Saturday, October 31, 2015

Please Consider Helping

Last night Spark mentioned Berean Prison Ministry is running a deficit of around $40,000.00 this year. The request for Bibles and studies have exploded and is now a bit overwhelming. We are not sure what should or could be done. Money donated to this ministry all goes to buy postage or supplies needed with the exception of one pastor in Romania who is sent a small stipend each month and even that is because one of the volunteers that went to Romania felt so strongly that God was calling him to help, he is donating this. I am not good at asking for money and never wanted to be put in the position of asking but after praying about what should be done feel if no one knows how would they know to help. So I'm asking YOU to please pray about the finances of this ministry and if God leads you to want to donate something the website has an easy way to go about it. Click HERE for the Berean Prison Ministry website. There is a link on this website for donations just look for the brown donate button on the top right hand corner, the one with the 'heart'.
The other request is to please share this with your friends and family and ask them to share this with their friends and families. We will pray that our God who is able to abundantly supply our needs will work in the hearts of men and allow them to be blessed as we are blessed.
With all my heart I thank you in advance.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Willing Workers Do Worthy Work

Tim Martin was sent a text yesterday to order more Bibles. Mark delivered the last pallet on Tuesday and the request that came in on Tuesday were probably at least half the pallet. Diane picked up the mail so I drove the back roads and made it to the Berean office first for once. It didn't take long for the volunteers to start arriving. Diane arrived with a pretty full box of mail, unusual for a Thursday. While the other volunteers worked on opening the mail Janelle was taught how to make certificates so Diane could start on wrapping Bibles.
 Diane R came and started reading letters. She was the only reader today as Rachel was in Indiana. Diane R never complains, she just sits down and starts working.
 Today must have been pink day. Everybody in the room at one point had pink on but Edie. She must not have gotten the memo about matching the chairs. 

 When Chuck arrived and wasn't wearing pink the other volunteers put him at the other table to work on labels.
 Diane, Eva Jean and Vonnie had quite a few of the Bibles wrapped before the rest of us finished with the studies. We joined them to finish up. Many hands really do make light work. Janelle did all the lifting and loading today. Everyone there really appreciates her willingness to donate her time and muscles to this cause. 
 With so many willing workers we were able to quit by noon. Amazing how good the food and fellowship is when we know we are done for the day.
We survived another week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rainy Day Surprise

Even though we woke up to rain, we still needed to get the Bibles delivered to the Berean office. The only truck available is not covered but Mark was sure he could cover the pallet well with a tarp and still bring them. The Horsemeister truck was dropped off at the shop while I drove Mark's van to Berean. I arrived to find quite a surprise. A bunch of the ladies from last week decided to rearrange the office (which I knew about ) but didn't just stop there. Shirley and Eva Jean went one step farther. Just look at what I walked into:
 My reaction was, "They are PINK!" The arrangement gives us more room for volunteers to open the mail and they got a deal on the pink chairs. All the big old clumpy chairs, the ones with arms that take up too much room were stuffed in the scale office and just look at how many more people we can get in this room.
The workers started to arrive and the reaction of each was priceless. David had to grab one to try out:
 Of course the ladies told him, he wasn't allowed to sit there, those chairs were obviously for the ladies only! Marvin knew better and didn't even try, although he did take Eva Jean's old chair when she wasn't looking. Kathy walked in to admire their handiwork and taste.
It didn't take long to fill the table with volunteers all ready to work and work they did. It was nice to have Chuck back after his vacation and Marie back. She couldn't come last week as Megan, Justin and Timothy were all sick. We found out that Timothy had pneumonia.
 Above they are all busy opening the studies for Janella and me to enter and below they are all opening and reading the many letters that came today.
 When Marie had to cancel last week, Janelle was asked to take her place on the computer. Well we found out this girl has many talents, she was given basic instructions and went to town entering the studies. She is so fast we did not allow her to go back to opening the mail.
The only time we let her out of that chair this morning was when Mark arrived with the Bibles. Poor Janelle was asked to unload Bibles in the rain. She is young and has a strong back. Justin jumped right in to help too. These boxes probably weigh half his body weight. 
 By the time the truck was unloaded we were wet and tired. No need to go to one of those expensive work out places. 
 Mark was asked to come see the new room arrangement. What was funny was he had to ask, "what is different?" In his defense he usually doesn't come into this room so really had no idea what to look for. 
Wayne stopped in and then we found out he was the person that put all the chairs together. A big thank you to him too. He was a little embarrassed when we all clapped. 
 Joyce and Jan arrived a little later and had to admire the room. They volunteer at Skylines and can't always make Tuesdays but we are thrilled when they do.
 Lunch was ready, the prayer was said then these 2 slipped back inside this room to keep working while the line went down. It is hard for compulsive (Hodels) people to leave work undone. We love having the Hodel family, they are all such hard workers.
 Vonnie arrived to pick up supplies for Skylines. They are going to be folding the first set of studies to be stuffed in the Bibles. 
We had a good time at lunch. The food is good for the body but the laughter shared at our meal is good for the soul. 
 After lunch we caught mom stealing one of those fancy pink chairs. 
 Janelle has to leave us after lunch as she is in school at Bradley in the afternoons. We are always sorry to see her go.  
Thankfully we finished by 1:00 pm, cleaned up the rooms and took off. A wet, cold but wonderful day!

