Pray Without Ceasing – Rick Chiavetta

Prior to the pandemic on any given Monday evening at
7pm, you’d find a group of about twelve volunteers from
different churches and different backgrounds gathered in the
professional visitors waiting room at Chester County Prison.
The purpose was simple, follow God’s command to love
our neighbors as ourselves (Mt 22.39) and, by conducting a
weekly church service for the inmates, remember those in
prison (Hebrews 13.3) .

After a quick greeting, each service begins with a time
of prayer. We ask the men what’s on their hearts – what they
really care about – then spend time lifting up each prayer
request to our Heavenly Father. But requests don’t stop
there, because later that evening, those same requests are
sent out via email to prayer chains across several churches,
to be shared in prayer meetings and small groups throughout
Chester County and beyond.

The pandemic shut down many things, including
volunteerism in the prison, but it can’t stop God’s people
from praying – a discipline highly encouraged throughout
scripture. But what to do during the shutdown when we can’t
meet with the men? Well, we applied the idea of recycling,
reaching back through piles of old prayer lists (just can’t
throw those lists away). In an attempt to keep us all in that
spiritual habit of prayer for those in prison, we kept up the
weekly emails.

Chaplaincy was deemed an essential service, and our
Chaplains continued to show up in the prison week after
week, ministering to the many needs of inmates and staff,
and doing so without volunteer assistance. Once direct
contact with inmates resumes, we will again receive “live”
prayer requests via Chaplains Heinrich and Rhonda. We
are so thankful for our tireless chaplains, and all of our
prayer warriors who lift up the inmates and their heart
cries week after week. Won’t you join us? To receive the
weekly prison prayer request email, just send a note to rick.
chiavetta@gmail.com.

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“Exceedingly, Abundantly More….” Ephesians 3:20 – Rhonda Soland

Sometimes God surprises us with how extravagantly
and abundantly He meets a need. It stops us in our tracks
and leaves us wide-eyed in wonder and amazement. But
why should it surprise us, when we serve a God who can
do the impossible?

We have been using the Life Recovery Bible as the
main Bible at Chester County Prison for the past few
years. At times, it has been a bit of a struggle to keep
them in stock and there have been times, when we did
not have any at all, and we had to generate a “wait list”
for the residents who requested them, with a promise
to send them a Bible once we received more. The
Life Recovery Bible is particularly well-suited for use
in the prison environment, as the majority of inmates
struggle with substance abuse issues. It uses a very easy
to understand translation, and includes notes to help
the reader understand how to apply the Word to their
lives, so it has been very popular among the men and
women. Therefore, the Bibles would fly off our shelves
very quickly and we would have to stretch to meet the
demand.

A few months ago, Prison Fellowship contacted us
with an offer of free Bibles. They were offering up to
220 Bibles for free (in English or Spanish), including
free shipping! And the Bible they were offering? The
Life Recovery Bible! We marveled at God’s provision,
rejoiced, and jumped on the opportunity.

A few weeks later, unexpectedly, I received a call
from the officer at the guard-station at the entrance of
the prison, informing me that a delivery had arrived for
me. I thought there must be some mistake. All the book
deliveries for the chaplain’s office come in through the
mailroom and are either delivered to our offices or we
pick them up from the mailroom. So I was confused. He
told me that a large truck was there with a delivery for
me, and that it was Bibles. Then I remembered. He said
he would send the truck through and I could come out
and meet the driver at the second guardhouse.

By the time I got outside to the guard-station, they
had the driver out of the truck, questioning him, the back
of the truck was open, and officers were in the truck
inspecting the pallet of Bibles. I was completely taken
aback. I had not considered how heavy 220 Bibles would
be or how they would be delivered. I had not informed
anyone from security or administration that a shipment
would be coming. They had no knowledge of it, were
not expecting it, and were very suspicious of a truck
that showed up out of nowhere with a “delivery” that no one knew about. I
wanted to kick myself. I apologized to the driver, who looked very nervous.

The officers did not want to allow the truck to pass through the gate into
the heart of the prison to get to the loading dock. It was after 3:00, and no
trucks were allowed into the prison after 3:00. There were
many phone calls to higher authorities, and back and forth
conversations, questions, and confusion. I offered to take
the Bibles into the prison myself, if the driver would just be
allowed to open the pallet right there. I could use a cart and,
with multiple trips, carry them into the building. The driver
informed me that there were over 800 lbs of Bibles on the
pallet. I was deflated, but still determined to do it.

There were more back and forth calls and conversations
between the officers and administration, as they determined
how to handle the situation. I apologized to the driver again,
feeling helpless and foolish. Finally, the approval came
through to allow the truck into the prison grounds to unload
the pallet at the loading dock.

I thanked the officers and the driver and went back
inside, relieved, but still feeling embarrassed to have been
the cause of such commotion.

