Looking for God’s direction

[Paul and his companions] came to the border of Mysia. From there they tried to enter Bithynia. But the Spirit of Jesus would not let them. So they passed by Mysia. Then they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia standing and begging him. “Come over to Macedonia!” the man said. “Help us!” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia. We decided that God had called us to preach the good news there. (Acts 16:7-10 NIrV)

Don’t you wish sometimes that God would make his will known to you as clearly as he does to Paul. Somehow God clearly communicated to Paul; that he was NOT to go into Bithynia (modern day northern Turkey), but to go into Macedonia (present day Greece) instead. Apparently, that moment was the time to start mission work in Europe, so that’s what Paul and his friends did.

Those of us working with you or on your behalf in prison ministry are facing a similar crossroads. For 30 years we have dependably relied on the United States Postal Service to help us deliver the gospel and encouragement to eager eyes and hearts in correctional facilities. But mounting restrictions are making sending and receiving studies, tests, and letters more difficult and expensive (for us and for inmates). Thanks to our bulk mailing to chaplains, we still distribute a good number of studies per year. But sending tests to specific inmates as well as receiving completed tests back from inmates using regular U.S. Mail has seen a significant decline. God seems to be saying that this pathway may not be the way to go now.

In response, we are exploring some new (to us) pathways. First, we are trying the use of Business Reply Mail for inmates or their onsite chaplains to submit their tests. While this will significantly increase our costs, especially if God blesses the idea, we believe this added cost is a small price to pay to be able to serve as many students as possible.

Our second new pathway is electronic delivery of our studies to the tablets many inmates now have access to in facilities. WELS Prison Ministry recently signed a three-year contract with Edovo, which provides a learning management system that ministries and educational entities can use to distribute educational material to inmates. Edovo currently has agreements in place at over 300 facilities to provide content to the inmates. We are also seeking agreements with other similar providers.

Please pray for these efforts. We are asking the Lord to bless them according to his will. We desperately want to continue to serve thousands of inmates nationwide and believe these may be the pathways God wants us to use. Also pray that if there are other ways that he desires us to share the gospel, he would give us the ability and wisdom to see these other pathways and use them.

Dave Hochmuth, WELS Prison Ministry administrator

 

 

An inmate’s personal evangelism

Because of societal trends and other factors, traditional mass outreach programs struggle. But personal evangelism, that is building a relationship with another person and, at an appropriate time, sharing Jesus with that person, appears to have a better chance at gaining an audience for the gospel. Our synod is spending a great amount of effort equipping us to do just that. Perhaps we should take a cue from Kyle (not his real name), an inmate in the Midwest. Though his own struggles have been and continue to be mighty, he made the effort to share his comfort with another inmate.

Kyle’s walk with Jesus has had significant ups and downs. He had more than a decade of problems with drugs and alcohol. He had fallen away from worship with fellow Christians. He spent more than a year in county jail awaiting sentencing for methamphetamine charges. Through some extended family members, God in his grace made a WELS pastor in the area aware of Kyle. The pastor began to serve him with both printed sermons and personal visits. A year after starting this effort, the pastor received a lengthy, unprompted letter from another inmate in Kyle’s unit. The inmate, John (again, not his real name), poured out his gratefulness for Kyle’s willingness to share the Word of God with him.

The friendship started with Kyle allowing John to call his dad using Kyle’s funds when John had none. John had been very anxious because his dad was having health problems. Kyle’s generosity made a big impression on John.

Then John noticed Kyle reading some of the sermons his pastor brought for Kyle. John asked if Kyle could share them, which he was eager to do. Here’s John’s comment: “My absolute favorite was . . .’Lord, It Is Good for Us to Be Here, the Transfiguration.’ I loved it and it spoke to me. God spoke to me through your sermon. Not audibly like he spoke when he said, ‘This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.’ But he spoke to me none the less. Letting me know this is right where he wants me. Yes in jail . . .

“When I came to jail I didn’t even think for one second God was orchestrating another chance for me. I thought it was the end and they were going to throw me away and throw away the key as well. My way got me here. Now I know God’s way is going to get me out of here. My prayer has been, Father & Jesus, teach me how to surrender, truly surrender.”

So, we don’t have to wait until we’re fully trained and blameless. Wherever we are at and whomever we meet, we can be a friend, and then pray for an opportunity to give the reason for the hope we have, as Kyle did.

