Chaplain’s First Jottings – Rhonda Soland

Hello, I am so pleased to be able to introduce myself as the new chaplain for the females at Chester County Prison. I am deeply humbled and amazed at what God has done in bringing me to this position and to this point in my life. It is all Him, and I can take no credit for it. As Psalm 118:23 says: “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in (my) eyes.” I am so grateful to Him.

These first two months as chaplain have gone quickly and I am beginning to settle into the rhythms and responsibilities of the role. I have to thank Chaplain Heinrich Botes for his tireless patience in answering all my many questions and so willingly explaining the workings of the chaplaincy as well as the prison’s policies and procedures. And of course, also thanks to Chaplain Lillian Anthony for sharing with me her wisdom and experience gained from faithfully serving many years as female chaplain; all making for a very smooth transition. I also give thanks to the Onesimus Board who have welcomed me so warmly and made me feel at home among them. I especially want to thank Chaplain Jack Crans for his unflagging support and encouragement that has been such a blessing to me.

In these two months of ministry, I am excited to report there are quite a few women (and I hope a growing number of them) who are diligently seeking the Lord, really desiring to know Him more and grow in their relationship with Him. They are asking for Bibles, Christian reading books, devotional books, Bible study books, as well as 1-on-1s with church volunteers. I am always so blessed and encouraged when they come to our church service with questions about something they’ve read in their Bibles—wanting to know, wanting to grow. It is a thrill to see them begin to believe there is hope for a better life. I pray God will continue to draw them to Himself, more and more each day. It is a privilege and a humbling thing to think He allows me to have some small part in their spiritual growth. I look forward to the great things to come.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support for the chaplaincy and the men and women of Chester County Prison. I hope to meet each one of you and have the opportunity to thank you in person at the Onesimus Banquet coming on April 5.

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Monday Night Fellowship – Vernon Myers

With Jim Kreider’s retirement after forty years of spending Monday evenings at CCP, we wondered who the Lord would bring to carry on the leadership of Monday Night Fellowship. We are grateful God has brought to us Andy Duncan. Andy had served as a volunteer with Jim and the Lord put Andy on Jim’s mind as the one who would carry on the leadership. The Lord has proven himself faithful in meeting the many transition needs we have had this past year.

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From the Treasurer, Spring 2019 – Roy Fite

Greetings Brothers and Sisters! Your prayers for continued support of our Chaplains are so appreciated. We thank God for our Church partners and faithful donors who ensured Peter, Heinrich & Lil were well cared for financially in 2018, as they served the men and women of CCP.

Our Annual Banquet on April 5 will be your first opportunity to welcome Rhonda Soland to our ministry. Rhonda joined Heinrich on our chaplaincy team this January and will be our keynote speaker. Please bless Heinrich and Rhonda with your presence, bringing them much needed encouragement for their pastoral mission at CCP.

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Chaplain Jottings – Heinrich Botes

While some recognize it as the legendary April’s Fool Day, April 1 will forever be the anniversary of my first day as Assistant Chaplain at Chester County Prison. I have been in many ways challenged, stretched during these past 12 months but I am more surprised and thrilled by the opportunity to be a coworker, a witness and an ambassador of the Almighty God, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.

Serving Muslims in distress, loving antagonistic Satanists, sharing death notifications with inmates who erupt with violent and charged emotional reactions (deaths included murdered mothers, newborns), discerning between truth and deception, all form an incomplete list of the issues that came my way during this year one.

Not everything, however, was dramatic, traumatic or borderline dangerous—there’s a fair share of the mundane, repetition to calm the waters of the soul. This includes receiving and distributing hundreds of Bibles and other literature, arranging special religious diet trays, presenting classes, preaching and, what may sound downright boring, talking to many inmates. These sessions reminded me of how broken humanity really is, what horrible things men can do to another, how engrained sin is and how hopeless we are without the saving grace of Jesus Christ, the crucified Lamb of God, the last sacrifice. Pointing to Him as the Only Way, The Truth and The Life is what turns the seemingly mundane into an electrifying encounter between darkness and light.

Please pray for and support chaplains because we are on the frontlines of a spiritual battle that will only reach the surface of society a few short years from now. Losing Peter Roomet and Lillian Anthony in one year was a major blow; but by God’s grace He introduced Rhonda Soland seamlessly into the works and overall, in my humble opinion, with no momentum lost.

