Tag Archives: Inside Story

A Great Celebration!

On June 4th, on the grounds of Easton Bible Church in NJ, a group of almost 100 people came together to celebrate 35 years of God’s blessing on this ministry. The local Saints family enjoyed fantastic weather, tasty food, and catching up with some familiar faces from the past. One of the lasting images from the day was three long-time veterans from our basketball team together, as Bob Newcomb, Kevin Harvey, and Bob Hellyer compared war stories!

We enjoyed hearing Bob chronicle what it has meant to him to see the ministry grow since his initial involvement in 1988. Executive Director Frank Zeidler shared key components of future ministry opportunities, particularly the growth of the Church-Crusade partnerships and the relationship forged with the Geo Group. In between, the Saints family was blessed by Kevin Harvey, Director of South Jersey FCA, sharing how much the Saints Prison Ministry meant to his spiritual walk, along with a challenge from God’s Word.

Praise God for His providence and sustaining work over 35 years – His power reflected in His ministry!


David Berkowitz says, “Hello”

By Frank Zeidler, Jr, Executive Director of the Saints Prison Ministry

David Berkowitz hasn’t been the Son of Sam for many, many years… unfortunately, that is a link to his past that he’ll never be able to shake. However, he is now more accurately called a Child of the King; redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and living a new life in Jesus Christ! Our teams in the NE have met him, spoken with him, and seen him on the yard on multiple occasions in NY state prisons.

Recently, with the help of Keith Rovere, a Saints supporter that has developed a pen-pal relationship with David, I was able to “interview” him about his interaction with the Saints Prison Ministry. Since our teams have used David’s evangelistic tract for years, and many people know the story of his past and his conversion, I tried to submit questions that were not addressed in other places.

Q: David, how long did it take for your conversion to be accepted as more than just another man using “jailhouse religion”?

A: It has taken time. I have been a Christian now for more than 30 years. As time went by, I stayed faithful to Jesus and on course, and eventually many were able to accept the fact that I was serious about my faith. Nevertheless, the world still has its naysayers and that will always be the case. Even our Lord, despite all the miracles He did, was still labeled as a lunatic and a deceiver.

Q: When you moved from Sullivan CF to Shawangunk CF, did you have to re-establish yourself as a man of faith, or had your reputation preceded you?

A: After being at Sullivan for so long, and being a Christian for most of that time, I had established a formidable reputation as a disciple of Jesus. I also met a number of men who I had known at Sullivan. So, I was accepted without difficulty when moving here.

Q: How does the prison population view volunteer groups, in general?

A: As a rule, prisoners like, appreciate, and respect the volunteers. We recognize these people come in to encourage us, for no financial gain to themselves. I have seen how even unsaved men will talk freely with the volunteers. Prisoners are very intuitive and perceptive – they can spot sincerity and genuineness and will react to it.

Concerning the Saints Prison Ministry, my observation after years of interacting with them at Sullivan is that the inmates enjoyed your visits. The Saints were always friendly, kind, encouraging and open as they shared their own personal testimonies, and I am certain this meant a lot to the inmates – I know it did for me.

The Saints Prison Ministry teams and guys have a good reputation with the prisoners. Again, this is because they interact with the men on a personal level and are friendly and accepting. I also believe it is the Holy Spirit working to soften the hearts of the prisoners, so the members of SPM find receptive open hearts when they arrive.

Q: Do you have any specific memories of the Saints Prison Ministry?

A: While the names and faces of individual members of the teams have faded, I specifically remember their welcoming kindness. I interacted with them often and it was always pleasant because, even more than just seeing people from the outside, I clearly knew I was communicating with fellow believers.

Q: Given the opportunity, what suggestions would you make to a volunteer that was interested in doing prison ministry for the first time?

A: Pray and Go! The Lord is with you and there is nothing to fear! Ask the Lord for wisdom when interacting with the men. You should be “wise as serpents but harmless as doves” – meaning, be careful not to be taken advantage of, but show love, respect, and kindness at all times.

Q: In your experience, what aspect of ministry has the greatest impact in reaching people for Jesus Christ?