 

 

 

Volunteering through the storms of change

The phone rings in Sylvia Barnes’s apartment one morning, and she recognizes the number. It’s the WELS Prison Ministry Mailing Center in New Ulm, Minn., where she has volunteered for nearly 20 years. “Hello, dear,” she answers. “Are you calling with bad news?”

This has happened on snowy days multiple times the last 20 years. Sylvia’s volunteer time on Tuesday morning was in jeopardy because of blizzards and large amounts of snow. She has always dreaded that phone call when the forecast was bad because she loves volunteering at the Prison Ministry office and loves the people with whom she works. Now at 96 ½ years old, she says, “If everyone wasn’t so nice here, I probably wouldn’t still be coming.” A family of Christian volunteers has been created on those Tuesday mornings, even though so much has changed over the years. Sylvia remembers that Tuesday morning volunteer family being so much larger 20, even 10 years ago. Most of the volunteers she worked with all those years ago have now gone to heaven, and she even surprises herself – and many of her friends – that she continues to go. “It’s interesting…when I tell them I’m still volunteering, they don’t believe me,” she says with a smile.

Sylvia has volunteered at Prison Ministry through much change. She was part of the volunteer family when the first WELS Prison Ministry administer, Mr. Dave Nack, suddenly passed away. She stuck around through the years of change that followed. She made it through the shutdown during COVID, and as more change has happened with the ministry, she has adjusted her schedule to fit the ministry’s needs. Even though Sylvia is no longer driving, she arrives to the Prison Ministry office with other volunteer friends willing to pick her up.

Sylvia and our other volunteers continue to serve our brothers and sisters in prison through all the changes because of one thing that does not change. The never-changing Word of God and the promises of God to forgive all sin – even the sins of those in prison – is what drives us to continue the work he commanded: Go and make disciples of all nations. Sylvia shares that one of her favorite things, and what drives her to continue to work through the changes, are the comments from the inmates on their tests.

Professions of faith from those in prison help her see the difference she is making as part of the Prison Ministry family. God is reaching souls through the work we are doing, and that’s what makes the snow-stormy days when we can’t do our work frustrating. We continue to pray for good weather days, days when Sylvia and others can share the good news of Jesus with the incarcerated.

 

 

 

 

Three ways to support WELS Prison Ministry – Fall 2023

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for the success of our electronic document team efforts; for blessings on (and funds to support) supplying postage paid envelopes to inmates; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – ll our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at [email protected] or 507-354-3130. To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:
WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2023 designation is due by March 31, 2024.

 

 

 

 

Comforting others with the comfort we have received

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who gives tender love. All comfort comes from him. He comforts us in all our troubles. Now we can comfort others when they are in trouble. We ourselves receive comfort from God. We share very much in the sufferings of Christ. So we also share very much in his comfort. If we are having trouble, it is so that you will be comforted and renewed. If we are comforted, it is so that you will be comforted. Then you will be able to put up with the same suffering we have gone through. Our hope for you remains firm. We know that you suffer just as we do. In the same way, God comforts you just as he comforts us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIrV)

Often the earthly shame of a situation can be a barrier to comfort, and this is especially true when dealing with incarceration. Lisa (not her real name) was a very concerned mother. Her son had been using drugs since high school and was just convicted for the second time. While she appreciated her pastors and the biblical guidance they offered, she desired more encouragement in her situation, but didn’t know where to find it. She also was fearful of raising the topic with any of her church friends for fear of how it might be perceived. Would people see her as a failure as a mother? She already had plenty of pain from the events themselves. She didn’t need a dose of shame on top of that.

Then in Lisa’s women’s Bible study group, one of the women spoke of her nephew’s struggle with substance abuse and repeated incarcerations, asking for prayers for the young man. Her Bible study friend also spoke of visiting another family member in prison and how that changed her heart. So much so that this friend was now actively involved in visiting female inmates in the county jail. Now Lisa knew of someone who could truly relate to her situation and her fear of reaching out for support evaporated. She now benefitted from the comfort her friend had received previously.

Those of us who have experienced the pain of incarceration of a loved one can be an invaluable resource to others—if they know where to turn. Because of the sensitivity of the topic, this needs to be done judiciously. Here are some ideas.

