Monday Night Fellowship – Andy Duncan

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost a year since Jim Kreider stepped down as leader of the Monday Night Prison Fellowship service. He has been a faithful and humble servant and there is much to be learned from him. I look forward to seeing him receive his crown!!

We have been so blessed to have a team of men who are devoted to this ministry, have the heart for the inmates, and the ability to effectively communicate the Gospel every week. God has grown our Ministry over this past year and I am humbled and amazed at His faithfulness. We are currently a team of 6 men including: Keith Raport, who also has a ministry in the facility in Chester. He always brings a straightforward Gospel message that is appreciated by the men. Alan Bradford, who has been coming out faithfully with Jim for several years, is our lead prayer warrior. Gabe Mahalik is a gifted speaker who also writes some amazing Christian rap that has great impact on the guys. Max Bentley shares God’s Word with great passion and compassion. And, our newest addition last Spring, Barry Brown, who is a pastor at Evangel Assembly of God Church in Glenolden. Barry is committed to traveling the distance from Delaware County to share God’s Word, which he does with great insight.

God has so blessed us in every sense as we also have our two outstanding chaplains in Heinrich and Rhonda, who continue to provide support, encouragement, and wisdom to guide us. I am looking forward to next year, serving alongside these wonderful folks and experiencing the Lord’s grace and kindness. It is indeed by His grace that we make a difference in the lives of so many!

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Reflections on Roy Fite’s Life – Phil Taylor

In Isaiah 55:8 we’re assured: ‘“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.’ We can easily nod in agreement when things are going our way, but that’s so difficult to accept when tragedy strikes as in the sudden death of our beloved treasurer, Roy Fite, in June. How could a loving God take a dad from his dear daughter, Mattie, who had already endured the loss of her mom in her young life? How could he steal Becky’s husband from her so soon after they were married? You’ll not find any answers here, but having suddenly lost one of my treasured daughters, Devan, 3.5 years ago, there is hope, and there is comfort because of a decision both she and Roy made some years ago…to accept God’s ultimate act of love in sacrificing His Son Jesus on The Cross as their one and only hope for all eternity.

So Roy is not dead…he is merely “asleep,” and Mattie, Becky, and all those who’ve made that same decision will yet see him with the certitude of never again being separated from him forever. At the judgment of rewards, we’ve no doubt that Roy will indeed be surrounded by a “huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith” he lived. Roy never set foot in CCP, yet the men and women he impacted by his faithful service to Onesimus via our chaplains, whose salaries he dutifully paid with the offerings he stewarded from our generous benefactors, might well be among that throng testifying to the impact that Roy’s faithfulness played in the eternal destiny of themselves and their descendants for generations. Or perhaps his legacy will be trumpeted by the accomplishments of Becky, or Mattie, or one of his yet-to-be-born grandchildren in adding to those whose “citizenship is in heaven.”

On May 31st, Roy sent me the balance sheet (for distribution at our bi-monthly meeting to be held at his and Becky’s home four days later) with the note, “Have a great weekend!” The very next day that weekend would be ruined by news of his heart attack and death. To a lost world that would seem to have been the tragic end for Roy. Yet to those whose hope is in Jesus Christ, June 1st will mark the day that Roy overcame this fallen world.

In the words of the beautiful tribute song, “Brother,” written by his brother, Bruce Fite, after Roy’s conversion: “Your new life has just begun One thing’s for sure – the victory’s won.”

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Chaplain Jottings – Rhonda Soland

The time has flown by! It’s been just over 10 months since I took on the mantle of chaplain for the females at Chester County Prison. It has gone by in a whirlwind, but being there has been so satisfying and fulfilling. I am so blessed to see the number of women increasing who regularly come to our church services and Bible studies. More and more of them seem to be coming to hear God’s Word taught and to learn about Him, rather than coming just as an opportunity to get off “the block.” They are reading their Bibles and devotional books, sitting together to study, and helping to build each other up in their faith.

God is on the move in Chester County Prison. Even the woman I meet with each week on Maximum security, after initially being cold and distant towards God, is now responding with interest and is diligently working in her Bible study book. I can see her faith growing, and it’s been so exciting to sit with her and have her ask questions about God or read to me Bible passages that are meaningful or comforting to her.

God in His sovereignty moves when He is ready to move. Please continue to pray for Him to do a mighty work among the men and women of the prison. We are grateful that you share in the work with us. As you pray and give, remember the Lord’s invitation, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37)

The residents of Chester County Prison have had life experiences of addiction, abuse, neglect, rejection, suffering, etc; lives that have left them desperately thirsty for something more, something better. You are enabling us to offer Living Water to the men and women of the prison everyday, and increasing numbers of them are coming and drinking deeply, finding the refreshment, hope, and transformation that only God can provide. Thank you for your faithfulness. We can only guess at the eternal impact we may be having.

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Chaplain Jottings – Heinrich Botes

There are so many reasons to provide a chaplaincy service at Chester County Prison. Every day creates opportunities to share CHRIST as THE ANSWER to all the many and wide-ranging problems that face incarcerated men and women. This may sound overly simplistic, but I have no doubt that meaningful or lasting change will ever occur without a change of heart…a life turned over to the rule of the Jesus Christ.

