Newsletter February 2018

Newsletter February 2018

The Keys are at the Cross Prison Ministries has an anniversary in March. Maybe I should call it a birthday. It will be sixteen years since we officially began this nonprofit. That is amazing to me. It’s actually been twenty-four years since I began this journey when I joined a few guys from KCBT in a small municipal jail ministry. At that time I was just three or four years removed from my own path of foolishness and destruction. After many years of substance abuse I landed in a treatment facility on April 1st, 1990. (April Fool’s Day appropriately enough.) Soon after completing that friends invited me to a church where I heard expository preaching of the Word of God like I had not previously and God changed my life. Now in 1993 or 1994 I found myself going into a jail with men from my church and spending time with a large group of inmates that I felt a connection with.

Now here we are in 2018 and we have seen God do so much. Me, and the folks that work with me, operate in all levels of the system of incarceration in our city, county and state. Through these years we have literally seen hundreds accept Christ and have had further opportunity to invest in many of their spiritual lives. But honestly I need to ask for your help for us to continue. Our ability to continue as we have been is in jeopardy.

Over the last two years giving to The Keys has dropped fairly dramatically. Will you consider supporting us? Everything we do relies on the support of the Church. Even though many know I am the Chaplain of the large Jackson County Jail, in addition to what we do in prisons, the County does not compensate me whatsoever. My work there is an extension of our prison ministry.  All we do is dependent on God’s supply through His people. I pray you will consider us in your prayers and possibly financial support.

When you walk into any facility that houses men or women in a secured environment it is an entirely different world than we are used to on the street. The rules are different and all who exist there come to understand that and assimilate into a different culture. But also, every level has its own unique culture.  Jail is much different than prison. A minimum security prison is nothing like a maximum security prison.

Sometimes I am surprised by things people say to me, but then realize they do not understand the culture. Jails are often somewhat raucous, at least large ones. There is very limited ability for the inmates to leave their living areas and they are just waiting for their day in court. At the County Jail all types of inmates will be housed awaiting trial. This includes people with DUIs all the way to people charged with multiple murders. I, and the people that help me, just try to make contact with any that are willing and make some initial inroads. People often except Christ, but our ability for long time relationships is limited. I do schedule groups to do Sunday Services here but turn over can be great.

Minimum and Medium Security prisons allow much more access. The inmates are convicted to an amount of time and learn to live within a culture that could be likened to a small town. There may be 1500 to 2500 inmates in these facilities (speaking of the ones near Kansas City) and several hundred Officers. The difference here is much more freedom to move about the camp and be involved in more things than can be available in jail. In the minimum facility that we are in guys may spend five to seven years there.

Max units are much different. Everything is highly controlled. People there are there for a very long time, some will never be released. Some of these folks have been very dangerous people on the street.  However, in these units and the lower level prisons I just mentioned, we have the opportunity to simulate church and some faithfully attend for many years.

Our focus is that the men and women we work with will come to Learn, Love and Live the Word of God. Obviously evangelism is always at the center of everything, but many would be surprised at how many people end up in prison who know Christ.  I always remind our folks that we can disciple through what we teach and preach. Spiritual growth is my focus. I desire to develop evangelists and disciple makers of men that live there.

Last Wednesday I was in a max unit. Some of the forty guys in that group I have known for fifteen years. Many of the others there I have known for five to ten years as well. I am going through the Philosophy of Discipleship with them right now. We have the opportunity here to take time to dig into things. In years past, when I was in this facility more frequently, I have able to take months to go through books like Acts verse by verse or studies like How to Study the Bible. We approach prison ministry as much more than just trying to get as many responses to an “altar call” as possible and counting noses to report back to those that support us.

Because of some unbelievable giving in years past God has allowed us to do some cool things. Over the last couple of years we have shipped 1000 nice Study Bibles divided into 4 prisons. We are about to do 200 more in a 5th facility. However, it seems that will be it. The surplus of funds we had, that allowed us to provide these Bibles, is now greatly diminished. Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, our consistent giving has also dropped significantly in the last two years. Unless God somehow intervenes there will come a time in the not too distant future that we may have to make some dramatic changes in what I do. Please keep us in your prayers.

In His Grip, Gene

Here is a pic of most of our team.