Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Peggy's Sharing

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners. Hebrews 13:3

A few of us go to the Quezon City jail every Thursday at 3:00 in the afternoon. How did I ever get myself into this situation? I feel I am the most unlikely person to serve there. Not only am I female(it is an all male prison),I can hardly talk in straight Filipino (the product of parents who came from different provinces and had different dialects, and therefore ending up speaking English).

It started when the son of one of our friends was sent to jail on drug charges. And then, in August, as part of our prayer community's activities, we started a time of reflection. The theme for the first week was "An Open Door! Walk through it! The following week's reflections were also so meaningful to me. And so, when an opportunity of a time slot for religious instruction in the jail was offered to us, how could I refuse that open door!? The fact that I was allowed to miss an afternoon's work every week to go there was enough of a sign for me.

On the first meeting, after someone gave a teaching, I just sat together with my husband when he led the small group sharing. Eventually, in the weeks ahead and with so few of us going regularly, I had to handle a group myself. At first, it felt so weird for me to lead a group of inmates in the small group discussions. Since I do not speak Filipino very well, I sometimes, even now, have to ask them in Filipino, "What is'______' in Filipino?" hoping one of them can translate for me.

But God can use even the most unlikely person,and the more I go to the jail, the more I grow in love and compassion for the inmates. So now, I am comfortable to sit among a small group of inmates. Many of them are very young, young enough to be my sons. Many of them are innocent and waiting for their hearings, waiting in such distressing surroundings. The Quezon City Jail is unlike the prisons in the movies, with jail cells with bars and individual beds for each inmate. Since the jail is extremely overcrowded, many of them have no space to sleep, even sleeping one person to each stair step.

But,inspite of this, in the midst of the many men who are there, I have seen men wanting to accept Jesus and asking me how; I have seen teary eyed inmates listening to me share, and men who are just so glad to have someone - anyone, visit them there. I have heard them share how light and happy they felt after forgiving those who caused them to be in jail unjustly.

Indeed, it is a joy to see God working through this ministry and to visit Jesus in (what Mother Teresa calls) His distressing disguise. "I was in prison and you came to visit me." Matthew 25:36

Saturday, November 21, 2009

God is alive in the QC Jail!

This was taken from Meldy's blog and written in June 2009:
We were pleasantly surprised at how vibrant and alive the prayer meeting was in the QC jail! They have their own music ministry complete with drums, guitar and trumpet. They sang so loud and straight from their heart I cried! Bro.Boy who leads the prayer mtg. puts me to shame with all the bible verses he has memorized...in pilipino pa! We had a video showing of Joel Osteen from his weekly podcast titled " Living Breakthrough Minded". Going there made me realize why God wants to bless them - not only spiritually but also materially. He wants to show them that He will answer their prayers for provision! I feel so privileged that God can use me to bless them....all of us to bless them!

We brought with us donations of 120 bibles, merienda and the 1st batch of polo shirts
and pants. They still need more polo shirts and pants. Most of their waist sizes are 28" to 32"- they're very thin but anything will do. They are not picky. They even wear the girl's petron uniform! They were sitting on the 52 chairs we brought- also from donations! Two of them got prizes for memorizing Ps23. I would have wanted to take more pictures but it's actually not allowed. Patsy just sneaked this one.

Thanks so much to all those who rummaged through their closets! To all the rest PURGE NOW! and make an inmate happy. Remember, what you do for the least of your brethren you do unto HIM! God bless!

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 12, 2009 Update

Let me share my exhilaration and amazement at what God is doing in our prison ministry so you will be reminded to keep praying for it (like a missile, Ric Warren said, prayer will find its target unerringly!)

Usually Peggy and I just sit on the sidelines praying while any one of the brothers give a talk or sharing (Luigi, Charlie, Lito, Ben Salvedia, Ben Galang, Ian Belmonte, Dennis Castillo, Stephen Rebueno, Joe Dean Sola, Jojo Villegas, brothers from Familia, etc.) But yesterday there was no doubt about it, God wanted me to share! Before the meeting, we prayed a prayer of protection, then Charlie, who has been taking the lead in this ministry, said he was going to talk about God loving the prisoners. I said Oh no! that’s what the Lord has been prompting me to share! So of course I had to share and amazingly, the butterflies and other pains in my tummy disappeared while I was in front sharing in my awkward Pilipino about how God loves them so much and wants to give them so much and share His life with them.

