Tag Archives: News

A Mother’s Love


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!

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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!


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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!


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!


All the news, scores, and highlights can be found by Liking our page on Facebook!

Saints Prison Ministry Basketball team is gearing up for 2019 season!  We’ve had the first meeting of the year but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the fun!  The season begins right after the new year but practices are starting now.  Come out and join the most exciting way possible to share the love of Christ – playing a game you love!

But time is fleeting and paperwork has to be done, so contact Jimmy Cochran now at 770-286-2812 for more information

All the news, scores, and highlights can be found by Liking our page on Facebook!

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