Friday, October 23, 2015

IN and OUT

We have a lot of things around here that go in and out.  Today Diane and I hauled Bibles to the Berean office and it didn't take long for them to go flying out of the office, stuffed and ready for mailing in Mark's van. See that pile of papers on the table? Those are labels of prisoners who have each requested a Bible. As soon as the volunteers came today their job was to apply labels and haul out to the van. Below Eva Jean has lifted that 32 pound box IN FRONT OF Janelle to dump onto the table for labeling. Sometimes Eva Jean shocks us. Diane, Shirley and I all at the same time exclaimed, "Eva Jean, that is what Janelle is here for!"
 Edie and Roma were put to work in the other room on the mail that came in today. Thankfully we had a light mail day, the 2 of them could easily keep up. These 2 ladies not only opened the mail, they also took each step needed to process it and get the studies ready for grading and the new studies stuffed, stamped and ready to mail. 
 While Diane and I were finishing up on the computer the rest were in folding studies for next week.
Diane and I took the loaded van to the post office with over 500 Bibles to go out. We also UPS'd about 100 Bibles to Chaplains waiting. Kind of scary when over 600 go out in one week. We have just 1 pallet left of Bibles down at Meisters which Mark is going to deliver on Tuesday. If any strong person wants to show up around 9:00 am Tuesday to help unload we would all be so grateful.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Many Hands but Still TOO Much TO DO

Because of being late there were volunteers waiting to get in but once they saw the mail they just about turned around and left. Marvin came today, we were pretty thrilled to see another worker but even more impressive was he reminded us we should probably start with a pray. After that start the day just went amazing. Janelle was asked to step up to the plate (computer) and take Marie's place as she had to stay home with sick boys.
 This was the perfect place for her, between the 2 of us we easily kept up with all the openers. Above Dave, Kathy, Marvin and Shirley are doing the reading while Janelle enters the studies. Below Jan, Joyce, Vonnie, Verina and Eva Jean are opening the mail. Jeanette was working in the other room and mom came a bit later.
 Check out David's reaction below. He opens the letter and starts waving it, all the while exclaiming, "there are 31 names on here all in different hand writing and all wanting Bibles."
 Jeanette showed up just a bit late so we put her to work applying labels in the other room.

 We finally broke for lunch at noon but as you can see in the picture above still had piles of mail to open. Mom came in time to get lunch ready for all of us.
 We enjoyed the nice break but felt pressure to hurry and eat so we could get back to work.
 Marvin opened a letter today that was a first for this program. The man included a request for one of those Bibles that cost $17.99 and asked the prison to release $18.00 of his funds and send it to us for a new Bible. Marvin is holding the check made out to Berean for $18.00. Wow this man really wants a Bible. I think by paying for it himself, he is going to treasure it.
 The Bible letters will be processed tomorrow and sent out on Thursday. Sure hope we have enough. Below we are working on stuffing the new studies for mailing out. We could hardly believe the amount of mail today.
I can't not mention what happened here on Sunday afternoon. The Bible class from the Peoria AC church came, stuffed and wrapped all those Bibles you see in the picture above up against the wall. That wasn't all they did, they also filled boxes for studies. Those same boxes were what we used today. So so thankful for every thing they accomplished. Hopefully someone took pictures and will post them on Facebook or forward them to me.
It is mind boggling to realize how many souls are in jail or prison. Each week this program is growing by leaps and bounds. We had many hands to help today but I can't say "many hands make light work." We all had to work HARD to finish today.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Spark's Notes Doing Time 15