During the groupings, I usually don’t have to lead a men’s group when Familia brothers and sisters arrive, but yesterday, we were so few that I had to handle a group. Jopet said he’d join me and he noticed how I was having a hard time understanding what the inmates were saying that he practically took over! I was thanking God at his transformation when he led the prayer, and shared. He talked to the inmates about how his case was hopeless in the eyes of the world because it was the president who put him behind bars. “Huwag kayong mawalan ng pag-asa,” he encouraged them, “tignan niyo ko. Gawa lang tayo ng mabuti dito at kapag lumabas tayo, mag-iba na tayo ng buhay!” You know I was listening intently to what he was saying, and all the others in our group were also listening. I was thinking that it was so obvious God is planning something wonderful for this young boy. Let’s pray that he will open his heart more to receive all God wants to teach him. He’s already opened his heart and mind to giving what he can, where he is, with what he has.

Here’s an opportunity to be blessed- the LNP group were tasked to sponsor a mass on Thursday, December 17, 4pm, and to give out 250 gifts and merienda for the prisoners after. We’re looking to give each inmate a pail with cover with stuff inside. The pail is so that they have a place to put their things. The inmates have to use the big paint pails for lockers because there are no cabinets for a majority of the inmates. We want to put soap, shampoo, toothpaste, face towel, sardines, etc. inside. So if anyone has connections to companies who would be able to donate ,we would appreciate if you give us where to write or if you could facilitate yourself, that would be most appreciated! Of course any donation, no matter how small is appreciated. Pls bring to any papemelroti branch (no money pls) and label for prison ministry.

Thank you for all the support, especially to those who have given talks, provided for merienda, thank you to Timmy Tan who sent Ian to support us every week! Thank you a million times for the prayers because every week God sends His angels to protect us, sends His Spirit to guide our meetings, sends brothers and sisters to minister to the inmates He loves very much. Let us keep the people He loves in our hearts and minds, let us make His passion, our as well!

Pls contact me if you have comments, suggestions, whatever- :^)

July 11, 2009 Update

Jopet, the son of a friend of mine has been in prison for 6 months now. Blame it on a skewed justice system. He's just 23 years old and we've been visiting the prison, bringing bibles, chairs for their chapel, food for the meetings, and now we're collecting shirts and pants for the prisoners to wear when they have hearings.

It's so inspiring to talk to this young man because he proves Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. It's a terrible thing for him to have to stay in jail with all the other prisoners. We know all the horror stories. But after talking to him, I could see God's hand.

He admitted that if God hadn't allowed him to go to jail, his life may have gone on a downward spiral. But now, I see that he's grown in the Lord, his heart has expanded, and he's recognized his gifts. He is developing his drawing and painting, something he didn't use to do. He didn't use to read, now he's read 30 books. He didn't use to write, now he has a journal. When before he was concerned with acquiring the best cellphone, he now appreciates simple joys. He also cares about the other inmates. He makes really tasty sandwiches, cuts them up, and serves his fellow inmates. He esp. tries to show care to those without visitors, because these men sometimes get crazy!

Hebrews 13:3
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners,

He'll be turning 24 soon, and I'm collecting encouraging messages to bring to the jail on his birthday. Won't you say a prayer for him please?

Ways Prison Ministry Promotes Church Growth


This is from an article about Prison Ministries.

"I never shared my faith with anyone until I got involved in prison ministry." "Prison work taught me the true meaning of forgiveness, repentance, and restoration." "My prayer life has a new lease on life due to jail ministry."

These comments from recent prison (or jail) ministry volunteers capture some of the joy and spiritual excitement of this strategically important church ministry. The growth of the local church is built on the personal spiritual growth of its members. Prison ministry offers unique, vital opportunities for personal spiritual growth because volunteers get personally involved, even immersed, in the gospel basics: witnessing, Bible teaching, counseling, worship, and encouragement. And when church members catch fire for the Lord, it won’t be long before the church grows.

