Friday, January 23, 2015

Doing Time 7: Why wasn't Jesus Doing Time THAT SUNDAY?

This is another installment of Spark's notes of Jesus doing time at the PCJ:
Why wasn't Jesus doing time that Sunday?
     Usually there are 2 guards at every church service.  One watches the inmates as they walk down the hall, and the other watches them while they are in the gym.  One Sunday for some reason there was no guard in the gym when the men walked in.  What we didn't find out until later was that an inmate decided to come to church so that he could hurt another inmate that had squealed on him for a crime that they were both accused of.  We were still shaking hands with the incoming inmates when we heard a commotion coming from a fight between these two.  I tried to separate them by getting between them, and wound up kneeling on top of one of them while he was face down on the cement floor.  I told him to stay down, hoping the other man would stop fighting.  The standing inmate took that opportunity to try to stomp on the head of the inmate I was holding on the floor.  As I grabbed his ankle I looked up into the most hate filled eyes I had ever seen.  The guards were there in seconds, but he did manage to stomp on my hand once and make an awesome bruise.  
                                                            Where were you Jesus?
    I told Rhonda afterwards that when I looked into this inmates face, I knew that this man belonged in a cage like a dangerous animal, and in my opinion there was no hope for him.  The guards told me he would never be allowed in church again, and I didn't need to worry about him ever causing problems.  Uncle Ed and I were worried that this could cause the end of the church services at the PCJ.  We used to have a program there that allowed us to give reading glasses to inmates with poor eyesight until an inmate broke off the handle, wrapped the handle, sharpened the end by scraping it again'st his cell wall, and stabbed somebody with it.  No more reading glasses for anyone! The jail thankfully did not cancel church services and we now pray that God would give us peace during the services.
      About 6 months later one of the guards told me that the inmate who had started the fight wanted to come down to the chaplain's office and talk to me.  I immediately I remembered that look on his face and I did not want to see him.  The guard said he had changed and that I should see him so I agreed. From the moment he stepped in the office door I could see the peace on his face.  He asked me for forgiveness and explained that after the men in his pod got back from church, they would get into the Word and let him be a part of it.  He wanted to talk to me before he went off to prison.  My eyes are leaking as I write this for several reasons.  #1. Amazing LOVE! #2. Amazing GRACE and #3. I accused Jesus of not doing His time! Forgive me.
This is why we feel so strongly about Berean Prison ministry. If our Lord, who loves even the most hardened dangerous criminal in prison, didn't give up on that stony heart, just think how much He loves you and me. Doesn't everyone deserve to learn of this amazing love and amazing grace?
We had a very productive day yesterday.
We had a lot of mail and although there were not a huge group of helpers, the volunteers we had were all good workers and we were able to finish by noon. Below Eva Jean started right to work on opening the piles of mail.
 Emily is entering the studies on the computer while Eva Jean opens the studies. Diane and Rachel are reading letters. Diane R came just a bit later and took Diane H's job on reading letters so Diane could work on labeling the studies with Maddi.
 Aunt Bernie was called for more Bible stamps, she ran them down here then took home another big box of studies for her grand daughter to grade.
 Below Emily, Wesley and Dillon are holding the labels for the Bibles. They got right to work and were almost able to finish. We were 16 Bibles short. Sixteen prisoners are not going to get their much anticipated Bible this week. We are praying the Goodfield and Roanoke young groups will get busy and wrap another thousand Bibles for us soon!
 Below the 2 Dianes are sitting on one side of the table stamping envelopes while Maddi, Eva Jean and Rachel are stuffing envelopes.
Diane and I are leaving the country for the next week so this will be the last post until we get back. Kathy and Dave Obergfel are going to pick up and open the mail and of course read letters but we won't be able to get any mailings out.
Our prayer requests for this week is a big one. We really need to get the Bibles here. That sounds so easy but someone must purchase them, someone must ship them to the Bible distribution warehouse, someone must organize the stuffing and wrapping of them then get them to Meisters. I'm sure glad my name isn't Someone.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Doing Time 6 Uncle Ed at the PCJ Church Services