Thank you for the love and support expressed in so many different ways during the time of my father’s unexpected illness and death. The Body of Christ is truly amazing and once again proved to me that it is an unrivaled tool/weapon in the Hand of God which can also do amazing miracles during an inmate’s reentry into society. Please be part of such a miracle in your special way where you are.

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From the Chairman – Vernon Myers

Welcome, Friends of Onesimus. Welcome to the Lenten season—a time of walking with Jesus to the cross. In a few weeks we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday when the living Christ brings life out of death, hope out of despair, joy out sadness, forgiveness out of condemnation. Resurrection makes possible new life changes.

Thank God for opportunities to experience life changes. The Apostle Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon is a wonderful picture into the heart of God which makes people who often regard themselves as “useless” to become “useful” in God’s kingdom. The Apostle Paul makes a play on the name of the runaway servant named Onesimus. Read Philemon v.10,11. Paul says to his friend, “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in prison. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful to both you and me.” Read v. 12-16. These are really encouraging verses—the possibility to significant life changes.

Life changes have far reaching implications—life changes which transformed a young man from a life dominated with out-of-control anger issues into a very useful man for his family and our community. It has been 40 years since Doug Burnette asked to “go back to prison” to help others with the same help he received when he had a life change while at Chester County Prison. In November 1978, Onesimus Ministries received permission to provide chaplaincy services at CCP. 40 years later the ministry continues. Peter Roomet and Lil Anthony retired in 2018 and the Lord graciously provided Heinrich Botes and Rhonda Soland to pick up the responsibility.

We have needed to share with chaplain Heinrich the recent death of his father in South Africa. It was such a blessing for friends of Heinrich to contribute to needed funds for him to make the trip to be with his father and mother and sister days before his father’s death.

The Bible says Joseph “found favor” with Pharaoh while in prison in the Exodus story. Trust is an important commodity to have in the working relationship between the prison staff and Onesimus board. We are grateful for the faithfulness of previous chaplains who have earned that trust—Doug Burnette, Keith Brooks, Peter Roomet, Lil Anthony and now Heinrich Botes and Rhonda Soland. It is a privilege for Onesimus Ministries to help provide a positive spiritual atmosphere.

You are encouraged to attend our annual banquet at Mt. Vernon Christian Church on April 5. Our speaker will be Rhonda Soland, the chaplain for the female population. I asked for a paragraph of biographical information from Rhonda, so I will permit her to introduce herself:

I’m Rhonda Soland, the new chaplain for females at Chester County Prison. I have been serving at the prison for four years as a volunteer, and now, as of the beginning of the year, have assumed the position of chaplain. I reside in West Chester with my husband of 23 years and our three children. Our oldest son is in college, our middle son will be graduating from high school this spring, and our daughter is in 10th grade.

We are members of Trinity Assembly of God Church, also in West Chester. I grew up in church, but wandered away from God for many years. It has now been 12 years since I came back to the Lord and He has been so gracious to give me such a desire to know Him and grow in my relationship with Him. He has now brought me to a position where I can serve Him by serving the women of CCP. I am very much looking forward to continuing to minister to the women there and am excited to see how God will work out His purposes. I am so grateful for this opportunity.

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From The Treasurer, Fall 2018 – Roy Fite

We will have to excuse Roy from giving us his report for this issue. Congratulations are in order for Roy Fite and Becky Benedict who were married on October 27, 2018.

So since he and Becky are on their honeymoon, I will offer a brief report. From the last report to the board Roy indicated the faithfulness of God’s people in supporting Onesimus Ministries has been amazing. God supplies the needs we have, and we are full of thanksgiving for His faithfulness.

Thank you for your faithful support.

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Monday Night Fellowship – Jim Kreider

This year on November 19th we will celebrate 40 years of Prison Fellowship’s Chapel Services in Chester County Prison. God has been faithful in providing willing volunteers for the past 40 years to participate in worship with the inmates. We continue to hold two
services each Monday night, presenting the Gospel each Monday night. We are actually with a group of inmates for 75 minutes of worship and fellowship.

At the end of this year I will end my time of serving as a Monday Night volunteer and leader of Prison Fellowship. A current volunteer, Andy Duncan, has agreed to be Leader/Coordinator of the second service on Monday Nights. Dan Turley will continue to lead the first service.

Prison Fellowship has given me the privilege to literally obey Hebrews 13:3a which says we are to “continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” It has been wonderful to share Jesus. I have been deeply blessed.

