Mountain Moving 101

by Jimmy Cochran, SE Regional Director

They say that faith can move mountains. In my case, the mountain came in the form of putting on a southeast regional fundraiser. I am not one who is overflowing with creative ideas nor am I a Pinterest geek. After thinking of some ideas and praying about it, I decided on having a golf tournament. Golf tournaments in my part of the country are a dime a dozen. On any given day there is a golf tournament somewhere, so my greatest fear was that this event would get shuffled in with the rest and I would be left with a dozen golfers and egg on my face!

I began my hike towards the mountain in March and after seeking godly counsel from people who have put on many tournaments in the past, I settled on a course and a date. Since the golf course was taking care of many details of the event, including the buffet meal, I was left with seeking sponsorships and above all…golfers!

Again I prayed over who would be the primary sponsor of the tournament, and asked if God would place in front of me those who be the other main sponsors. Slowly the doors began to open and one after another the key sponsorships were filled. Moving on to hole sponsorships, my goal was to get 18 – one per hole – and not being the greatest of salesmen I launched out in search of companies that would buy into what we represent. I started out with folks I knew who owned their own businesses; maybe I can help them out bit but since they already know what I do for a living it wouldn’t be so much of a “cold call”!

Many of my friends took me up on the offer but the Lord really opened the doors when my buddy Keith Boggs, founder of Real Momentum and our primary tournament sponsor, began to send out emails to his guys. Many of them own their own business and if they don’t, they know someone who does. The word began to spread and in mid-June the hole sponsorships were filling and I was also receiving emails from people wanting to play!

God was answering prayer after prayer as the tournament filled. I had originally prayed for 48 golfers but really hoped to get 60. As the event drew near, that number slowly started to move from hope to reality, and as of three days prior to tee-off the number was there. I had 60 golfers for my fundraiser and I was overjoyed!  August 21, 2017 was a blessed day to be on the course: He gave us great weather, a full field of golfers, a sponsor on every hole plus a few extra, a great meal …… and He threw in an eclipse to show off a little!

For those who do not believe in the power of prayer, I would simply like to say, pray and have faith that God will answer. James 1:6 says “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” Yes, there were times I let doubt creep in and when I did I felt like waves tossed on the seas, not really knowing which direction I was headed in. But when I asked forgiveness and asked God to set me on firm ground, grant me wisdom and discernment for the event at hand, He responded. He answered beyond what I expected or hoped and for that I give Him all the glory, honor and praise!

 

A Mother’s Love

Hello,

I am writing to you because I want to thank you so very much for doing what your ministry does with the inmates at SCI Frackville. My son happens to be an inmate at this facility. His name is Roger Hartstein (HR0484). Most recently, your softball team played the team at the prison which my son happens to play on. Soon after your visit there, he wrote me to tell me that someone from your staff prayed for him. You see, he is up for Parole and has seen the board 4 times and has been denied each time. Not for lack of Roger trying but for the lack of Par9le wanting to see a changed person that has just spent the last 10 years of his life behind bars. I have been trying for the last few years to get my son on the Jesus “fan” wagon. My husband and I are Christians and we want to make sure my son has his heart right with our all mighty, loving, forgiving, and faithful, God.

You have no idea how touched I was when Roger wrote me and told me that your staff prayed for him. He said “…and you know what Mom, it felt good”. My heart skipped a beat! I tell you this because, I have been praying for God to be with my son each visit to parole, to give him the words to speak, and to give him the confidence that he needed to face the board. I told Roger I was praying for him, his response was, why are you praying, you don’t pray for things like this. I said Roger, you most certainly do pray for these types of things, as the matter of fact, you should be praying each and every day. You need to speak to God on a regular basis, not just when you need something! Even I feel at times like the Lord isn’t hearing my prayer, even now I know he does. As a Christian, I am not perfect; I am broken and need God every second of the day. I know God has a plan for Roger and just because I want him home with our family, God knows what is best for Roger. So, you see, when your staff prayed for him and he said he liked it, that it felt good, I knew right then, my Father in heaven is hearing my prayers.

I just wanted to let you know that Roger looks forward to having your team visit the facility to play sports with them. I am happy that you give him something to look forward to. I personally have no idea what prison life on the inside is like. I do know that it is a very overwhelming experience for me as a mother to have to visit my son every other weekend for a few hours in such an awful place. But you guys bring life to him and others I’m sure and for that I am grateful.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I really appreciate all you do!

God Bless your Ministry,

Robin Roth

P.S. Thank you for sending him birthday cards too. How super awesome!

Inside the Mind of Gibby

The Official SPM Crusade Survival Guide

By Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

At some point during a Saints Crusade, probably during a devotion or pregame speech, someone will quote Joshua 1:9 and tell the team that we must be strong and courageous, that we are a band of brothers who are ready to storm the gates of hell, that we are here to chew bubblegum and share the Gospel, and …… you get the picture.  Unfortunately, not everyone is totally equipped to handle the REAL struggles that come with a Crusade.  After going on 13 different Crusades, I have a pretty good grasp on how to navigate through some of the tougher situations, so here are my tips for surviving a Saints crusade.

