Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2019
Prisoners of Hope Ministries, Inc.
Global University Prison Ministry School of Evangelism /Discipleship
From the Editors Desk
We wish each and every one of you the most blessed Christmas you have ever experienced. Our God is an awesome God, and just as we heard in our Church Choir Christmas Concert, He is the God of our Helplessness, the God of our Hope-lessness and the God of our neediness.
I thought it might be interesting to see how Christmas might be celebrated in the prison system. That is our lead story with this newsletter edition! Is there truly a Christmas in prison? Let’s take a look!
From the Heart of an Inmate:.
Christmas in Prison
This description of Christmas in prison is from the heart of an inmate who has been incarcerated in several different Federal Corrections Institutions for approximately 21 years!
Christmas in prison isn’t like Christmas out there in the real world, but at the end of the day, it’s still Christmas. During my 21 years of incarceration, I have witnessed the whole spectrum of what both inmates and staff are willing to do during the holiday season.
Prison life is bleak and even hardcore convicts need a little Christmas spirit. A lot of inmates, and officers, too, couldn’t care
less, but Christmas can be special if the staff and inmates cooperate.
While gifts from other inmates can be viewed with suspicion as attempts to “buy” certain “favors,” a lot of the facilities allow the staff to give out Christmas bags, and that is a big event! It’s a big bag of candy with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey chocolate bars, Honey Buns, and Grandma’s cookies. As soon as the staff gives out the bags and unlocks the doors, it is pandemonium on the tiers as the block turns into the New York Stock Exchange—everyone bartering their items. I’ve seen cigarettes and drugs traded for Christmas bags—everything in prison becomes a currency.
And decorations begin to show up! At my last prison, we had a cardboard Christmas tree, stockings on a cardboard fireplace, and paper stars hanging from the ceiling. My bunkie even rigged up a light to put on the top of the tree that looked like a star shining brightly every night.
Just about every facility allows family visits on Christmas, but the visiting rooms (called the “Dance Floor”) have limited space. But the truth is that not many inmates get family visits! For many, the only time they see their relatives at Christmas is when their family members are locked up, too!
If you do have a family visit at Christmas, you might have to miss the holiday meal—but, that’s cool, because on the Dance Floor you have access to all types of exclusive items in the vending machines you don’t normally have access to. It’s a double bonus. You see your family, and eat good, too.
The Christmas meal is the biggie!! There will be corn, stuffing, pie and that big Cornish Hen—your tray is filled to capacity and you are allowed to feast. But, the big feasting comes afterward as the kitchen workers smuggle everything that isn’t chained down back to the units. Late on Christmas night you can snack on pecan pie, ice cream and more Cornish Hens (if you have enough Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to trade!)
(Christmas decorations, Christmas Dinner, and presents from the staff! But how heartbreaking to realize that it is all viewed through prison bars)
Christmas Cards for Inmates
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who plan to participate in our yearly “Encourage an Inmate with a Christmas Card” project that will take place on December 14th. That is when we gather together at our home office and prepare Christmas cards for approximately 500 inmates in correctional facilities across Arizona.
If you are not available to be there in person, let me know!! We have “Mailing Packets” prepared for you to work on at home. The packets contain cards, return address labels, stamps, and an address list of inmates with instructions on how to address the envelope!
News and Updates:
- A total of 938 bible study textbooks were distributed this past quarter.
- Nine students graduated from the two-year program this quarter and were awarded leather-bound study bibles of their choice
- P.O.H volunteers conducted 44 church services at the Maricopa County Jails this past quarter, and
- 71 inmates received individual personal religious counseling at the County Jails in Phoenix
- We registered 50 new students for the study program over the past two months!
- And this is all possible because of your faithful support, prayers, and encouragement. And because of the faithful volunteers who work shoulder to shoulder with us in providing these services.
A Special Word of Thanks
As many of you know. Jim was involved in a serious auto accident about four weeks ago, and suffered three rib fractures that has put him out of commission as far as work at the County Jail is concerned for at least four weeks.