  • As in the case above, a healthy small group Bible study can make a good environment for sharing difficult situations, especially if the group has established a level of trust and members do not gossip. Praying with and for each other provides some natural openings for seeking God’s help and the assistance of his people for difficult situations.
  • If you’ve been through the incarceration of a friend or loved one, share that experience with your pastor, elders, or other spiritually mature fellow members. They will then be able to refer someone to you when the need arises.
  • Volunteering for jail or prison visitation ministry or mentoring a former inmate can provide you with insight into the challenges current and former inmates face. It will also establish your reputation as someone who has a heart for lost souls. With the right training, this can be done by anyone regardless of any previous experience with incarcerated people.

The temptation is there to bury painful parts of our lives and avoid talking about them. Don’t let Satan deceive you. Carefully sharing the painful parts of our past can reap a rich harvest of present and future blessings. Pray for guidance and courage to share the comfort God gave us with others.

By Dave Hochmuth, Prison Ministry administrator

 

 

The patient mentor

As we have reported previously, COVID and contraband have made ministry to current inmates more challenging, whether in person or by mail. But mentoring a released inmate does not require permission by a correctional facility. You can explore this opportunity and receive initial training for this type of ministry in the next online offering of Mentoring a Returning Citizen. One of our existing mentors shares some of the blessings both he and his mentee have received while participating in this ministry:

I have known my mentee for a few years now – as I think back over that time, I marvel at what the Lord has done and is doing in this relationship. Initially he had no Christian background and little previous Christian example to benchmark. While I desired faster progress in a variety of important issues, my confidence remained in the Lord’s timing and process.

The first blessing that’s been reinforced in my heart is: Trust in the Lord – in ALL things. We need to leave control and understanding to God. Scripture tells us this, but when events dictate “letting go,” we grasp with our hearts a great truth that we then demonstrate and pass on to our mentee.

A second blessing is comprehending/experiencing unconditional love. Jesus tells his disciples, “If you love those who love you, so what! – even the worst of sinners do that.” When I first met my mentee, “please and thank you” were not part of his vocabulary. Now he uses them, but even more – he considers my needs and is genuinely concerned about creating inconveniences in my life. This is an amazing change for one so self-focused and utterly worldly when we met. Yet, the Lord has shared with me his love for my mentee, and I’m experiencing it along with my mentee. It’s amazing – beyond words!

The Lord sometimes must “prepare the soil for planting” and this may require great patience, but we keep our eyes fixed on him and seek not to miss the opportunities to show the mentee an example of the Spirit of Christ by how we live and interact with them and others. Recently, my mentee asked, “I want to know how to include God in my life daily.” Such interest and determination were an answer to my frequent prayers! So we identified resources that could foster daily growth.

Over time the Spirit has made the mentee ready and eager to learn, change, and grow. Being part of this process is breathtaking. Being a mentor is an awesome privilege!

 

Mentoring a returning citizen

Explore a unique way to serve with no obligation.

  • Assess your gifts and receive initial training
  • Five Saturdays, Sept. 9-Oct. 7, 2023
  • 90-minute Zoom sessions starting at 11 a.m. (Central Time)

For more information contact [email protected] or 414-256-3243.

 

 

 

Prison Ministry notes and news – Summer 2023

Thank you Jim, Welcome Joel

The end of June will see a changing of the guard with a new Special Ministries director. (WELS Prison Ministry is one of the special ministries overseen by the director.) After over a decade of service in this role, Pastor Jim Behringer is retiring, and Pastor Joel Gaertner is taking over. Jim provided an invaluable steady hand to WELS Prison Ministry during a turbulent period following former Administrator Dave Nack’s sudden call home to glory in 2014. Jim has helped us better integrate with other WELS ministries and make progress on obtaining more stable funding. His solid, soft-spoken leadership has been a great blessing to us. We thank him for being God’s good and faithful servant.

Pastor Joel Gaertner has served in the public ministry for more than 30 years, including congregations in Kentucky and Wisconsin, as well as a stint for the last decade with The Lutheran Home Association heading up the Jesus Cares ministry for the developmentally challenged. Joel is known as a tireless worker with a positive attitude. His background, including serving as chairman of the WELS Commission on Special Ministries, makes him extremely qualified to guide all the WELS Special Ministries efforts to better serve God’s sheep, both lost and found.

 

Pen Pal Pipeline

After months of having been blessed with more pen pal volunteers than inmates to whom they could write, we now have inmates on a waiting list for volunteer pen pals. We are looking for either former or new pen pals to meet the demand. If you are no longer writing to anyone but are willing to do so now, or if you are considering this ministry for the first time and would like more information on the WELS Prison Ministry pen pal program, please send Amy Rich an e-mail at [email protected].