October 11, 2015

    I've been dreading this day because I have to go and speak at a church in Peru Illinois that might be interested in supporting Berean prison ministry.  I was supposed to speak for about an hour at their adult Sunday school class first and then for about 10 minutes to the congregation before the main service.  During the congregational talk I got choked up when I told them how I told my father that I didn't want to help him with the jail ministry because I thought the inmates were getting what they deserved. I also told them how that the first Sunday that I attended the church service at the jail I was wondering who had committed the worst crime in the room and the Holy Spirit showed me that my pride was the worst sin on God's scale.  My shame was so great that tears were running down my face and I was wishing that I was somewhere else.  All of that changed when a man in the back of the church stood up and said "pastor, can I ask you a question?"  I thought he was a member of the congregation so I said " sure".  He said that he had been arrested over 100 times for things that he did not do and wondered if I could explain to him why the police would pick on him.  I told him that it sounds like the police were a lot like me in their judgement.  Then he confessed that his family wanted nothing to do with him and I told him that this church could be his family.  He walked from the back of the church to the podium, handed me a dollar, gave me a hug and then returned to his seat.  It wasn't a very large church congregation (maybe 50 people) but the freewill offering for Berean generated $452.  Many people in the congregation spoke with Carl afterwards.  He was homeless and sleeping outside.  I believe that church will help him as everyone recognized that God had planned the whole service.


So if you know Spark tell him if you have enjoyed his notes and ask him to send more. This is the last one he has sent to be published. He has many many amazing stories of God working in the jails and prisons.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Doing Time 14

Below are Spark's notes from his time as Chaplain at the Peoria County Jail:

Illinois River Correctional Center

     For the last 5 years or so we have been going to the IRCC on the second Friday of every month to do a bible study.  It has been kind of depressing lately since we were not getting much attendance.  Several times no one showed up and most times 4 people would be the average attendance.  This Friday 25 men walked in.  Since the inmates have no way to find out who will be allowed to come to the service I asked them what made them decide to come.  They did not know why they felt like they should be there until one of the inmates said he felt that the Holy Spirit wanted him to be there that night.  Gary had the lesson on peace and one of the inmates said that he and 2 other inmates that also happened to be there had gotten into an argument earlier and he felt that he needed to ask their forgiveness and wanted to know if they could leave all their anger at the "alter".  The next thing I see is that quite a few of the inmates come up to the podium and start praying for peace and forgiveness and the worship service went to a higher level than we have ever seen in this place.  The time flew by and a guard said it was time to leave.  Can't wait for November's time.

Time also for me to update a bit on the Berean activities. On Thursday besides our normal volunteers, in the afternoon we had a sewing club come and wrap Bibles. Below are a few pictures of the morning and afternoon. Marie brought Justin in to help. Below he is unloading. Justin is amazing, he is home schooled but enjoys coming to work here he will do twice his school work on Wednesday so he can spend the day wrapping and loading Bibles for us old folks. We SO much appreciate his willingness. 
 Below Diane is looking up an address on her phone. We don't have internet at the Berean office but thankfully enough people have smart phones that when we need to look up an address or a phone number of a prison we can find it.
 Marie is loading boxes to take home. She takes sets of lessons home and in her spare time will fold and stuff them so we have a supply of ready lessons to send out. We send out 4 lessons at a time each with a postage paid business envelope. That way the prisoner doesn't have to pay any postage.
 Below are the 2 Dianes that work at this office. One is what we call a 'reader' and the other is bossy...I mean a boss.
 Below was a nice thank you note on the bottom of the study.
 Edie was the volunteer that opened this study and had to share it with the rest of us.

Diane brought in lunch today. Not shown were the home baked monster cookies she served both for the morning and the afternoon volunteers. BTW lunch was delicious.
 Some of our morning people stayed to help with the afternoon volunteers.

There were more that stayed but the last pictures taken didn't turn out. A big thank you for all the hard work. Diane has a praise story to tell. Her van was loaded down with 25 boxes of Bibles to be mailed out this sewing club wrapped and labeled. When she was getting ready to head to the post office Melanie asked her, "who is going to help unload all of this?" Diane replied, "each time I go with a big load I start praying asking God for help. So far every time I needed help someone would be there." "one time it was a man who came out to take a smoking break and another time some guys arrived and helped." She didn't know what to expect but she really needed the help, her back was hurting from lifting those 25 boxes that each weigh 32 pounds up on to the table to get them wrapped and stamped, then from there packaged them back in the boxes and carried them out to her van. Well she is praying hard, drives up to the Bartonville post office when who should get out of his truck but Jake Guerst. He was more than happy to unload then said, "I've been meaning on asking how to donate to this program!" 
God is Faithful!