Later, it came to my attention that, when the call had
gone through from the officer at the guard-station to the
administration regarding the Bibles, it was at the time of the
afternoon briefing, when all the Majors, Captains, Directors,
and even the Warden are present. They all were made aware
and involved in the discussion of the 800 pounds of Bibles
arriving in the prison. Suddenly, the Word of God was the
topic in their meeting.

It is said, “God moves in mysterious ways.” He blest
us with an abundant supply of Life Recovery Bibles, and
in doing so, He broke into the consciousness of every
high-ranking official in the prison. But why should we be
surprised?

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted
among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm
46:10

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“I was just about to Lose my Faith and Lose Hope” – Heinrich Botes

Reading Inmate Request Forms with messages such as these below inspire us as chaplains to continue being faithful to perform the seemingly mundane and insignificant tasks that a
typical day in prison holds:


“I just want to thank you for your prompt reply and
efforts to answer my request for the recovery Bible,
and extra literature/materials you provided me with.
I was just about to lose my faith and lose hope in
having any success acquiring spiritual material to
read and feed-on. Can’t express enough gratitude
for your service, very much appreciated my friend!!!
THANK YOU!”
— Samuel W (31 years old)


I’ll be leaving soon. It’s been a pleasure to meet you.
Doing Bible study helped me increase my faith and
rely on God more. Thank you for everything. I will
be going up-state (to State Prison for more than 30
years) and will try to stay in touch.”
— Jamane R (33 years old)


“Can you please send me a Bible so I can seek
comfort in His Word and guidance from His Book?”
— Luis O (22 years old)


“Thank you for the Recovery Bible….it truly is what
I needed.”
— Elijah T (25 years old)


I trust you read “between the lines” and sense that these expressions of need and appreciation speak both to you as reader and to the author of this article. Without your active involvement as partner and investor, there would be no chaplains at Chester County Prison and no one to respond to these kinds of messages.
Please pray for us and thank you for your support to keep us here.

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Onesimus Ministry at CCP in the Pandemic Year 2020 — Vernon Myers

What a year 2020 has been! With the pandemic bringing very significant changes
to the manner in which ministry happened at Chester Country Prison, we can look
back in reflection; despite the difficult changes to which everyone associated with
Onesimus Ministries needed to adapt, God has shown Himself faithful—
· No meetings for worship in the chapel.
· No volunteers from the outside to lead in encouragement and worship in the
chapel.
· The chaplains could not invite inmates to the chaplain’s office to respond to
the spiritual, relational, family issues which concern them. They could only respond
with written notes.
· Stress levels were high because no one was sure how best to protect the staff
and inmates.
· Life and ministry at CCP was different last year.
Yet, as you will see in Heinrich’s article, God used even the disrupted times
to continue to speak into the lives of men and women who are open to the lifechanging Good News of redemptive grace.
In the story Chaplain Rhonda tells in her article, God had a very wonderful way
of “showcasing” the wonderful gift Onesimus received from Prison Fellowship
International. I suppose Chaplain Rhonda felt a little embarrassment because she
had not alerted anyone that the “gift of 220 Life Recovery Bibles” would arrive at
CCP after hours.
As the pandemic restrictions are softening and hope increases ministry may be
returning to “normal” in 2021, we look forward to continuing the ministry to which
God has called us. God has showed himself faithful in providing needed financial
support, even though we canceled the 2020 banquet.
What to do in 2021? Will 2021 permit us to resume with our fall banquet? We
are happy to announce, the Lord willing, we will be having our banquet on Friday
evening at 6:30, October 29 at Mt. Vernon Christian Church. Mark the date on your
calendars. More information will follow.
We will continue to pray that ministry will continue to open at CCP so that the
chaplains can resume their personal contacts and that outside volunteers will be
permitted back in the prison for Monday Night Fellowship. Pray to that end.

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Monday Night Fellowship – Dan Turley

(Due to COVID, all family visits and church gathering in the chapel have stopped. Thus, outside volunteers have not been permitted to go inside.)

The Old Testament is filled with weak and insecure people God used for his purposes. Moses comes to mind and his calling is recounted in Exodus chapter 3. Standing before the burning bush on Mount Horeb God gives Moses his marching orders but Moses is not eager to follow them. He uses every excuse he could think of: I am nobody, who shall I say sent me?, they won’t believe me, I am not an eloquent speaker, and finally he gets to what he really wants to say: Send Somebody Else! After all his protestations he finally hears the one word he does not want to hear: GO!

Moses was not a coward. He just understood clearly that he was not capable in himself of doing what God clearly had in mind. He could not see himself getting the results God wanted. He was right, but Exodus records that he did exactly what God sent him to do. That message is for those of us in prison ministry too. We’re not capable of getting the results God wants either. We have to remind ourselves that God does not call men expecting results. He calls expecting effort. We are not responsible for results. That is God’s domain. Our responsibility is simply to GO! He will take care of the rest.