Let’s explore ten core impacts prison ministry can have on the local church and its members:

1. Prison ministry is America’s largest spiritual harvest field. There are more than a million inmates, many of whom are genuinely seeking change, stability, and love in their lives. Many inmates acknowledge that coming to prison was "the best thing that ever happened to me" because they encountered Christ.

2. Prison ministry does wonders for revitalizing the spiritual lives of volunteers (and subsequently their churches). There’s nothing like sharing the gospel to open ears, teaching the Word to thirsty minds, and praying for people with broken hearts to "rev up" one’s spiritual life and commitment. And the newfound spiritual enthusiasm of a prison volunteer is infectious, quickly spreading throughout his or her Sunday school class and friendship network.

3. Prison ministry breathes new life into church evangelism and outreach programs. Unfortunately many evangelism and visitation programs are either stillborn or impotent because charged up church members experience so few genuine opportunities to share their faith and see God reap the harvest. Doors are shut in their face, invitations rejected, and the same prospect cards endlessly recycled. In prison ministry, by contrast, spiritually hungry inmates come to the Christian volunteer, often in bountiful numbers--and all under the careful supervision and organization of the chaplain’s office!

4. Prison work can be a real shot in the arm to the Sunday school ministry. Class members can pray for inmates on a personal level, participate in "pen pal" correspondence with recently converted inmates, and pray for and encourage those who actually represent the class "behind the walls." Inmates are invariably deeply moved to know that a whole class is regularly praying for them. (This is the first time many inmates have ever experienced genuine love from anyone.) Some Sunday school classes even "adopt" an inmate’s family in their local area, opening up the vital new arena of compassion ministry.

5. Prison ministry enhances worship. Many prison volunteers receive a renewed vision for worship while attending church services behind the walls. When repentant Christians of all color meet together to express their love for Christ and joy in being spiritual brothers and sisters, things happen. Prison worship is never characterized by stale routine or manufactured emotion--inmates definitely see themselves as God’s chosen people, not God’s frozen people!

6. Prison ministry enhances the church training effort by preparing volunteers to minister to the unique needs of incarcerated Christians. What they learn about sharing their faith, counseling Bible study, and follow-up is equally applicable in "free world" ministry. Knowing they will actually utilize these skills upon entering prison makes volunteers attentive, serious learners. The necessary training can be supplied by a prison chaplain, a veteran volunteer, or a prison ministry such as Prison Fellowship or Bill Glass Ministries.

7. Prison ministry gets church members off the pews and outside church walls. Christians of all backgrounds, education levels, and varieties of spiritual gifts participate in prison/jail ministry. Men and women, young and old, new Christian and "senior saint" all have a place chosen by God to serve. And prison work is never very far away: city and county jails, juvenile detention centers, state and federal prisons, and "halfway houses."

8. Prison ministry teaches deep spiritual lessons, such as how to forgive, how to restore, and how to really pray (reminding that God does all the work in prison ministry). It also teaches very practical lessons about listening, patience, cross-cultural communication, and theological diversity among Christians.

9. Prison ministry promotes cooperation and goodwill among diverse Christians from different denominations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and theological points of view. Paul’s admonition to keep our eyes upon Christ was never more true than in prison ministry.

10. Prison ministry produces new church members and ministry volunteers. Contrary to the worry of some myopic pastors that prison ministry will "steal away" their volunteers, Christians who become active in the spiritual basics of witnessing, spiritual teaching/counseling, and prayer gain a renewed desire to serve their local churches. Many times it is the pastor or staff member who is most revived by contact or personal involvement with prison ministry. Just listen to the testimony of pastors and lay people actively engaged in prison work—there’s always an unmistakable spark of joy and enthusiasm when they share their experiences before the local church.

Above all else, prison ministry is a shower of blessings for all those involved. You can experience the wonder and joy of leading people to Christ and seeing them start their lives over in ways productive to society and pleasing to God. You see prayers answered in timely and miraculous ways, strengthening your personal prayer life. You experience complete dependence on God for ministry success after realizing that nothing lasting happens in prison through purely human effort and striving. You come to understand deep down inside the awful nature and consequences of sin and the unique role of Christ in creating new creatures. Prison ministry shows us why indeed we’re all brothers and sisters united in Christ.

September 16, 2009 Roy's sharing

Dear Everyone,

I just wanted to add to Patsy's sharing.