This is the 6th installment of Spark's notes as a chaplain at the Peoria County Jail:
Uncle Ed at the PCJ church services
    I think his family would say that his desire to be at the Sunday morning services at the jail, topped anything else. Eventually, as his health started failing, he had to have a wheel chair to make it down the long hall leading to gym B.  It meant so much tot he inmates that he would make that effort to worship with them that they would send him cards and want me to tell him that they were praying for him when ever he wasn't there.  He was not able to stand by the exit and shake hands with the inmates after services so many of the inmates would step out of line to go shake his hand.  The guards always looked the other way.  God bless them for that.  The last Sunday he was there, his son Bob brought him in a wheel chair.  He was on high levels of oxygen and could only make it through 2 of the services.  I think all of us knew it would be his last time there.  His son, Ed Jr., recorded his last words for Berean volunteer's, "it's the Lord's work. to Him be the glory. We are just His workers."
Our work day yesterday started with out the usual piles of mail. We only had one tub full and it seemed most of them were request letters instead of studies. That was a good thing, we were a little short of volunteers. Tim Martin was only able to bring a few boxes of unwrapped Bibles down from the warehouse, just enough to get us through that one day. Below Rhoda and Emily were the willing workers stuffing and wrapping the Bibles.
Last week Diane realized we were almost out of the return labels that must go on each of the Bibles and ordered 30,000 of them. 
Thankfully they came just in time as we finished our last sheet so Emily and Rhoda were able to have the Bibles all ready just needing the name and address of who they would be mailed to as soon as the letters were processed. Once the studies were done, it took Emily and I a few hours to process all the letters. We were not able to finish labeling the Bibles before lunch. Below everyone is busy with a job to do either opening mail, reading letters or processing the studies.
Below are a few of the hundreds of letters that came in typed exactly as written:
I George, has send off for a big print Bible, and never recieved it probably becase of the movements I made, could I please get a large print bible, because I'm having trabl with my eye sight, And you'lls prayers, And I will pray for Yore'll your kindness will be appreciated, thanks George and God bless each and every one of you'll (His first Bible was returned so we sent him a second Bible)
Below is a letter from Vincent: 
Mr. Chaplain, Meister,  Hello, and how are you?  I trust and pray you're fine, and well; and that goes for ALL the rest of the family, friends, and congregation.  I just wanted to let you know I received the bible to day, and thank you (ALL) for the blessing of sending it.  I truly do (APPRECIATE) it and will use it diligently with grace, love, and understandings.  Enclosed are the completed, lessons (1 through 4) that I enjoyed doing through the grace of God.  Again; "I thank you ALL Sincerely", and pray you All have a blessed, and Prosperiously, happy new Year, and many more to come.... (GOD Bless YOU ALL) In Jesus name, Vincent
Below is a letter from Douglas
Thank you so much for the Bible and the Bible study lessons.  I'm ready for as many as you send to me, it helps me active a lot more in Gods Word.  You all have made my day & Thank God for you. What a friend I do have in Jesus & you.  Love your Brother in Christ Douglas. Peace I Leave with You! God Bless you & Roll Tide (Alabama Football Ha-Ha)
Below is a letter from Teddy:
Hi my name is Teddy. My friend got a study Bible from yall and I was just praying to God for a way to study about my king.  I would love to be come a precker ar consler and just wont to get closer to God. If posubul could send me a Bible with Big prent I don't got no way to pay but by prayer and asking God to bles you. Thank you and God bleas you.  Sarry for my speeling your friend Teddy.
Below is a letter from Justin:
Hello I just wanted to thank you for the Awesome Bible you sent, I really enjoy it & it's so much easier to read with the large print.  I've enjoyed lessons 1-4 also.  It really helps me break down & understand the verses better.  Another thing I've enjoyed is that not only do you ask for me to fill in the blanks on the verses, but you also ask what it personally means to me & my definition which further makes me breakdown verses & really understand them better.  I would LOVE more questions like them.  I really LOVE challenging myself especially with God's Word.  Not only am I ententally learning something I enjoy, but thats essential to life.  I have a 21 month old son & I want to change my life drastically & be a man of God & raise my son in the Bible to be a man of God as well.  I want to be the BEST possible role model I can be to him.  I don't want him to travel the same road my father & myself traveled, I desperately want to Break the cycle & give him  & my wife the BEST life possible.  She is already a Christian & is taking him to her home church, Thats why I enjoy the question which require me to really read & evaluate each verse so much.  If you have more study questions & lessons like that PLEASE send them as well as the regular lessons.  Sorry that I completed the lessons in pencil * not ink but with my wife raising our son alone I can't afford pens, but with pencils I can always erase my mistakes & start over LOL.  If at all possible if you have any lessons for Fathers & raising their children in the Bible or ANYTHING similar would you send them as well. Also if possible could you send a highlighter so I can highlight my favorite verses.  Thank you so very much for the Bible, Lessons, & anything else that will help me in my learning walk in God's world Sincerely Justin
Below is a letter from Carla:
To Whom it may concern: Recently, I wrote to inquire if your ministry had large print Bibles.  Instead of a letter with an answer, I received a large print Bible! I am very excited and I hope that I express my appreciation in this short note.  Your kindness is noted, and greatly embraced. I have shared your name with others. Again, Thank you so much. Sincerely Carla
We don't advertise our program at all, it is just word of mouth and has now grown to over 32,000 prisoners on the rolls!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Doing Time 5 Monday-Morning-Phone-Call