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Virtual Thanksgiving Banquet – Phil Taylor

We always try to live by Paul’s sage advice to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT) However, with Thanksgiving Day imminent, this ministry is especially grateful to all our benefactors. Your generosity has enabled our chaplains to continue to minister to the men and women at Chester County Prison even in the midst of the pandemic that has stopped all religious volunteers at CCP for more than 7 months…and counting.

Our Lord has providentially sustained this ministry even without our primary source of funding – the Onesimus banquet held each year in early April. Rather than putting God to the test by ignoring this shortfall, we do appeal for a year-end gift to offset the usual banquet contributions…a virtual banquet if you will. Not only will your faithfulness enable Heinrich and Rhonda to continue their shepherding of those at CCP, any surplus will help to make their dreams of after-care a reality, i.e. an outreach to help ex-inmates walk closely with the Lord on the outside and to avoid becoming another statistic in the vicious cycle of recidivism.

So, we’d be exceedingly grateful if you would prayerfully consider making a gift in the envelope enclosed with is newsletter. If you’d prefer to give online, kindly use our donation platform at: http://onesimusministries.org/donate/ or use the “Donate” tab found on our homepage where you will find a link to easily and securely give via the Tithe.ly app, or it can be downloaded to your phone, tablet or computer. Merely call, write, or drop an email to giving@onesimusministries. org if you need any assistance in donating or to request prepaid envelopes for giving monthly, quarterly, or even intermittently. Naturally, or more appropriately, supernaturally, any consideration of a legacy or estate gift would be welcomed.

Our chaplains, would also be delighted to speak with any churches who might consider partnering with us in planting God’s “fields.” While we have almost 300 churches in the county that we regularly send this newsletter to, only a handful…less than ten…contribute financially to this ministry to men and women who come to CCP from throughout all of Chester County. So, any and all organizations’ support in funds, resources, or as a welcoming church home to a released inmate would be so beneficial and so very welcome.

On behalf of the chaplains and of the board, we wish a most blessed Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas season to all who have help make such a difference in the lives of so many for so many years.

As a former “resident” of CCP in the late 90s, I can personally attribute the 180 degree turn in my earthly life and the eternal destiny of myself and several of my children, directly to the Good News I heard there, and the nurturing of that faith, directly through this ministry and volunteers during the eight months I spent in Chester County Prison. Words are simply inadequate to express my gratitude to all of you who made all of that possible, but nonetheless, thank you!!!

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Chaplain Jottings – Rhonda Solas

As we move into our 7th month under the Covid-19 related restrictions at Chester County Prison: no church services, no Bible studies or other classes, no gatherings of any kind, and extremely limited inmate contact, written communication has become very important. Our faithful volunteers, who of course, are not allowed entrance for the time being, have been writing letters of encouragement and sending in devotional writings, Bible studies, testimonies, puzzles, and coloring pages, as a way of maintaining connection with the women and continuing to minister to them. Our distribution list of women receiving correspondence from our volunteers represents over half the female population of the prison.

We are also receiving more requests for Bibles, devotional books, study books and books on Christian living, as these are now the main source of spiritual input for the residents. One interesting thing we are finding is that, not being able to speak face to face with us chaplains, the men and women are writing and expressing themselves more freely and fully on their request forms. I would like to include a few examples here.

One young woman wrote recently: “Please could you send me a Bible? And if you have any other reference materials that you can send, that would be great. My cellmate asked me about prayer and the Bible. She said she never went to church and doesn’t know if she has ever been saved. I tried to speak to her about it. If you have anything that could help explain God, prayer, or being saved to a new Christian, that would be awesome. I grew up in church, but I’m not the best with words, tho. Anything you can do would be so appreciated.”

Another woman wrote: “I have been a little down lately. Being locked in the cell 22 hours a day everyday weighs on your mental health. Thank you so much for the devotional book you sent me. It really seems to help. I read it everyday, along with Bible study and daily prayer. God is Great! I wish we had church and Bible study or one-on-ones. Hopefully soon. I pray all is well with you and you’re staying safe out there. I will continue to pray for you and ask if you could continue to pray for me also J. ”

Even in things that might seem to be a lesser concern, the women are reaching out. One woman wrote, “Would you mind praying with me for my dog, Alphie? That he knows I’m not abandoning him & that he’s not being neglected without me. I’m so sad. I miss my dog!”

It seems ironic to me that in this time when many of the women seem more open and willing to hear about spiritual things, we are cut off from them and not able to communicate easily with them. But I know that God is still able to make His grace abound to them, even in the middle of a pandemic.

