I know you’re aware that we’ve celebrated New Years in recent weeks. Many pastors like to preach on things like “a new you in a new year”. We make jokes about still writing “2018” on our checks (those of us who still write them), note that “time flies when you’re having fun,” and ask quite seriously, “where does the time go?” Now that we’re halfway through January, talking about the “new” may be getting old. If so, I apologize.
The word “new” appears more than 60 times in the New Testament. The most notable of which is in the often-memorized 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (NKJV). But there is also the very important new covenant, mentioned by Jesus as being in his blood. Matthew tells us that Jesus’s crucified body was laid in a new tomb. And the religious leaders of the day question Jesus’s new doctrine in Mark’s gospel.
In our culture, of course, “new” is good; “old” is bad. We must update our computers to the latest version of Windows 10, lest we find our software out of date. I understand the younger folks are intrigued by flip phones—the “old” has become “new”.
The same is often true in prison ministry. The “old”, which resulted in jail time, is bad. The “new” is better. The problem is that sometimes the “new” is just the “old” with a band-aid on it. That’s not the kind of “new” anyone is really talking about.
In the past years, I’ve used this first prayer letter of the year to walk readers through a typical week. But since I don’t have typical weeks, and never have, I’ll walk you through my typical activities.
Mondays are my day off since November, and it’s taking some adjustment after the holidays. I’d been taking Fridays off for a few years, but moved our PRO Mentors class at East Mesa Reentry Facility (EMRF) from the 2nd and 4th Mondays to the 1st and 3rd Fridays in November in order to avoid conflicting with holidays. As it turns out, Fridays are much better—there are no conflicts with other classes at the facility, which means if an inmate misses class, he’s out of excuses.
Tuesdays are very variable. On the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, I lead a prayer group at the Navy Brig from 3:30 to 4:30. Attendance has always been sparse, but I always want to offer the time for any prisoner who might want it. This week, Wes and Marvin attended, asking for prayer for the Christian community in the brig, which has a lot of divisions lately. After the prayer meeting, I head through California traffic to Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI), where I participate in the Navigators Military Ministry gathering with mostly active duty sailors. This week, we heard a testimony from an 18-year-old EMT who is planning to join the Navy later this year.
On the 3rd Tuesday of each month, I attend the San Diego Reentry Round Table meeting in the early afternoon. This is a group of 40-60 people who work in all aspects of prison and jail after care. Governmental agencies such as the Sheriff’s department, Probation department, District Attorney’s office, and parole offices are represented as well as community and faith-based organizations. This meeting is unique, and other counties across the country have visited the meeting to try and duplicate it. This week, I was able to network with David from Amity Ranch, where Rick, who was released from EMRF on January 2, is going through residential drug treatment. I also was able to touch base with Alex from Second Chance (a job readiness program), who is also helping Jesse, who will be released from EMRF this Friday.
The 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month finds me at Vista Detention Facility (VDF) with Paul, who helps teach the PRO Mentors class there. This class draws only from five housing units (of about 30 men each), and has been relatively small (4-8 students) since we began in 2016.
On Wednesdays, I’ve been doing something new. I lead a Bible group at the Army Navy Academy, a military boarding school in Carlsbad, California. My church is next door to this prestigious all-male school, and this is part of our neighborhood outreach. There are four to eight cadets who participate, and I meet one-on-one with them as appropriate.
Every other Thursday, I have a phone conversation with Seth, one of our mentors who moved to the Sacramento area last spring. He calls me on his way to work in the morning, which takes him about an hour through California traffic.
On all Thursdays, I’m at the Navy Brig from 3:30 to 4:30 meeting one-on-one with either John (studying Romans) or Jason (studying 1 John). In the evening, we have anywhere from 6 to 10 meeting for Bible study in Mark.
Fridays, I’m either at EMRF (as mentioned before) for class or visiting someone, or visiting someone at VDF.
Saturdays are usually when I introduce new mentors to their PRO, either at VDF or EMRF. We hope to have a mentor training session in mid-February on a Saturday—please pray for new mentors!
Sundays are church, and whatever else might come along.
I hope this travel log will help you know how to pray more specifically for me and for this ministry. Your prayers are coveted and appreciated. Thank you for your support.
Sincerely in Christ,