Dealing with a Snoring Roommate

First of all, this guy will be in denial that he has a snoring problem.  He will claim that his wife is overreacting about his snoring and that he knows more about sleep apnea than your average pulmonary doctor!  With that being said, he is now YOUR problem once the lights go out.  YOU CAN’T SMOTHER HIM WITH A PILLOW (It doesn’t look good for the ministry and isn’t good for your testimony!).  The key to dealing with him is earbuds.  You pop those babies in and you can fall asleep listening to a classic movie soundtrack, a good book, or your favorite Weird Al Yankovic songs!  If your roommate is a major league snorer and can overpower Weird Al, you can always get caught up on sleep when you return to work on Monday.

Playing out of Position

On every Crusade we will have too many Missionary Athletes that play the same position.  We will either have too many outfielders and no third basemen or we will have too many infielders and someone will get shoved to the outfield.  Whoever is coaching the team will try and make this YOUR problem and shove you to a position in which you rarely if ever play. The key to making this work is to immediately announce, with overwhelming conviction, that you are not an outfielder or corner infielder.  This absolves you from the errors that you will make the rest of the day; but it is still important to remind your teammates each time an error does happen, “Hey!  My bad, but I’m not a shortstop!  He just put me here!”

Going out for Mexican Food

You may choose to insert Chinese, Thai, Guatemalan, or other foreign cuisine here, but there will come a time when whoever is picking food will choose something you don’t like.  I have the appetite of your average 12 year old.  I like pepperoni pizza, fries, chocolate milkshakes, and that is about it (My wife can verify this and can also verify that this is not one of the qualities that attracted her to me).  Looking up and down the menu you will either find nothing you like or you will not be cultured enough to know what anything on the menu is!  Relax, because there are three fixes to this scenario.  1. Is it ok for you eat just queso and chips for dinner?  Yes, yes it is!  2.  Get up and tell the guy next to you that you are using the bathroom, then sprint across the parking lot to the Wendy’s for a Baconator and a Frosty; it’s WAY better than the Gordita surprise that everyone else is ordering.  3. Quietly order the chicken fingers off the kids menu and just tell the rest of the team that the restaurant messed up your order!

Restroom Not Available

There are limited times to use a bathroom during a prison visit, and playing softball while having to use the restroom is the worst.  Most of the time you will have a chance to use one in the lobby of the prison, but chances are your snoring roommate is using it the entire time that you are checking in through security.  If it happens during a game, the last person you want to talk to is the coach; he will just tell you to tough it out.  The person that you should talk to is the officer in charge.  They will sometimes “airlift” you in a golf cart from the yard to a wonderful staff restroom.  While you are gone, the coach will just have to find someone else to play out of position in your spot!

Surviving a Political Conversation on the Bus

If you really are inclined to smother a teammate with a pillow, now is the time to do it!  This conversation will start out with something really brilliant like, “Those IDIOTS who voted for (scoundrel politician) should be shot!”  The reply will be even more brilliant and sound something like this, “Oh yeah, well if (deadbeat representative) had done something, then we wouldn’t have the budget/jobs/stray cat crisis that we do now!”  This pointless, mind-numbing conversation will last for hours unless someone lies on a grenade and changes the subject.  If you are traveling with the IL team, a comment like “I don’t think Jay Cutler got a fair shot in Chicago” or if you are traveling with the PA team something like, “I really wish we would have given Dominic Brown one more chance”, should bring unity to the bus.  Unfortunately, they will now be unified in destroying the guy who changed the subject!

Are Saints Prison Ministry Crusades for the faint of heart?  Not really, but after reading this you are well-prepared to survive any of the major dilemmas that come up on a Saints Crusade!

 

Light in the Darkness

by David Cogliano, Board of Trustees member and North GA Softball Missionary-athlete

The Saints Prison Ministry has visited Kentucky State Reformatory at least twice in the past – and this was my second visit personally.  It is a prison that has a very active recreation program, inviting many teams into their facility all year round – Christian or not, whether for ministry or just for a game.  One could easily reach the conclusion that with that many teams coming through the gates, the inmates don’t care who is in the other dugout.

Since the day I started with the Saints I have heard Frank, Jimmy and others repeatedly talking about the value of the ministry’s reputation.  After just a couple years with the North GA team, I began to see the truth in that position and since I joined the Board of Trustees in 2016 it has been something I have repeated often myself.  I’ve seen the reputation of the ministry open doors that seemed closed, and I have heard inmates talk about how much they like us.  But on this crusade, that “talking point” became reality in a way I never saw coming.