In my small group discussion, it was clear that what the prisoners needed was a reassurance that somebody still cared for them, no matter what crimes they may have committed (actually, the prisoners have not yet been convicted and their cases are still being heard, many of them delayed for several years already, probably because they did not have the means or the
influence to speed up their trials).

I think a lot of them are attending these prayer meetings because they feel that only God can forgive them for what they have done, and that only God can provide them the salvation they are looking for. Indeed, it will be difficult for them to receive forgiveness and understanding from their victims or from their own friends and relatives who may have already given
up on them.

So those who volunteer for the prison ministry and spend time with them give a human face to the God they are praying to, that the God they are yearning for to show them mercy and understanding is actually answering their prayers through the volunteers. And this, I guess, is where their true conversion starts.

In my small group were two suspected thieves, one suspect for frustrated murder, one for murder, one for rape-kidnapping-murder and one for rape of her apo. Yes, these are indeed difficult people to minister to. The message I gave them was for them not to lose hope, that God is a merciful God and that they should never stop praying no matter how hopeless the
situation may look like. And that there are people who continue to pray for their welfare and will provide them some measure of comfort by spending time with them and to listen to their stories. And the only way this message will get through to them is by continuing this ministry with
everyone's support.

It was indeed a touching experience for me, and a truly memorable birthday. I do encourage everyone to consider celebrating their birthdays with the inmates or other less fortunate brothers and sisters as well.

Many thanks for all the brothers and sisters, especially the Alejandro sisters, for their example of selflessness and love for the inmates and for giving me an opportunity to have a very meaningful birthday celebration.

God bless!


Sept.15, 2009

Dear brothers and sisters,

What most impressed me at yesterday's jail visit was something a
Nigerian prisoner told Luigi. This prisoner,his name is Tom Smith, told the other inmates that
although it had been raining for days, it will not be raining on Thursday when we come back! True enough, it wasn't raining!

But the devil worked overtime- we were not able to use the chapel as there was another group
teaching rug making. We had to make do with a little room that held about 30 people.
So very few inmates got to join in and listen.

After Bong Mallari of Familia led the singing and prayers, Joe Dean gave his testimony.
Even if the room was too overcrowded and hot, we still had small groups after Joe Dean's sharing. Praise the Lord for the 4 Familia brothers who came to serve, for
Charlie and Roy who celebrated their birthdays there. Thank you to Ian (Central
singles) who helped distribute the 100 hotdogs and juice that Roy and Ross prepared.

While Lalay and Ellen talked to Jopet, Ross and Tina (North B) got an eye opening tour from Tita Betty. Please pray for next Thursday's meeting that God will bless the inmates and show His love and mercy through those who will come and serve. Most of all pray for volunteers to come, and also that we will be able to use the chapel!

I have realized the most important gift for these inmates is really showing that God cares about them. Just talking to one inmate gives that one person hope. Like when Luigi talked to Tom Smith- He was caught by the police in T. Morato and accused of drug dealing when all he had on him was one pill of ecstacy. The police asked him for P250,000 to set him free but he doesn't have friends, and no money.

But what he said, that it won't rain when we come, tells me he had faith and hope. Perhaps in some way we can be rainbows to these men who are hungry for any sign that they are
not forgotten.

God is so good to us!!

Hebrews 13:3
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners...
:^) patsy

August 25, 2009

Dear brothers and sisters,

I have just been told that a group of seminarians have stopped going to the QC jail
and their slot has opened up- it's every Thursday afternoon.
Sister Betty Evangelista said that many other religions have asked for the schedule
to preach the word and evangelize. But she said she wanted to ask us first (Ligaya ng Panginoon). Because we have donated chairs, bibles, books and clothes, they were very happy to reserve it for us if we decide to take it on.

I realize it's difficult because we are all working and it's a week day. However I also figured this may be one of the OPEN DOORS God is offering us to Be Fruitful, Multiply and Occupy. I would like to ask if there are brothers and sisters willing to commit to this service? It doesn't have to be every week, it can be once a month or once in two months. If we can get enough brothers and sisters to help out, I am sure it won't be burdensome
and the rewards will more than compensate for any time and resources we sacrifice.

Hebrews 13:3
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners...

God bless you,
:^) patsy