 

Mentoring a returning citizen

Explore a unique way to serve with no obligation.

  • Assess your gifts and receive initial training
  • Five Saturdays, Sept. 9-Oct. 7, 2023
  • 90-minute Zoom sessions starting at 11 a.m. (Central Time)

For more information contact [email protected] or 414-256-3243.

 

 

 

Three ways to support WELS Prison Ministry – Summer 2023

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for blessings on our outreach efforts to new facilities; for the success of our electronic document team efforts; for blessings on the next and subsequent mentor training classes and new mentor ministries; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love.
To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at [email protected] or 507-354-3130.
To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:
WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2023 designation is due by March 31, 2024.

 

 

 

 

Those in prison are important to Jesus

Recently someone asked, “Why was prison such a big deal to Jesus and early Christians?” I was startled by the question, because I didn’t think that incarceration was a particularly significant issue of that time. Prisons in those days were generally a place to hold people until a case was decided and then, if punishment was imposed the person was killed, beaten, or fined. The Roman government and others at that time did not impose a prison sentence as a penalty for a crime. Life sentences were unknown.

I also didn’t think that Jesus made a “big deal” out of incarceration. When I think of the messages of the New Testament—justification by faith, salvation by grace, mercy for sinners, and condemnation of work righteousness— those could be called “big deal” messages.

But a discussion of Christ’s words in Matthew 25 about Judgment Day prompted the question about prison. If we didn’t have these words of Jesus about the Last Day, we might picture the Judge railing angrily against the murderers, robbers, rapists, and other evil people when he judges the world. Instead, Jesus tells us that the Judge will condemn those who don’t feed the hungry or the stranger, give drinks to the thirsty, clothe the naked, or visit the sick and imprisoned.

Books could be written about Matthew 25, but what struck this person was that Jesus included visiting prisoners in the list of things people will be accountable for at the Judgment. The New Testament also commanded God’s people, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” (Hebrews 13:3) Clearly the Lord has not forgotten the prisoner, even if the world has.

We should not be surprised, then, that Christian churches have had prison ministries down through the centuries. Like food pantries, visits to the homebound, and hospitals (a Christian invention), Christians have found ways to organize resources and people to care for others in their need. You may not be visiting an inmate – you may be supporting jail ministry with your resources. In your prayers, remember prisoners and those who bring them the good news.

Sometimes we have an opportunity to show the love of Jesus personally. If someone from your family, your church, or your community is incarcerated, send them a card or note, and say a prayer for them. These are men and women for whom Christ died. Whether they are incarcerated unfairly (as Jesus and Paul were), or whether they are getting the punishment they deserve (like the thief on the cross), the Lord has not forgotten about them.

In a world that regards money as the solution for most problems, Christians are tempted to think that sending money to the incarcerated is showing love. The love of Jesus is so much more than money, and grace is so different from the material goods that money provides. Remember Peter’s priorities with the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:6) where he didn’t give him any money but spoke to him in the name of Jesus. Isn’t the greatest gift eternal life? Isn’t the rarest blessing for an inmate to experience the love of Christ?

Prison is a big deal to Jesus. So is sickness. So is sin. As his followers, we reflect his compassionate priorities in whatever opportunities he puts before us. Thank you for your partnership in serving those who are incarcerated and remember them in your prayers.

Rev. James Behringer, Special Ministries director

 

 

 

Further evidence of changing times

A recent Star Tribune (Minneapolis) article underscores changes in the field of corrections regarding how mail is delivered to inmates. The article, titled “Paper and Ink Spelling Trouble,” chronicles some changes that are being pilot tested and debated in Minnesota and elsewhere. The objective of the procedural changes is to reduce the influx of liquid drug formulations dripped onto the paper of a letter, magazine, or other item mailed to an inmate. The correctional facility in Stillwater, Minn., is experimenting with photocopying all inmate mail and delivering the copies to the inmate. But there are drawbacks. The reporter states: “In Stillwater, this test is adding hours of work for [a correctional officer] while creating an extra, even if temporary, barrier for inmates relying on photos, greeting cards, and letters to stay tethered to loved ones in the outside world.”

The article continues: “’It depersonalizes,’ said Michele Livingston, whose son, Jeffrey Young, is serving a life sentence for murder in Stillwater. ‘Already there is no contact, and mail is actually one of the best ways to communicate with someone incarcerated. It tells them it took effort and time to say something to them. Now when you get photocopies, it takes it away.’”