This is the 5th installment of Spark's Notes on Jesus doing time at the Peoria County Jail written Jan 27th, 2014:
   I'm writing this on a Monday morning half waiting for a phone call I know I won't receive. Uncle Ed passed away about 6 months ago and before that happened I would always get a Monday morning phone call and he would say, "Spark, I need you to come down here and see me sometime today.  Call first and make sure I'm here."  These calls started right after dad died in 2004.  Before that he would call and say, "Spark, do you know where your dad is?  Can you tell him I need to see him.  Have him call first to make sure I'm here." He was almost always there.  Most of the time all he needed to talk about was the blessing we had received during Sunday services.  He was always so excited about what the Holy Spirit had done either through audience participation or the preacher.  I would receive that same call on other days of the week also, and when I would go down to his office it might be about a donation check he had just gotten in the mail for Berean Ministries.  One time it was a large check, another time it was a $50.00 check that came from an elder of our church that was on the west coast.  The one I think he was most excited about was for about $3.00.  It came with a letter from an Illinois correctional facility.  The inmate had found the Lord through the Berean Prison Ministry and wanted to tithe from his pay he received for working in the bakery at the prison.  He was serving an 18 year sentence and is now on work release at the time of this writing.  He has been faithful to God and has tithed for years now.  He writes to us every month and has been nominated for early parole.  I hope he gets it. Uncle Ed had numerous inmate's names in his memory that he would say, "if he was the only one saved, it would still be worth it." I used to think these calls were a pain, but now I miss them. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Doing Time 4 "Hair-on-the-back-of-my-neck"

This is the 4th installment of Spark's notes as a chaplain at the Peoria County Jail:

     I'm not sure how many times in the last 14 years that the hair on the back of my neck has stood up.  It happens every time the Holy Spirit becomes evident in the Sunday morning church service.  Jesus is doing time at the Peoria County Jail and every other jail that has church services.  Why does He care so much for those that nobody else seems to? Another memorable "hair-on-the-back-of-my-neck" story started one Sunday when we had a visiting minister from Indiana. He and his wife were going to sing a duet before he had the services.  Before they came up front, during audience participation, I noticed that one of the male inmates had his jump suit totally unsnapped, even his underwear was visible.  He was lounging back in his chair half out of it and did not look in any mood to be messed with.  I didn't want the minister's wife to have to see this and thought that there was only 2 ways to fix it.  I could call for a guard, or go talk to this inmate myself.  Either option would create a scene.  Suddenly I thought of a third option.  I closed my eyes and told God that this is His church and I would be leaving it up to Him if He wanted this problem taken care of.  Before I opened my eyes, I felt an ice cold breeze stand the hair up on the back of my neck.  There are no windows in gym B and no air conditioning registers behind me so I knew where it was coming from.  I opened my eyes in time to notice that only one other person in the room seemed to notice the breeze. He shivered violently and started snapping up his jump suit.  He even did the top snap (could have put a tie on if he'd had one).  The hair on the back of my neck stayed up even after the breeze quit because I knew that Jesus was doing time!
     Many times the minister's prepared sermon has totally pertained to the subjects brought up during audience participation.
    God's word says that if you search for me with your whole heart I will be found! I believe that there is probably an inmate with that heart condition in every one of our services.  I think that's probably a good enough reason for Jesus to do some time.  It reminds me of the story where He left the 99 sheep to find the lost one.  Amazing Love!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Doing Time 3