Thursday, October 15, 2015


This is the next installment of Sparks on doing time in the Peoria County Jail:

Update on the church service fight.
     A few weeks ago as the men were walking out of the church services an inmate asked me if I remembered him.  I told him that I didn't and he reminded me that he was the one that had started the fight during church services over 4 years ago.  You could see on his face that he had peace with God so I had to ask what he was doing back in jail.  He told me that after his 4 year prison term he still had to do some time on an old case.  I finally asked him his name and found out that he has been on Rhonda's weekly prayer list for the last 4 years.
This fight was written about on Spark's notes Doing Time 7. You can check that out by clicking below.

If you would like to read his other posts on Doing Time check out these links:
Doing Time 1 click HERE
Doing Time 2 click HERE
Doing Time 3 click HERE
Doing Time 4 click HERE
Doing Time 5 click HERE
Doing Time 6 click HERE
Doing Time 7 click HERE
Doing Time 8 click HERE
Doing Time 9 click HERE
Doing Time 10 click HERE
Now for the record Spark must have skipped Doing Time 11. If you know Spark hound him to send 11 on over.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Spark's Notes Doing Time 12

Below are a few more of Spark's notes on Doing Time:
Doing Time 12: A tale of two brothers,
      Jose and Justin were regulars at the Peoria County Jail. Both had been there numerous times, always for the same offense, drunk and disorderly.  After sobering up, two of the nicest men you could know.  The jail has a policy that relatives can not be together while in custody, so I would only see one of them in the church service.  They were always friendly and well behaved.  Then Justin was arrested for murder and he wanted to talk to me.  He started crying as soon as I was in the room with him.  He told me that he had just stabbed his best friend to death and he couldn't remember why he would do that.  He said "We were at my house drinking and talking about what a waste our lives have been and I remember him telling me that he would be better off dead and that I would be doing him a favor if I killed him."   "When I woke up I had a knife in my hand, he was dead and I had stabbed him 24 times."  He was crying the whole time he was telling me this and wanted to get it off his chest.  While he was in jail, his brother Jose was arrested for the usual, and after he sobered up a bit the jail broke their rule and let the 2 brothers be together for a few minutes, knowing that Justin would be going away for a long time.  Then they released Jose with a notice to appear in court on a certain day.  Jose walked 2 blocks to the tavern, drank till about dark and stepped into the highway.  He was hit by 3 vehicles and killed.  I was called and asked to break the news to Justin.  Many tears later Justin told me that Jose had won a blue ribbon at the age of seven for singing a solo in church.  He asked if we could sing that song in the sunday service in honor of his brother.  I told him we would and we did.  The words seem to fit.

Shepherd of love
you knew I had lost my way.
Shepherd of love
you cared that I'd gone astray.

You sought and found me, placed around me,
strong arms that carried me home.
No foe can harm me, or alarm me,
never again will I roam.

     On October the 6, 2011 Justin was sentenced to 33 years with no chance of parole and must serve 100% of that time.  He will be 75 when he is released.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Donated Stamps

Eva Jean and Shirley had already arrived and were waiting by the time I got to the Berean office with the mail. Eva Jean was put to work opening mail but Shirley was given an errand to run. We were out of bottled water at the Berean office and the water here is not drinkable so Shirley was kind enough to go pick up 4 cases of water for the office. The rest of the volunteers arrived shortly and all went right to work. We had a light load of mail today, just one full box but it was easily enough to keep everyone busy for hours.

 Mark arrived with a pallet of Bibles which he, Justin, Marie, Janelle and I unloaded within minutes. It is such a blessing to work at this office. Mark is able to drive the truck right up to the door and with our human chain the unloading goes quickly. We finished up the studies before noon so had a nice leisurely lunch.
After lunch everyone left except Kathy and Dave who weren't quite done with the letters. These two put in overtime today. 
The Roanoke AC church donated around 3000 stamps this week. A BIG BIG thanks to those who gave. Shirley brought in 800 more jumbo paper clips. It is amazing how quickly we go through these clips. Most of our graders give them back but we have been running out before we can get them back. We had a good day today.