KSR beat us handily the last time I was there, so this crusade team was determined to make a good showing.  We gave the team all they could handle that first game, so when it came time to break for the Gospel message I felt pretty good walking around the yard handing out literature.  I approached one particular prisoner and asked if he would like a Gospel of John and a tract.  He stuck his hand out and said he would take one from the Saints but that is all.

It was an odd response – not a typical yes or “Nah, I’m all right” – so I felt compelled to follow up and ask him what he meant by that.  He proceeded to tell me how other organizations – Christian ministry organizations – “come in here, hand you a piece of literature, and leave thinking they have done something good.  All they’ve done is check off a box.  But when the Saints come here, we know they are sincere in everything because you spend time listening to our stories, pray with us, and play softball with us.  So I’ll take a Gospel from the Saints.” (Note – SPM had not been to KSR since 2014, yet this guy knew some of us and recognized who was on that trip!)

I was genuinely moved – no surprise to my teammates who know I can get emotional – and I told him how much that means to me and my teammates to hear that.  I asked him if there was anything I could pray for in his life and then hugged it out as we always do with the guys we meet.  It was a short amount of time but he could not have encouraged me more if we had spent all day together.  Simply because we choose to reflect Jesus Christ in the way we do ministry, this man now has the Gospel of John in his cell with him!

 

Why Am I Doing This?

By Michael Vassalotti, Jericho Discipleship Team Leader

While I am thankful and feel honored at the privilege of being asked to write a piece for The Insider, this made me do some heart searching. While I do love teaching, and I love these brothers God has called me to, there are some Tuesdays, when honestly I might rather feel like staying home and playing guitar. Inevitably, when I do have one of those days, that ends up being the time when Holy Spirit shows up in the Bible study time with renewed vigor and fire. Then, I am more glad than ever that Father God did not let me quit during that first year (2013?), when I told the ministry that God could find someone else to do the job.

Our group meets in Facility 2 of the Southwoods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ. We meet every Tuesday at 7:30. Though I’ve never been told the details “point-blank”, it seemed to me that Facility 2 might be the sex offenders and mental health facility. If this is true, it would suit me just fine. In my thought life, well before I reached 56 years of age, I could’ve been classified as a mental breakdown survivor and a sex offender. (The Lord sees every thought and knows and covers all my sins).

Not long after becoming born-again in 1984, doctors diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. They prescribed some stabilizing meds that made me function slightly better than a zombie. I could not pray or read the Bible without falling asleep. Within the next 5 years or so, and 3 different prayer-group attempts to break from the meds, I finally received healing from the bipolar delusions and manic episodes. Hooray! No more zombie drugs…now I’m just moody! As a result, I have a closer connection to people who have struggled with anxiety and issues of the mind/will and emotions.

These guys in F2 are truly my brothers. As I write this, I just got back from our meeting. James, a new man to the group, was there tonight. He is a cancer survivor, having completed an intense chemo regiment.  He spoke to me before the class began today and said He wanted to rededicate his life to the Lord. The Lord led me to let him share a little of his testimony before we got into our Bible lesson. All the guys and I listened very intently as he shared about his early faith, death of his mom, his anger at God, and car crash, turning to alcohol, then his ending up in prison. We laid hands on our new brother and prayed as a group that his cancer is gone and doesn’t come back.

Vince is always there. He could easily teach the class…perhaps better than I! Yet he humbly listens and participates in a way that enhances the experience for all of us. He has a Barnabas type of a spirit of encouragement and I feel blessed to see him each time I go.

Prison is not a pretty place. Do I love to go there? Sometimes I do. Other times, I feel tired. When I feel most tired, is when the most special meetings take place, like tonight. Ultimately, I rejoice to do what Jesus wants because therein is the life of blessing, the life of greatest rewards and the life of no regrets.  In His presence, and with wet eyes, I would tell the Lord I don’t deserve the well-done good and faithful servant greeting, except He already said the weak and the foolish ones are the ones He chooses to do His work!

I’m thankful for that old expression someone told me long ago, “He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called ones.”  Thank you Jesus, I have been blessed to hear your call of Love!

 

Announcements


It’s here!  Softball in the NE  Region is over and that means the winter sports are already underway!  We don’t waste any ministry opportunities!

Contact our office for more information on joining Lady Saints volleyball or Men’s soccer and basketball.  Every talent level is welcome – but a passion for the lost is mandatory!

 

Lady Saints are in season now, Soccer begins in November, and Basketball tips off in January.  preparations are underway so don’t miss this chance to use your talents for the One who gave them to you!

 

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Journey to 30!

Ocotber 21st at Easton Bible Church, Hainesport, NJ, 2-4pm! Come join us to travel through the past 30 years of God's blessing via The Living Timeline!

Totally free so please RSVP at 609-845-3197 or info@saintsprisonministry.org so we have enough snacks and refreshments available for everyone!