This is the third installment of Spark's notes titled Why is Jesus Doing Time?
Since I've been involved with Berean Ministries it's been awesome to get to meet and work with the volunteers.  They have such hearts for Jesus, inmates, and for each other.  (some of our volunteers have wound up marrying) Many of the inmates have been so deprived of someone that cares about them, that the love shown to them from a volunteer is enough to get them into the Word.
The dinner we try to have once a year for the volunteers can't begin to express how valuable they are.  God Bless THEM!
Some of my favorite audience participation's:
   "I said all that to say this."
For quite a while we had an inmate (I'll call him Kenny) that would get up every week during the audience time and tell of an experience in his life.  The story would go on in great detail and about the time that uncle Ed would poke me in the back and tell me that I was going to have to tell Kenny to sit down and leave some time for the preacher, Kenny would say these words, "I said all that to say this." Then he would make sense of it all with a closing sentence.
   Let me give some examples without all the details since I hate to type.  "I live down by the bakery" he said, "it smells so good down there by the bread factory". "I go behind the building to the dumpster every day. Even their dumpster smells good.  When I look in there I can find bread that they have thrown away just because it has some green stuff on it.  I pick off the green stuff and the bread is good. I said all that to say this.  I've got green stuff on me but God is picking it off and there is some good left when He is done with me.
  Another time it was a story about when their truck got stuck in the mud and they tried to pull it out with their huge draft horse.  The horse could not budge the truck and Kenny's dad told him to go get the mule.  Kenny argued with his dad that the mule was much smaller and would have no chance of pulling the truck out, but his dad insisted.  He then proceeded to tell how the mule leaned so far forward when he was pulling that his knees would hit the ground the truck would move a few inches at a time until the truck came loose.  About this time Uncle Ed is poking me and Kenny says "I said all that to say this."  "Till you hit your knees you ain't really trying and nothing is going to get done."
   One Sunday, before Kenny could get his hand up, another inmate was first to volunteer for audience time.  He got up and said that he was 46 years old and didn't know why God had made him.  This was the 6th time he was in the Peoria County Jail. Then he sat down and Kenny raised his hand. I didn't think we had time for one of Kenny's long stories but didn't know what to say. Kenny came up to the podium. Here we go, I thought. Kenny said, "As to why that other man was made.  If you look at the last chapter of Ecclesiastes in the 13th verse it stays, Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." Then Kenny looked up at the ceiling of gym B at the Peoria County Jail and said. "The Holy Spirit just told me to sit down and shut up." and he did.

I wish the hairs on the back of my neck would go down!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Why is Jesus Doing Time?

This is the second installment of Spark's notes on his experience at the Peoria County Jail:
By the year 2004 dad's heart valve was getting worse.  The doctor told him he would have to have an operation. We did not know that the Sunday before the operation would be his last time at the county jail.  We had a singing group there called the Glory Land  Band and the lead singer looked over at dad before their performance and said into the microphone, "you don't recognize me do you Paul?" Dad shook his head and said "no".  The lead singer  then told the inmates that 11 years before this he was an inmate at the Peoria County Jail back in E pod.  His wife had brought his 4 year old daughter to see him and when it was time for them to leave she tried to come through the glass window that separated them.  He said, "I cried like a baby when I got back to the cell and put in a request to see the chaplain." "That's when you led me to the Lord, Paul". "I had to do 6 years in a federal penitentiary, and Jesus was with me the whole time."  He then proceeded to sing a song that he and another inmate had written called the Middle Man.  He had been a middle man for the gangster disciples and the song was about the middle man on the cross and how He had saved him. This lead singer has been a volunteer for Berean Prison Ministries ever since.

