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!