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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Unexpected Grace – Andy Duncan

Serving in Prison Ministry is incredibly challenging at times. There are those unexpected moments of anger from an inmate, blatant disregard for the ground rules and sadness at seeing and hearing about so much emotional and physical pain and suffering. There is also great joy in this Ministry as we experience much time in God’s Word preparing for our messages, listening to the encouraging testimonies from men whose lives are being touched by God and, on those rare but joyful occasions, seeing a newly returning citizen attend your church or hear about them getting plugged and doing well in all areas of life.

I recently had an interesting encounter with some inmates that left me concerned about the integrity of our Ministry, yet wanting to remain honest and transparent. The result was not what I expected and I am grateful in so many ways for God’s mercy and kindness in touching all our hearts.

At the beginning of the service, I gently request that there be no sidebar conversations during service. I explain that this is to show courtesy and respect for where they are, why they are there and that the majority of men want to engage God and worship Him. God is the main reason we are there and He is to be respected. I also tell them they may hear something that not only can change their life, but can save their life. I do tell them after one warning it will be necessary to call a CO and have them removed if they fail to obey. We try to extend grace as much as possible so that they see we are different than the environment they are currently in.

On this particular evening, two men continued in a conversation after my opening request. I warned them twice, but to no avail. I went and got a CO to escort them out as is protocol. One of them became very angry, denied he was talking and then told me in somewhat unpleasant terms that he and his buddy were talking about the Word – God’s Word – and that I should have asked them what they were discussing before I had them removed. They missed the point that any conversation, regardless of topic is disruptive. Being trained not to engage in disputes, I did not reply as they were escorted out. I hated to do it, but it needed to be done.

About two minutes later I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see an inmate asking me if I could speak with him in the back of the room. I thought he may have wanted to discuss the removal of the two guys; however, there was a sense of urgency about him. I was blown away by our conversation. This man had led a very troubled life and told me he was struggling to believe in God. However, he felt that something was changing. I shared the Gospel with him and encouraged him to check out our church in Downingtown. He said I would see him on Sunday as he was scheduled for release the next day, which he felt was a miracle.

As I headed back to my seat I became very convicted (guilty) that I had just violated my own rules! Here I was, having a conversation during the message. I had some “splainin’ to do Lucy.” I’m grateful I can chuckle about it now. But it was very unsettling at the time.

The next week as I introduced the service I told the story to the men, many of course, had been there the previous week. I told them I was a hypocrite and could offer no good explanation or excuse. I reiterated the rule about talking and said I don’t know what to say about my conduct.

One of the men raised his hand and said, “You were doing what you came in here to do. Minister to us. It’s all good!” Wow!! Talk about mixed emotions. The main one was gratitude – to God for His grace in the moment, the reminder and encouragement of why we are there. This man truly appreciated our presence and I believe it is an awesome reminder that we do make a difference! It can be so discouraging at times when we have no idea what, if any, fruit we are producing and how often have we been told by a returning citizen that he will see us at our church on Sunday and we never see him again.

I am encouraged and at times tell the men, I hope I never see you in here again. I tell them it would be a huge blessing to see them on the outside plugged in to a good church and thriving, but mostly it is my prayer that more of these guys than I’ll ever realize on this side of Heaven will be standing next to me worshiping God for eternity!

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Wouldn’t It Be Nice? – Vernon Myers

An invitation

Would it not be nice if we could supply Life Recovery Bibles as a resource for the chaplains at Chester County Prison to give to those who are serious about putting their lives in order? We have a wonderful opportunity to provide a life-altering resource which goes to the “heart issue,” offering hope for a better future for the residents and their families.

A Need / Opportunity / Testimony — Rhonda Soland, chaplain

We have been using the Life Recovery Bible for the past three years at Chester County Prison and they remain very popular with men and women alike. The feedback we have received has been tremendous. The LRB uses the easy-to-read, easy-to-understand New Living Translation, which is a big help to the inmates we serve. Since the majority of the incarcerated residents have some history with substance abuse, the recovery theme of the LRB makes it especially ideal to use in the prison setting. Another big plus with this Bible is the excellent study notes that are included on every page, helping the men and women learn to apply the Bible’s Truths to their lives. Here is a sampling of the feedback we have received:

  • “I love this Bible and it’s so much easier to read and understand for me. This is the Bible that got me thru rehab.” – Jolene
  • “The Life Recovery Bible has meant so much to me while being here, and without it, I would be lost. Thank you very much. My cellmate would really like one. I’ve been sharing how wonderful this one is to me and I believe it would help her as well.” – Mary

We would be so grateful if you would help us to keep a supply of these Life Recovery Bibles available to the residents of CCP. We have a 60% off arrangement with Tyndale House, the publishers of the Bible, which means a cost of $128 per case. Our desire is for churches (or individuals) to “sponsor” a case of 16–meaning, a donation to Onesimus of $128.00 would provide a constant supply of Bibles coming into the prison for every month of the year. We hope you will prayerfully consider helping us keep the Word of God available to the men and women of Chester County Prison. Thank you!

An Invitation — Andy Leatherman, member of the Board

We would appreciate if you or your church would be willing to “clip and return” the form below to sponsor a box of Bibles. The first 12 returns will cover the next 12 months going forward. –clip and return to Onesimus Ministries, 145 Bethel Road, Oxford, PA 19363– Count me/us in for a box of Bibles. My/Our donation of $128 is enclosed.

Name_______________________________________________

Contact Info___________________________________________

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Chaplain Jottings – Rhonda Soland

Even though fall is by far my favorite season, with its spectacular colors and cooling temperatures, there is definitely something about spring that brings excitement and a sense of hope. When those first bright flowers begin to appear and the first pale green leaves sprout on the trees, it seems to awaken something in our own souls—the expectation of new life.

Spring is a season of revival, when what was so long dead, or dormant, comes back to life. If winter is the “old man,” then spring is the newborn, bringing with it all the excitement and hope of a brand-new start.

It is very appropriate then, that at this time of year, we are seeing the seeds of hope that have long been planted through the chaplaincy program of Chester County Prison begin to sprout. We are continuing to see a growing spiritual hunger among the residents, men and women.

Practically every day there is another report:

  • One of the residents has given her life to the Lord,
  • A correctional officer asks for prayer,
  • Another asks for a Bible,
  • An inmate who has been incarcerated in CCP 15 times comes sincerely seeking to know God and is ready to turn her life around,
  • Women telling of the peace they feel when they read their Bibles and encouraging others to come to church with them, talking about the positive changes they’ve begun to notice in themselves.
  • So many stories, all speaking of men and women hungry for hope.

As God continues to do His work in the hearts of those at CCP, we want to thank you for coming along side us, supporting our efforts through your faithful prayers and giving. It makes such a difference and we are so grateful. And please, please pray with us that God will have His way in Chester County Prison and that we will see more and more men and women, both residents and staff, coming to the only source of true Hope for their lives. Especially at this time, when there is so much uncertainty and fear in our world, our God stands as a beacon of hope. Pray that more and more will come to see “the light” and turn and place their trust in Him.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming Banquet in the Fall and sharing with you more stories of the faithful work of our God. Thank you again for your prayers and support.

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“There Is Something Going on in this place” – Heinrich Botes

There is something I need to tell you…actually two things:

First, God is at work at Chester County Prison among inmates and staff and, secondly, that you, the reader, play an incredibly important role in the outreach to these 1000 incarcerated souls and those who care for them.

God is working not only among the inmates but also among the staff at Chester County Prison.

One mother of a former inmate recently started making regular monthly financial contributions to the chaplaincy; not only because of what the chaplaincy service meant for her son but because of another reason that totally surprised me.

We spoke about how God is drawing inmates to Himself from different religious persuasions and denominations…including Buddhism, Judaism and (equally miraculously) backsliders from a lukewarm “Christianity”!

As I explained to her that there are “secret’ or “stealth” believers among the staff and that God is also working among the staff, she exclaimed “To be quite honest, that’s actually the reason why I started donating to the chaplaincy…I saw the change in the attitude of the staff and how it contrasted from a few years ago when I had to visit my son at CCP”. She continued and said “The last time I drove out of the prison, I said to myself ‘There is something going on in this place, even among the staff…they are so polite and patient’.

What a great testimony and great encouragement to us who work here every day. “Thank you” for praying, “thank you” for giving money but also “thank you” for encouraging the chaplaincy team here at Chester County Prison. We are honored to represent you in this part of God’s vineyard but also want you to know that you are highly regarded and that without you this work may come to a grinding halt. Pray for us as you are reminded.

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