So, in good Lutheran fashion, “What does this mean?” There are several take-aways for us. One is a reminder to “work while it is day,” that is, make the most of opportunities to spread the gospel because those opportunities can evaporate. Doing our ministry by U.S. mail has worked well for more than 30 years, but that era may be changing.

A second take-away is the continual need to innovate and develop new ways to deliver the gospel. WELS Prison Ministry has a team working on developing viable methods for delivering pen pal letters and our Bible studies as well as receiving tests and returning them to inmates using electronic delivery. Please pray for blessings on this team’s efforts.

Finally, the article renews our conviction that the spiritual and emotional encouragement we provide through pen pal letters and test comments are personally vital to the inmates despite any photocopying. The Word of God works, even if it is photocopied first.

 

 

 

Corrector’s corner – handling inmate comments

Generally, our correctors are very faithful at adding some encouraging comments to tests submitted by inmates. However, in some cases we’d like to see more direct acknowledgment, when appropriate, by the corrector of requests or other notes from the inmate. This is especially true if the inmate asks for prayer or notes some aspect of struggling to live for Jesus, but other comments can be worth responding to as well. For example, an inmate recently submitted: “Thank you for this course. It’s been helpful to me to control my depression and anxiety. I’m in a place where these feelings can control. I will look back on this book in my time of need.” While not an explicit request for prayer, this is a situation that lends itself to an encouragement along the lines of “[First name]: I’m thankful this study helped direct you to places in God’s Word that reassure you when you’re tempted to be anxious or depressed. I pray that you will continue to find comfort in those verses as you seek to trust Jesus’ promises.”

Also, we wanted to note that a significant number of our students are in county jails where their stays may be limited. Those tests are especially time-sensitive, and we’d like to get them back to the students as soon as possible before they are released or move on. Please return corrected tests as soon as you can, but no more than two weeks at the most.

 

 

 

 

New tool for congregations: Hope for the hurting

WELS Special Ministries Director Rev. Jim Behringer is pleased to announce a new Bible class, Helping the Hurting with Hope, that will assist congregations in developing a climate of compassion for sinners served by ministries such as WELS Prison Ministry. Using some of the same themes as our opening article, the study’s author seeks to help participants see the vital role of compassion in a Christian’s personal and congregational life. He also seeks to provide the gospel motivation for participants to go beyond their comfort zones and act in compassionate ways through the Spirit’s power.

We believe Helping the Hurting with Hope can motivate God’s people to be patient and wise with people behind bars and those formerly incarcerated when returning to the community. Where the Bible class succeeds in cultivating compassion, church families will also be better spiritual refuges for others with broken lives.

The study comprises an introductory lesson with a video and four additional lessons. The participant’s lessons, leader’s guide, and video can all be accessed or downloaded at welscongregationalservices.net/modules/compassion-ministry-modules.

 

 

Three ways to support WELS Prison Ministry

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for blessings on our outreach efforts to new facilities; for the success of our electronic document team efforts; for blessings on the second and subsequent mentor training classes and new mentor ministries; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love.
To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at [email protected] or 507-354-3130.
To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:

WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2022 designation is due by March 31, 2023.

 

 

 

Resistance and strength

Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can remain strong against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIrV)

When trying to build bodily strength, resistance is needed. Whether it is a world-class athlete or a struggling patient in physical therapy, physical movement must be opposed to build strength in the targeted muscles. And that resistance can be very painful. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”

In a similar fashion, God sometimes uses opposition to build spiritual strength in his followers. And that opposition can be painful and look overwhelming at times. Paul reminds us that our opposers are in fact overwhelming to humans on their own. In trying to share Jesus with others, none other than Satan himself and all his allies, both spiritual and physical, line up to try and stop what we are doing.

So what are we to do? Cower in fear? Give up at the first (or second or third) sign of difficulty? Not at all. In God’s typical incomprehensible fashion, he both gives and builds strength in his followers. Paul says it clearly, “Let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power.” Yet God also wants us to exercise our faith so that we “can remain strong against the devil’s evil powers.” And what enables us to do that? God’s armor. The following verses describe the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the sword of God’s Word, among other pieces. We cannot expect to sit around and have God fight our battles for us. God makes it clear that we are part of his spiritual army that takes on hell itself.