Tears do flow, but if they are not tears of repentance, then they are merely an expression of frustration because of the consequences and inconveniences that sin and breaking the laws of God and society cause. In the past year we celebrated with those who put their trust in Christ for the first time, or who confessed their luke-warmness and backsliding. We were overjoyed with those who converted to Christianity from other faiths, including a Buddhist and a Jew. Baptizing them in the Name of Christ with water from a foam cup in the chapel creates memories that cannot be erased.

I am especially excited about what God is doing in the Maximum Security Section where I present Behold Your God every Monday morning. This is a new slot on the Chaplaincy Schedule which was allowed by the Prison. These men meet every night like a small congregation, pray and prepare their lessons whilst occasionally sharing communion on Sundays. While this may be waved-off as “jailhouse religion,” I believe we have no other option but to support them and to leave the results/fruit to the Lord of the Harvest.

Rhonda and I have been placed in the front-row seats by you (our supporters) to see how God Himself saves and comforts those who are broken, those who are lost. It is a team-effort and like Paul says in I Cor. 3, I realize that some plow, some sow, some water, and some reap. Thank you and may God bless every tear, every prayer, and every dollar!

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In Honor of Roy Fite – Vernon Myers

As we look toward the end of 2019, we are thankful to the Lord for all the friends of Onesimus Ministries. We are so grateful for your support of the ongoing chaplaincy ministry happening at Chester County Prison for the past 41 years. We are encouraged by the favor Onesimus has earned from the CCP administration, giving us permission to provide two chaplains as part of the spiritual ministry available to the residents at CCP.

It has been a good year with the encouraging work of Chaplains Heinrich and Rhonda who continue to build on the solid foundation from those who have gone before, most recently by Peter Roomet and Lil Anthony.

But 2019 hasn’t been without its pain. The unexpected and sudden death of Roy Fite, our treasurer, on June 1 was a blow. His financial expertise was invaluable, not only for his job at Herr Foods Inc., but also for the Board of Onesimus Ministries. His loss is keenly felt among us as we continue to make adjustments while finding our way to fill his shoes.

As we pray and look for a new treasurer, the Oxford CPA firm, Woolard Krajnik Masciangelo, has been hired to do the bookkeeping. We are grateful for their services.

Whereas Roy’s sudden passing was hard for Onesimus Ministries, the loss was far greater for his wife, Becky, of seven months and his young daughter, Mattie. It seemed far too early to “give up” their young marriage and family life that had “just begun.” The pain is deep.

As a testimony to the grace of God, we honor the man of God Roy had become. He was not always sympathetic to the grace of God. When Roy’s younger brother, Bruce, found faith in Jesus through the Young Life ministry, he excitedly went to his family’s business to talk to him about his faith in Jesus. Bruce’s encounter with Roy did not go well that day. He let Bruce know, in no uncertain terms, he did not want anything to do with his Jesus.

As Bruce tells the story, he “backed out” of Roy’s office that day, while praying inside, leaving his brother in the hands of the Holy Spirit. For the next ten years, Bruce interceded for his brother. Ten years to the day he revisited Roy in the same office. Something had happened! To his amazement Roy was talking about Jesus as the answer to life’s difficulties.

Roy had found a Bible and, knowing his brother as he did, Bruce surmises that Roy read the Bible cover to cover numerous times. Somewhere along the way the Holy Spirit sparked a heart change in Roy. He declared his faith in the forgiving grace of God in the person of Jesus.

Roy and Mattie joined his brother and family in worship at Andrews Bridge Christian Fellowship. Those were wonderful years of Christian fellowship as he grew in God’s forgiving grace.

During the years of waiting and praying for Roy, Bruce wrote a song he hoped to sing for his brother when the time was right. Little did he know, the “right time” would be at his brother’s funeral. Following are the lyrics:

Brother where have you been
I’ve been waiting here for you
Brother we meet here again
Now you’re a wounded healer, too.

It’s okay to be afraid
I know it seems so hard
This is why you have been made
But even a river needs a place to start.
For so long your beat was your own
The soil of your heart so bare
Little known the seed was sown
And now the fountain overflowing you share.

You’ll never know the battles you’ll see
With our common new friend true brothers we’ll be
Your new life has just begun
One thing’s for sure—the victory’s won.

2nd Chorus:
Brother wherever you go
I’ll be walking here with you
Brother let your light show
Walking free in the Truth.

We honor the life of Roy Fite and his contribution to all of us. We face life’s difficult challenges as the Old Testament man of God, Job, did. From the Book of Job 1:20-22

I. In the face of deep loss—Embrace the truth God is still Sovereign. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart.”
God has the first word and He will have the last word of life. We cannot change the formula.

II. In the face of deep loss—Embrace the truth of God’s Provision. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”
Their marriage was far too short, but we are grateful Roy and Becky had each other and Mattie had both.

III. In the face of deep loss—Embrace the truth of God’s worthiness of worship. “May the Name of the Lord be praised.”
We are the most open to Jesus’ healing grace in our moments of worship—pulling Jesus into our deepest wound.

Thank you again, Roy, for all you did to bless Onesimus Ministries!

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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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