April 2020 Newsletter
I hope you and yours are healthy and at peace during the tough times our country, literally our world, is going through right now. I pray God’s hand on your health, finances and just your state of mind until we come through this thing.
A far as our ministry is concerned it has been a unique couple of months. As the virus continued to spread and become more concerning across the country the Missouri Department of Corrections began to take actions a little at a time. At first they stopped non-essential people from coming into the facility and even suspended family visits. As you might imagine, inside a prison is a possible high risk place for any communicable disease. TB for instance is a constant threat and in fact all of us who have clearance to be inside are required to take TB tests annually.
We however have always been considered “unpaid staff” by the DOC. Therefore, for some time we were allowed to continue our services and small groups. As things progressed, I began to worry about our presence there. I truly am not sure which concerned me most, that someone from our team might contract the virus while there or that we might unknowingly introduce it into a facility.
I came to a point where I asked our folks to step back until things got better. This was very hard for many of us, but I thought it was best. Not long after that the DOC did ban folks like us from coming in also. Initially the inmates were still going to be able to meet for their Sunday morning services without a minister from the outside involved. So, I suggested to the Chaplain at one of the facilities that we record messages and send them in to be played for the group on the chapel TV. He agreed and we began to record a couple of messages.
Before we could even get that all set up the DOC banned the inmates from gathering in a large group in the chapel because of virus fears. (Many other of the few privileges they have were also suspended to do the best social distancing as is possible in such an environment.) Well, God being the God he is, it was soon determined that we could go ahead and put video recorded messages on DVD and send them to that one facility. The Chaplain offered to put them on the in-house inmate TV channel twice on Sundays. I immediately recorded one sitting in front of my laptop for Easter and one of our guys, Cornelius, did one for the following Sunday.
Since that time four prisons have asked us to send an ongoing supply of messages. I at least two of those the videos are being shown on the inmate channel for the entire prison population to have the opportunity to watch if they choose, as opposed to only the group that regularly attends chapel. To top that off Graceway Church graciously offered their media team to record us professionally as opposed to us sitting in front of our laptops. AIN’T GOD GOOD!
So far, we have sent off 8 messages and are recording 7 more next Tuesday and Thursday. These are going to three men’s facilities and one woman’s, and I am hopefully expecting one more men’s prison to look to us as well. It has been quite the learning experience for me downloading two new software programs to my computer and learning to convert video files from MP4 to MPEG and then burn them to a DVD in the format that plays in the prison DVD player. I am sure many reading this think there is nothing to that, and there really isn’t, but to this guy it was a frustrating education.
Please pray for what God is doing inside prison walls. Literally hundreds more men and women than we normally work with could possibly see these messages. I ask for prayer to keep this organized and the DVDs going out in time to fill the need. We pray many inmates come to know Jesus through these difficult times.