Berean Prison Ministries:

After dad and uncle Ed left Faith, Hope, and Love ministries they started Berean Prison Ministries.  AT the time of this writing there are over 200 volunteers working for this organization.  Check out the website by clicking on this link:  Berean Prison Ministry if you are interested. It has even expanded to Russia and Romania.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Chaplain's Experience

Another very cold morning with the promise of a warm up and today the weather man kept his word. It warmed up above freezing for the first time in days. Today make sure you read all the way to the bottom of this post. Spark gave me his notes from his experience since working at the Peoria County Jail. I'm going to be sharing them on this blog each day.
Diane drove Emily and I in to work this morning. We were surprised by how little mail was waiting. Ellen is breaking the news to Diane in the picture below.
 This looked suspiciously like maybe the permit fees hadn't been paid and the post office was holding out mail. Oh well, Ellen is going to find out tomorrow.  There was still plenty to do, Below Emily is reading letters.
 Eva Jean is applying the labels to the envelopes and then the envelopes to the studies
 Maddi folding studies to prepare them for stuffing later.
 Rhoda is busy reading letters
 Dillon is stamping envelopes
 and we had a new volunteer. Diane R came in from Morton to help. 
 Rhonda showed  up with a coat and probably took some of the studies to the jail but she sneaks those out when we aren't looking. She reminds us each time we complain, "we're all on the same team!"
 The printer jammed and thankfully Diane R was able to fix the problem. Are we ever glad she showed up today.
 Below everyone has a job and everyone is working hard.

And now for the first installment of Spark's notes:
When the Peoria county jail opened their new facility on Maxwell road in 1985, my father was asked to be the chaplain for the inmates.  He had been involved with a half way house for released inmates called Faith Hope and Love before that.  He accepted the volunteer position and I would drop him off at the jail in the morning and pick him up for lunch.  I would drop him off again after lunch and then pick him  up for a ride home after work.  He and his brother Ed were also placed in charge of the religious programs at the jail.  I would sometimes hear stories of things that had happened while he was there, on my way home.  They were also put in charge of 3 Sunday AM church services to be held in gym B. In the year 2000 dad had a heart valve acting up that would leave him short of breath and one day he asked me if I would help him with the jail ministry.  It took me about 3 seconds for me to tell him, "nope, I think they are getting what they deserve." He dropped the subject and never said another word about it for about a year.  Then one day he asked me again.  I gave him another NO hoping that he would give up on the idea.  He said,  "Spark, I think you should pray about this." I told him I had no problem with that request.  I was 100% positive that God who knows everything, knew that this was a bad idea.  When I got home that night I got my Bible and told God that if He wanted me to do this His book would have to open to a passage that said we should visit those in  prison.  I opened the Bible and it did.  "let's try again God, I'm sure you didn't mean this." It happened again.  One more time I closed the Book and prayed, or should I say begged God not to open to one of these passages.  I didn't even know that it was in the Bible that many times but it is.  When I told my father what had happened he said he would pick me up for the Sunday morning services at 7:15 am. So much for the only day of the week I could sleep in.
My first Sunday at Peoria County Jail Church Services:
At 8:00 am guards usher in about 50 women inmates into gym B for the first church service.  We shake their hand and welcome them to church. We all stand to sing a song out of the hymnal while Joanne plays the piano. Then we have an opening prayer and after that everyone sits down and it's time for audience participation (becomes my favorite part of the service). Then dad introduces the preacher and after he finishes about a 20 minutes sermon we finish with a song and prayer. After that 2 more services with about 50 men in each service and we leave at about 10:20 am. 
All I really remember about that first Sunday is, while I was looking at the inmates with possibly a little contempt in my mind, the Spirit challenged me with the thought that if they would have had my dad and I had their's we would exchange places.  He's still working on me!


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sweet Harmony

Diane drove today taking Emily, Rhoda and I to the shop for  Berean. Mom drove separately as she brought Molly down with her.
 Molly is so good down at Meisters, not making a peep and just staying right beside mom. Tim Martin had delivered 10 boxes of unwrapped Bibles for a couple different jails and those chaplains were pretty thrilled when we called to say the Bibles were in. We had a wonderful crew of 11 today and worked like a well oiled machine.
 Above Diane is lining mom out while below Philip is getting the second computer up and running, Kathy and Dave are reading the letters, Shirley and Eva Jean are opening mail and Emily is working on the copier.