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My Last Jottings – Lillian Anthony

Dear Friends,
It is hard to believe after 26 years this will be my last Jottings.  This past August I informed the board of my intention to retire at the end of 2018. These past years
have been filled with learning, joy, victories and losses. I will be forever grateful for the people God has used to help me in my journey. The board of Onesimus ministries,
Chaplain Brooks, Chaplain Roomet, Chaplain Jack Crans and Chaplain Botes.

My plans for retirement include helping take care of my dear mother-in-law and providing counseling for two local ministries. I would ask you to pray for my replacement. The board has two ladies in mind and are prayerfully seeking God’s decision.

Lastly, thank you for your continued support and your prayers. You will never know how much your prayers mean to the ministry. Knowing that the saints are charging the throne for our benefit and the ladies and men at CCP, fuels me each day.

Thank you and God bless you all!

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The Honeymoon is Over? – Heinrich Botes

Jeremiah 23: 21 – 24
21“I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied.

22“But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds.

23“Am I a God who is near,” declares the LORD, “And not a God far off?

24“Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the LORD. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD.

“The honeymoon is over” is a phrase used to convey a message that boils down to “Okay, get back to work now, we’ve put up with you being on vacation long enough” and that the period of grace for being “new” is over.

In its most literal context, it also (sadly) reflects so many marriages where the love and the romance of courting and the bliss after the wedding have vanished and all that’s left is the slog and boring routine of keeping a family afloat.

All of these interpretations can be applied to the Chaplaincy at Chester County Prison.  Being the “new” chaplain since April 1, is no longer an excuse or a cover to hide behind. The sheer volume of work and wonderful opportunities generated by 900 plus inmates on a daily basis leave no room for “mistakes” and complacency.

There is a real spiritual war happening for which I request (no, beg) intentional and concerted prayer.  Dealing wisely, lovingly on a daily basis with inmates and staff of whom some may be antagonistic, agnostic, Satanists, Buddhists, Islamic, overly bureaucratic, or
simply religious is very demanding.

By God’s grace, we have seen (verse 22b) many “victories”: souls saved, tearful conversions from sin, idols and other religions, joyful baptisms, relieved faces and voices of inmates, mothers and other loved ones, reports of successful reentry, hundreds of Bibles distributed…the list goes on.

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From The Chairman – Vernon Myers

One of the certainties in life is “things are always changing.” 2018 has been a year of changes for Onesimus. It is gratifying to know that in the “seasons of change” we hold onto a Heavenly Father who “changes not.” His mercy and grace are new every morning.

In our last newsletter we introduced our new chaplain, Heinrich Botes, who takes the place of Peter Roomet. Peter and his wife Theresa retired and are moving to their retirement home in Lewes, Del. Peter served at CCP for 27 years. Peter had a very profound life change at CCP. He benefitted greatly from the Onesimus Ministry while he was an inmate at CCP. After serving his sentence, God called him back to “help others” as he himself had been helped. Heinrich has been a real asset and has picked up Peter’s role well. We thank God for that smooth transition.

Change is coming again. Lil Anthony, who has served as the chaplain to women, has served very well. In her words, “I love my job, and I love my girls.” But changes do come. Due to responsibility for helping to care for an elderly family member Lil has told us she will be retiring at the end of this year. We are sorry to lose her, but the good news is she has someone to recommend as her replacement, someone who has already been involved with the ministry at CCP. Please keep us in prayer as we work through this “change” of a women’s chaplain.

There are more changes coming. Jim and Rozie Kreider have informed us they will be retiring at the end of the year as well. Jim and Rozie have been a significant part of Onesimus Ministries since its inception in 1978. Jim served as treasurer for many years and Rozie as secretary. Jim has been a very faithful member of Monday Night Fellowship, going to CCP virtually every Monday evening for the past 40 years. There were only a few nights when Monday Night Fellowship was cancelled due to bad weather. It is safe to say that Jim has the “worst record” for recidivism — that is “getting released” from prison and then “coming back.” He has “gone into” CCP and been “let out” every Monday night, only to do it all over again the next week. We are so grateful for Jim’s and Rozies’ faithfulness in giving 40 years of leadership to the Monday night ministry.

One thing is certain—the faithfulness of a Heavenly Father who changes not, his compassions they fail not. Reflect again on the text of “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” We sing with confidence:

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”

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