A: Testimony seems to have the biggest influence. It is probably the best way to open the door for communication. When an inmate hears a volunteer getting personal and sees the sincerity behind it, the volunteer can then discern when to open the Scripture and lay out the plan of salvation. But one cannot do that without open lines of communication. Strike a human bond first and talk with the man, not at him.

There it is – the insight into inmates’ experiences with volunteers – and SPM in particular – from a man that God reached in a very dark place. What a blessing to know that NO ONE is out of reach of the grace and mercy of the Lord!


Meet our newest team members!

Sandra Skurla
Office Manager

 I had been looking for a role with a Christian ministry when my pastor, Rev. Bill Cook, informed me the Saints Prison Ministry had a position open. Having worked for many years as an Administrative Assistant at Central Baptist Church, I knew I would love working where I could serve the Lord and I was familiar with the Saints ministry from their relationship with that church. Coming to the Saints is an answer to prayer for me. I am grateful to serve God with a team that loves the Lord and to be part of a ministry that reaches out to the prisoners is very fulfilling. I have three grown daughters and I’m greeted by a wonderful dog when I come home. I enjoy outdoor activities such as the beach, trail walks, and seeing beautiful sunsets; all of which I can appreciate since I live in an area of NJ that is full of beautiful wildlife. Beholding God’s glory has become my favorite past time!


Yasmeen Fierro
Team Operations Assistant

 My name is Yasmeen Fierros. I came to Easton Bible Church in 2015, where God allowed me to become a new creation in Christ! He put amazing people in my life as a new believer, including Tom and Faith Hogan who became my mentors. Being introduced to SPM through them, as a volunteer in 2017, I was drawn to the purpose and vision that the ministry brings to the inmates. So, when I heard they needed more hands, I was not hesitant; I was ready to be onboard! I am very excited to be on the Saints’ staff as the Team Operations Assistant and can’t wait to see what God has in store for me. I presently live in Lakewood, NJ along with my husband Jesus and my beautiful little girl Laila. I believe in helping others on their journey with Christ, which is why Hebrews 13:3 makes my service with SPM so special: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

So, what have you been up to?

by Frank Zeidler, Executive Director

Silly question, right? You’ve been staying home, being careful, keeping your distance, and trying to figure out how to accessorize a mask. But for us, it isn’t such a silly question. What does an evangelical prison ministry do when the prisons close their collective doors?

The obvious answer is that we do have an incredible outreach that doesn’t require walking through a prison gate. You are well aware of the impact the SPM birthday card ministry, and that has not changed at all. The volunteers involved in signing and sending our birthday cards have had to adapt a little bit to the current circumstances, but they did not let the Covid precautions stop them from getting the cards out as scheduled.

However, given that we recently passed the one-year anniversary of our last in-prison ministry opportunity, the original question is very real; what has the staff of the ministry been doing? As a supporter of the ministry, I think you deserve an answer…even though you didn’t ask the question!

After spending the first six months of Covid-closures trying to salvage some form of 2020 softball season, it became apparent that we were not going to be entering a state or federal prison at all in 2020. Once that was clear, we determined to continue ministering without being able to go in person.

Our NE Lady Saints were the first team to pick up that mantle. They recorded a video that somewhat replicated a typical Lady Saints visit, shot from the perspective of an inmate. As with every visit, it included not only game action but also a Gospel message passionately delivered by Jill from her living room! I also have to give a special shout out to high school student Alex Spositi for using his editing talents to turn our VERY amateur video into something worthy of sending to prisons. And that is exactly what we did – in early 2021 we sent the finished product to 8 different women’s prisons in the NE region. Most we have been to in the past, but a few were added that have never invited our team. Maybe this will be the impetus for them to finally invite our Lady Saints to share the Gospel in their facility!

At the same time, the NJ Soccer team indicated they were not happy with having no ministry opportunities and indicated they wanted to do something for those men they would have seen during their 2020-21. Together we formulated a plan to write to every inmate who filled out a response card during the 2019-20 soccer season – 93 letters, signed by the whole team, sent to the seven prisons in which they ministered their last season. We anxiously anticipate the responses to come pouring in soon!