 Above Rhoda is explaining to Joyce the next step with the study process and below Eva Jean, Kathy, Joyce and Shirley are stuffing and sealing envelopes. Eva Jean is using one of our special likkers. We seem to lose these often and are quick to accuse someone of hiding the likker.

 Dan and Dave are labeling the Bibles to be sent out while Emily is loading them into the boxes. Ellen had Aunt Bernie print out 250 stamps for the Bibles. Each stamp is $3.65 as that what it takes to mail a Bible media mail. Each week we have been running out. They are going to try to get us another 250 by Thursday.

By the time noon rolled around we were ready to haul the studies and Bibles to the post office and quit for the day. AMAZING! This is the first time we have been able to finish by noon in months. Everyone knows their job and works together in sweet harmony.
We had over a hundred letters but I'll just type out 2 shorter ones. The first one exactly as written: 
Friend Thank you! So, much for loving me, When no else does. And caring so much, to keep sending me such God anointed and Blessed, Holy Spirit Teachings. Thank you! Brother Jerry
The second one also as written: 
Greetings Saints, Thanking our Heavenly Father for you and your Bible Study Program.  Taking this time to say Thank you! for helping me to obtain knowledge of his word and ways.  I'm happy to announce that my tenure of incarceration will in a few days will be coming to an end.  Thank God! Nevertheless, my newness in him, his teachings, his way and Knowledge is just beginning. I wish to continue my studies in our study program so blessfully forward all communication to my home address. Thank you! Thank you! God Bless!
I did not want this blog to be a begging letter but want to put this simple plea out. We could really use financial help with the postage and supplies. The Bible study program is exploding. The prison ministry is not a place people usually think to donate. After all didn't those people deserve prison, don't they deserve their punishment? The problem with believing that lie is none of us are blameless. Our choir sang Orphans of God last year and those lyrics start with Who here among has not been broken, who here among us is without guilt or pain?
We may not have committed a crime but we are not sinless. Guess what, Jesus loves them as much as He loves us. He DIED for them too. Shouldn't we do our best to tell them of this great love by giving to any prisoner that asks His Word? What a better place to preach than to a captive audience. 
If you would want to donate anything toward our expenses please feel free to drop a check in the mail made out to Berean Prison Ministry  P.O. Box 761 Peoria, IL 61652 There is also a way to donate on the Berean website through paypal.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Another Busy Thursday just 1 day late

Diane and I had a very nice surprise this morning. Rachel and her 2 boys Logan and Luke along with Karin came in to help at Berean.

We finished up just before 1:00 pm. We ran out of postage for the  Bibles but got out another 6 boxes with probably 4 more that will have to wait until Tuesday. All of the letters and studies were processed. It is getting harder and harder to keep up with this program and if it wasn't for volunteers we would for sure not be able to finish the job each week.
We have been trying to save money on postage by combining more studies when we send out the Bible and sending 4 lessons instead of 3 but it is still overwhelming. We just can't keep up with the costs. We have not had Eva Jean Tuesday and Thursday and after our work day today we really missed her. She use to take all of the envelopes home to stuff but ended up with carpel tunnel syndrome and Tuesday had to have surgery. Well so many mistakes were made and corrected yesterday we realized how very much we depended on her in the past and how we need to get with the program. Below are a couple of the hundreds of letters that came in since Tuesday:
Hello Paul. My name is D----- E------- and I just received the beautiful Bible you sent me.
I was using other Bibles such as NASB NKJV and didn't realize what they were.
Now I have a nice new Bible and I will cherish it and will use it and make notes. My old study Bible is almost worn out.  I'll still use it I guess but I plan on keeping my new Bible and writing thinks in it I want to keep for ever.  
Thank you very much Paul.  I am looking forward to doing the bible studies. I am using this time I'm doing to get to know the Lord and His word. In a way going to prison has been or is a blessing to me because I have accepted Christ as my savior and I am using this time to get to know Him. So my time won't be wasted, I am at peace.
May God bless your ministry keep up the good work and thanks again for the Bible.
 The next letter was short and sweet and written exactly as typed other than the name which we are not allowed to publish:
Merry Christmas, Thank you, for sending my test results. Back to me.  Sorry, I misted some questions. I should get, them, right. I have the Bible, to guide me. Thank you, Sincerly D-------O---