Two faithful partners in the Jail Ministry portion of Prisoners of Hope have stepped forward to the rescue and have worked diligently in providing counseling and maintaining the multiple church services that Jim is responsible for at the Maricopa County Jails.
A special thank you to David Lover and Oscar Ramirez! You are a special blessing and you are both obedient and faithful servants of the Most High God. (Applause, please!)
I am starting my 11th year in prison. This is my first time and I have been in this level 5 lockdown for the last four. Life in here can get pretty rough. Some days I have my life and wonder if I can go on living as a Christian. I am going through all this and doubting my own faith and then I get this most recent study, John’s Gospel and my instructor sent me Psalm 94:18, “If my foot slips Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up!” I needed this in my life at just this time. Then on page 36 of my study, it reads, “A man who had been sick for 38 years but whose hope for healing was still strong!” God opened my heart and mind. The Holy Spirit showed me that these are the kind of people He is looking for. People of faith! People who have no way of saving themselves physically, mentally, or especially spiritually! There was a time I thought I was certain I would go to hell and wouldn’t make it out of prison alive. I have had my ups and downs but God’s love is ALL that matters. Focus on Christ, keep getting up; hope like that old man who was sick for 38 years! To all my brothers and sisters locked up—keep going, read your bible, pray—especially when you don’t feel like it. Don’t fear! God loves you! Inmate, Eyman Prison
My younger brother, who is in the Army, came to visit me here in prison. It was my first visit ever in the 14 years I have been here. He told me he has a place for me when I get out. He got me a car, clothes and a cell phone. God is with me and I owe everything to Him. Thank you for your time, prayers and dedication to this ministry. It means the world to me. Inmate, Yuma State Prison
I just finished Unit 1 of Kingdom, Power and Glory and it is packed full of info. My understanding of the four gospels just took on a whole new meaning. This study really expanded who and what each author was. Luke wasn’t my favorite gospel, but now I understand he uses more descriptions and shows the details that he wanted to illustrate to his audience. I am just blown away to have the opportunity to learn more about God’s Word. Thank you! Inmate, Eyman State Prison
I received my graduation bible. It far exceeds what I imagined you would send. This is an invaluable asset to my studies. It can be tough and a little depressing to be an indigent inmate, but when I received that bible, it was a reassurance that God shows me His blessing and mercy through people such as you. Your ministry has made a lasting impact on my life that helps me survive this prison environment. Inmate, Eyman Special Mgt Unit
I want to thank you for the beautiful Christmas card! Words can’t express how much it means to receive these cards over the years from all of you at Prisoners of Hope, since I have been incarcerated. Just to be thought of is a jewel and I’m thankful and immensely grateful for all of you. My grandma always told me that “no one doesn’t have to do anything for you but when they do have enough sense to say thank you!”
In regards to this awesome study, Alive in Christ, I was challenged more than ever before. These study lessons are a blessing. I am confident that I will be more equipped to witness and serve according to His will.
Inmate, Florence State Prison
Thank you for your support
We are so very grateful for all of you who have been so faithful to us over the years. Your encouragement is amazing and a blessing.
Please continue to pray for Jim as he recovers from the auto accident. For those we have not been in contact with, forgive us! Things have been a bit overwhelming over the past three weeks. Jim was involved in a one-car accident on one of our major thoroughfares on November 18th. He experienced a blackout while driving that ended with his car wrapped around a utility pole. He suffered three fractured ribs, and I am sure many of you can most likely sympathize with him over the pain he is enduring with just about every move. He spent four days in the hospital while the physicians tried, unsuccessfully, to find the foundational source for his loss of consciousness. He is recovering slowly and is continuing to undergo treatment and testing.
God’s grace and love throughout this experience has been absolutely amazing. We praise Him for His grace and His mercy and for His sheltering wings that watched over Jim during this time.
Jim and Carol Carper
Prisoners of Hope Ministries