In March, the NJ basketball team and the men’s softball teams in GA took their turn recording and producing Virtual Visits. In taking this opportunity to the next level, we engaged a professional company to record and produce the NJ basketball event. As part of the agreement, they supplied us with the digital file for future use and 50 DVDs to be mailed to prisons all over DE, NJ, NY, and PA, as well as the prisons from the team’s 2020 crusade.

I am certain that you will agree with me that His sovereignty has been especially evident in the last 12 months, and I believe that God has sustained the Saints Prison Ministry through this pandemic because He has a purpose for us. Maybe there will be ministries that will choose not to go back inside, creating new opportunities for us.

Maybe God plans on opening doors in states we haven’t visited yet, or maybe He has something completely different in mind for us. With that in mind, we used this time to improve the infrastructure of the ministry. Our staff created a page on our website specifically for missionary-athletes (MAs). It is something we have discussed for many years and we finally had the time to invest in making it happen. Once we had a dedicated space for MAs, we focused on updating all of our prison clearance forms and making them “fillable” forms –meaning our almost 200 MAs can complete the forms right on the computer, then just print them out and sign them.

Every organization needs some form of structure and the Saints Prison Ministry is no different. Our protocols and policies had not been reviewed since 2006 so, in conjunction with the Board of Trustees, I took advantage of the extra hours to completely rewrite the SPM Employee Handbook. It was time well spent because we discovered that many HR issues of the 21st century – even in a non-profit, Christian ministry – were not addressed at all in 2006!

There are more housekeeping functions that we addressed as well, but I won’t bore you with those details. As you can see, the staff of the Saints Prison Ministry has kept busy caring for some aspects of the organization that were “back burnered” for a long time. Our organization, specifically Director of Team Operations Jimmy Cochran, maintained the relationships we have developed with prisons all over the country; and in some cases, grew those relationships to transcend individual prisons and reach state level. Most importantly, our teams and Directors sought – and found – ways to share the Gospel when Satan thought he had the upper hand!

God has blessed us far more than most of us anticipated a year ago. Not just sustained us, but blessed us: with sufficient finances, with determined volunteers, with passionate missionary-athletes, and with a resolute staff and Board. The verse I claimed when I entered full-time ministry in 2000 is even more applicable today:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8,9

After what I experienced in the last 12 months, whatever He has for us next is okay with me!

Inside Story – But God…

This is not hyperbole: I never doubted that we would get back to ministering face-to-face inside prisons. Honestly, I could think of no other reason God sustained us for 13 mostly inactive months. However, “My ways are higher than your ways…” was never more evident than now!

To understand this requires a little historical perspective. The last pre-pandemic softball game played in a Saints uniform was on March 7, 2020 at Marion CI in Region 3 of Florida. Region 3 includes 9 men’s prisons: Avon Park, CFRC, DeSoto, Hardee, Lake, Marion, Polk, Sumter, and Zephyrhills. The recently completed Citrus Country 3 crusade was also to Region 3 of Florida. Now watch God work.

In 2020, I notified all 9 men’s prisons of the upcoming crusade. After much planning, we were set to go. But the schedule was changed by two last minute prison cancellations – one due to a Warden change and one due to a lockdown the Friday before we were to leave. We scrambled to fill those holes and the schedule was finalized on Monday, one day before we left on Tuesday! We ministered at 4 of those 9 men’s facilities – Sumter, Zephyrhills, Hardee, and Marion – and saw over 1,500 men in those yards.

Fast forward to March 2021. We found out that Florida is actively courting volunteers, so we leap at the opportunity. Our first contact was with the current Special Events Coordinator, who informs me a) she is new and still trying to understand the process, b) she doesn’t know who we are, and c) there is a problem with the computer system that she must sort out. God bless her, because she could have told me “try again next year” with all of those obstacles. But God put her in place for a reason. She worked with me, offered advice, and finally said “Just submit a proposal and I’ll try to get it approved.”

I submitted Polk CI because they were the first ones to contact me this year, and then added Hardee CI and Avon Park CI due to their proximity to Polk. I heard back a week later – everything we asked for was approved, and the plan was passed down to the three wardens for their response. Each warden replied to the message with a resounding “Yes”! We were shocked – but God wasn’t.

Hardee CI was a repeat from 2020, invited only due to proximity, but would you like to guess which two prisons had canceled at the last minute in 2020? Correct…Polk CI and Avon Park CI.