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Overwhelmed Understaffed

Diane and I left at 7:30 am for work, after vacationing last week we were pretty sure we would be buried with mail. The roads weren't plowed yet so the drive in to Peoria was slow but we arrived safely. Ellen had not picked up today's mail but felt with what came in since last Tuesday was more than enough to keep us busy.

 Diane got right to work trying to make copies and of course the copier wouldn't work. She gave up and called Wayne Printing to see if we could get a rush job done but it wasn't to be, they were not able to produce the 9000 copies needed by tomorrow morning. Philip came in to see if he could work on our copier and wouldn't you know it started working and kept working until all 9000 copies were finished. Diane's next job was to start opening mail. We got a unique Christmas card in the mail today all hand drawn and colored.
 When it was opened it had a pop up message. Amazing to think the work that went into this card and the time it took to create.
 Our usual workers couldn't make it in, Eva Jean was scheduled to have surgery this morning and Shirley's roads weren't plowed. We were thankful when Kathy and David arrived to start reading letters.
 Rhoda came in and was able to finish boxes and boxes of Bibles, then loaded them all in Diane's van. Lisa donated 3 of her kids today. We put Shelby to work opening mail while the other 2 stamped 1500 envelopes. We were still opening mail at noon so weren't able to leave for lunch until after 1:00 pm.
 After lunch we worked a couple more hours then decided to quit for the day. Tomorrow mom is going to help me get caught up.
We got some very nice letters in today. Instead of taking a picture and trying to get them clear enough to read I'm just going to type what a couple of the prisoners wrote. The first one:
To my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus
I cannot thank you enough for all your blessings you sent me.   The Bible was a true blessing and the Bible study was great.  I can not wait until you send me another one. I know today I can't live with out God and that I want to serve Him.  Also what child would not want to learn more about his Father?  God is my heavenly Father who sent His son to die for me.  Today I know what love is and who He is and that is God.  I also know that the Father , The Word and the Spirit are one.  But there is so much that I don' t know and now I can only pray you will show me more.   God Bless all of you and thank you for the great gifts that you have gave me.  The word of God is so Awesome
 The second letter was a bit longer and copied as written:
First, thank you for the Bible and Bible study forms.  I am young in my Christianity and appreciate your help.  I am a 31 year old father of four, and now after a decade of drugs and alcohol, the legal system has caught up with me. August 6th, 2014 I was incarcerated at county jail for my 4th DWI and a attempted manufactering of a controlled substance charge. I have to back up to May 24th, 2014 I decided to drive after a long day of drinking in celebration of Memorial Day.  I drove off the highway, ht a guard rail, and rolled my car into a bridge.  I broke my neck in three places, and right foot. Suprizingly I was walking minutes after the wreck. I also survivied luekimia as a boy. My point is, I've finally came to the conclusion, that God is real and has a plan for me.  God has given me chance after chance to life live. The last 10 yrs of my life, have been horriable, Drugs and alcohol, selfishness and really just pure wicked ways.  I've turned my back on my children and everyone who loves me, but since accepting Jesus as  my Savior, God has given me his Grace.  I am getting all my loved one's back in my life.  I couldn't ever imagianing people loving me agian, after what I did to them. Thank you Lord Jesus, and Tank you for helping me grow in my relationship with God. I go home April 1st, 2015, Thank you Lord Jesus, I forgot to mention, I beat the maufactering charge and had the DWI charge lowered to my 3rd instead of 4th offence.  I am now locked up serving a 120 day treatment. I was looking at 21 yrs in prison and the Lord and the State of Missouri is letting me off the hook with roughly a total of 81/2 months being incarcerated. He truely has blessed me. Once again  Thank You Lord and Thank you for your time.