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God Does Prison Ministry Better Than We Do – Heinrich Botes

It is now widely acknowledged that persecution and restrictions, contrary to human reasoning and expectations, enabled the ‘under-ground” church in oppressed nations to flourish. The Holy Spirit entered homes and hearts in an unprecedented manner to produce fruit…”fruit that will last”…to quote Jesus in John 15:16.

I believe God may be doing something similar at Chester County Prison despite the COVID-related restrictions that changed prison ministry as we knew it. Below are but a few extracts taken from Inmate Request Forms sent to me since March 2020. I quote them verbatim while giving all the honor and glory to God.

“I got shot in the face in December….still have the bullet in my head. ‘God’s trying to tell me something’ is what I told myself but didn’t search for Him. This is the first time and with your help I’m finding Him more every day. In the Lord, Jesus Christ.”

“Thank you for everything…you have opened something up inside of me that was never there before”.

“Thank you for serving God – without people such as yourself being so willing to dedicate your time to our searches for God within these walls, our personal efforts may otherwise be lost or reach a plateau much too soon.”

“I would like to learn how to read the Bible and find something greater than myself. I’m 43 and have been walking through life blind.”

“The correspondence you sent me made such a significant impact on the growing of my faith as well as bringing me to magnificent joy and peace that means so much in adverse times as this for me.”

“I love The Life Recovery Bible that you sent down (to Maximum Security). It now is my favorite version.”

“I received ‘William Carey, Father of Modern Missions’ from you. I devoured it in about 8 hours.”

“I want any type of inspirational books that I can borrow to hopefully help me understand and accept a relationship with Christ Jesus. In my heart I want it so bad, but my mind is in the way”

After reading this would you agree with me that God does prison ministry better than us? Please pray for us and thank you for your support to keep us here.

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Prison Ministry has Changed – Vernon Myers

In the midst of all the COVID-19 turmoil, our family graduated two high
school seniors in 2020. One with a virtual ceremony which was nice, but
not what high school seniors wanted for their senior year. The other senior’s
graduation was postponed from June until late in the summer. For him the
sense of joy of finishing this “life milestone” seemed almost anti-climactic. Our
senior’s comment, “I almost feel like skipping the graduation all together.”

What a year it has been! COVID-19 has profoundly turned everyday
activities upside down! The impact was felt at Chester County Prison as well, as
you will hear in Heinrich and Rhonda’s reports. Trying to prevent the spread of
the virus the prison authorities needed to restrict inmates’ movement throughout
the prison, no family visits, no chapel services, no worship, greatly reduced
contact with staff, including the chaplains Heinrich and Rhonda. Outside church
groups and Monday Night Fellowship are not permitted to conduct services in
the chapel. So life at Chester County Prison is anything but normal.

Despite the necessary changes, Heinrich reports that inmates and staff
have expressed deep appreciation that he was there every day. They expressed
their thanks to see the chaplain adjusting to life brought on by the challenge of
COVID-19. Prison ministry has changed.

Not only changes to life at Chester County Prison, COVID has impacted
those of you who are our loyal supporters. We needed to cancel our annual Spring
fund raising dinner. While we depend on our annual dinner as a wonderful time
of worship and joy, we were not sure how it would impact our financial support
for 2020. God has been good and He has provided through the faithful support
of all of us.

But COVID has caused us to adapt. We are looking for new ways to support
Onesimus Ministry. Please read carefully the article on page three from our
secretary, Phil Taylor, since we are working on an online-giving option from our
website :http://onesimusministries.org/donate/
Great News

P. S. Since we invited churches, families, groups, and individuals to donate
a box of Life Recovery Bibles we have had fifteen boxes (15) of LRB donated
for use at Chester County Prison. How very wonderful these gifts are. We also
ordered two Spanish translations of the Life Recovery Bibles.

Those who have donated Bibles in 2020, are invited to do so again in 2021.
$128 covers a case of 16 Bibles.
Earmark your contributions as 2021 LRB and send to 145 Bethel Road,
Oxford, PA 19363

Thank you.!

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From The Treasurer, Spring 2020 – Scott Duncan

What a privilege it is for me to serve as treasurer of Onesimus Ministries, taking the place of Roy Fite. My name is Scott Duncan and I’m from Oxford, PA. I previously worked in the accounting department at Herr Foods along with Roy Fite. During our time at Herr’s, Roy and I (along with a few others) would have a Bible study during our lunch hour and our group became very close. Roy also mentioned his involvement with Onesimus Ministries and invited me to their annual banquet at Mt. Vernon. Since the first time I attended the banquet, I knew this ministry was a true work of the Lord and I was happy to give what I could towards their efforts. Last year the board of Onesimus asked me if I would be willing to be the treasurer for them after Roy’s home call to be with the Lord. After much prayer and thought I felt the Lord leading me to join Onesimus beginning in 2020 for which I am thankful and privileged. Please pray that I’ll be able to continue the great job that Roy did while he served His Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.

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