I could have listed any of the 9 prisons on the 2021 application. It certainly would have made sense to go back to the same 4 prisons from 2020, since we know they enjoyed our visit. But God had other plans and had already primed those prisons that blocked us in 2020 to be the ones to welcome us back. Reflecting on this, I was reminded of Psalm 118, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD had done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”

God had the Citrus Country 3 crusade planned since March of 2020 – and He did so as only He is able!



Inside Story

Sense of Call and Purpose

by Pastor Omar Fisher, Missionary Athlete

This has been a different kind of year with the Saints Prison Ministry considering that we have not been able to enter prisons in the Northeast since March 2020. This is also the year that I was supposed to be completing my internship with the Saints so that I could complete my Master of Art in Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary.

I have been involved with the Saints since 2003 when I joined the basketball team as a missionary athlete. I joined because at 26-years-old, I visited a friend of mine who was incarcerated at FMC-Lexington and on the flight back home to Philadelphia I prayed to the Lord to help me to do something to reach the incarcerated. It hurt my heart seeing grown men treated like first grade students as they were being told to line up and being told not to get too close to the family member who came to visit them. From that point on the Lord used me to minister to inmates and introducing them to freedom in the body of Christ.

I always enjoyed going into the prisons with the men and ministering to the incarcerated. I loved that we did not do it out of any religious obligation or even with the expectation of any monetary reimbursement, but simply because we loved the Lord and had a burden on our heart for the unsaved. The Bible calls us as followers of Jesus to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” in Matthew 28:19. Jesus also said the words, “…I was in prison and you came to me,” in reference to us showing love to our fellow man or woman. Those of us who go into the prison feel led to do so by the Lord.

Having had many wonderful experiences in the prison it was almost a no-brainer when choosing the Saints as my parachurch organization for the internship. This decision was made in the pandemic so the work that I thought I might be doing to prepare me for full-time ministry after I finished my seminary degree, was already not happening. But God blessed us with some creative solutions. I was able to help at a Saints golf fundraiser in New Jersey in September 2020. Men with masks on gathered and golfed and the Saints raised funds. I was able to engage in some engaging letters between myself and several inmates. I was able to see the affect of the Saints visit, birthday cards, and Bible studies on a number of inmates and to respond to their letters with answers to their questions about God, grieve with those who were grieving, encourage the ones who needed encouragement in the Lord, and celebrate with those who were celebrating. I was able to work on the creation of some training videos to teach new missionary athletes about delivering their testimony and the Gospel in the prisons during half-time presentations. I was blessed with an opportunity to minister at a homeless encampment in Philadelphia and I met one man there who I had also ministered to when he was incarcerated. I also was able to send some tracts to a fellow prison minister in Mozambique and he was willing to translate it into their local languages, Chewa and Portuguese, and use it for street ministry and for prison ministry.

I was also able to record three sermons and send it to Chaplain Reitz at the State Correctional Institute at Rockview which he played for the inmates on three different Sundays. He reported back that they were all well received. To all those opportunities I say, “God is good!” We may not have been able to do things the way we normally do them, but we have still been able to fulfill the Great Commission and show the love of the Lord by visiting the inmates in creative ways. We are not called to stop what we are doing just because of a pandemic. Our God is still Lord even during the pandemic and those of us who call ourselves Christians or disciples of Jesus have to use the gifts God has given us in creative ways to continue to do the work of the Lord.

I am reminded of Paul who was incarcerated in Rome but did not stop doing the ministry and in fact wrote a number of epistles and continued to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ, “…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20)

We are in tricky times but that does not stop us for being ambassadors for Jesus Christ. I would encourage you all to continue to do the work of the Lord. Find creative ways to continue the do His will.


We’re hiring!

Saints Prison Ministry is seeking one part-time staff member to join our team in serving the Lord through our work in prisons throughout the US. The candidate will work out of SPM’s Hainesport, NJ office during typical business hours.

For more information, email Frank Zeidler, Executive Director, at [email protected]

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Praise the Lord with us!

For the first time in three years, all seven our Saints Softball teams are active! From now until the end of September we have teams visiting prisons every weekend. Thank the Lord for re-opening doors for us!