Bell down the street without anyone noticing!

This particular time that I led devotions was a humbling experience but I am thankful for all of the Godly wisdom that was in that room those four nights.  Depending on the text and the topic, crusade devotion conversations will on occasion spill over into parenting and marriage application.  Many topics lead to discussions on how we can serve in our local churches better.  At other times the conversation will turn into some lively discussions on politics or some minor denominational differences.  While these conversations are hard to get back on track and may take us more into the evening than we plan, each devotion time on a Crusade is edifying.  I really enjoy spending time with guys from around the country and hearing their insight on God’s Word.  I am especially thankful when I get to lead a Crusade devotion, even if they don’t turn out the way I plan!

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. “   Proverbs 27:17

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!

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!

Announcements


It’s here!  The Lady Saints are gearing up for the 2017 ministry season and we still have room for you!

Contact our office for more information on joining these dedicated women in sharing the Gospel through volleyball.  Every talent level is welcome – but a passion for the lost is mandatory!

SAVE THE DATE

The Saints Prison Ministry 30th Anniversary Celebration will be here soon!

Go right to the calendar and circle October 21st! Details will become available throughout the summer but you will not want to miss this celebration of God’s blessing!

 

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Sign up now for the 1st Annual Saints Prison Ministry SE Golf Classic!

August 21st at Fairways of Canton, shotgun start at 9 AM sharp! Contact Jimmy Cochran for more information at [email protected] or visit our DONATE page in order to make your payment.