These verses are a great encouragement as our ministry continues to face challenges and opposition. The list of facilities that require special mail handling continues to grow. This has caused significant increases in our returned mail and delays in delivering booklets and tests to inmates. Fewer institutions accept greeting cards, which historically have provided much encouragement to inmates. Some faithful chaplains who have been longtime supporters of our ministry-by-mail efforts are retiring. Another recent challenge has been booklet printing. Printers have had difficulty finding paper and, like everything else, the price has increased significantly. In addition to ministry-by-mail challenges, many institutions have been slow in opening back up to personal visitation and Bible studies led by volunteers.

We are not surprised by these growing challenges because we know the good things God’s Word does when it is sent out. Lives are changed and souls are saved for eternity. Confident of this, we redouble our efforts to find solutions or workarounds for our difficulties. You can be part of this. Join us in praying for courage, wisdom, and strength for our ministry’s leaders and volunteers. Consider a special gift to Prison Ministry to help offset the increase in our costs. Explore involvement in a visitation or mentoring ministry to touch lives personally. Instructions for these actions are presented in “Three ways to support our ministry.” Also see the mentoring article in this issue.

Mr. Dave Hochmuth, Prison Ministry administrator

 

 

New teammates and opportunities

In response to the challenge of finding facilities willing to accept our self-study Bible correspondence courses, WELS Prison Ministry has teamed up with the Lutheran Institutional Ministry Association (LIMA) for an outreach effort to every correctional facility we can identify in Minnesota (LIMA’s home) and Iowa. So far we have reached out by telephone to every Minnesota facility listed in a national database. As a result, chaplains and others have ordered over 1,000 booklets from approximately 50 facilities in Minnesota, many of which we had not dealt with previously. We are deeply grateful for the efforts of Emily Bartsch, a new temporary staff member, who has dedicated many hours to calling and recalling these facilities.

Our next step is to complete a similar effort in Iowa. In addition, we want to seek more Iowa recipients for digital devotions sent by another partner, Institutional Ministries (IM). IM has developed an effective system for distributing devotions six days per week via CorrLinks.com. This system is available to inmates in both the Wisconsin and Iowa Department of Correction facilities, among other places. Please pray for success according to God’s will.

 

 

Join others to learn: Are you mentor material?

WELS Prison Ministry recently completed our first online training session for potential mentors of returning citizens, that is, formerly incarcerated individuals. We had eight students from South Dakota, Texas, Arizona, and Iowa. The initial feedback has been very positive. Everyone who responded to our post instruction survey indicated they either agreed or strongly agreed that they would recommend the course to someone who was considering mentoring. Here’s a few comments by participants:

    • I thoroughly enjoyed the time and looked forward to Zoom each week.
    • I do feel better equipped and know that I can refer to the book for guidance as well to stay on track.
    • The time flew by! Questions seemed to be answered with lots of side bits of food for thought.

While visits to correctional facilities are still hit and miss in many areas because of COVID, there is a steady stream of inmates who are being released upon fulfillment of their sentences. This is a huge opportunity to share the love of Christ where it is really needed and a potential harvest field.

Our next online offering of our training course Mentoring a Returning Citizen is planned for late January to February 2023. Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell is scheduled to facilitate. The training course will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. Taking the course does not mean you are committing to serve as a mentor. You’ll find, however, that you can use the skills that are taught and practiced in many areas of your life, including parenting and interacting with people. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

To obtain more information about the class, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at [email protected] or Tom Koepsell at [email protected].

 

Decades of service . . . after reaching retirement age

This past summer, Elisabeth Newell, one of our faithful test correctors, celebrated her 100th birthday. We’re not sure exactly when Elisabeth began her service, but we believe it was at least 20 years ago. She is so thankful to have had this avenue to exercise and share her faith. She is also thankful that God has graciously preserved her mind and physical abilities so that she could continue to serve. Just recently Elisabeth was concerned that an inmate didn’t truly understand that faith is a gift and not something he does. She contacted our administrator to make sure she provided clear feedback to the inmate on a test response that was ambiguous. Elisabeth still derives joy in serving. Another recent test packet contained 23 tests, all by the same inmate. Among all the test questions there were only one or two incorrect answers, which was a great encouragement to Elisabeth.

Join us in thanking all our test correctors and pen pals for their compassionate service as they encourage troubled souls. As we mentioned in previous issues, for the time being we have enough regular test correctors. But we still have opportunities for new pen pals. If you would like to explore being a pen pal, please inquire at our office ([email protected] or 507-354-3130).

 

 

Three ways to support our ministry

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for blessings on our outreach efforts to new facilities; gratefulness for our first mentor training course; for blessings on the additional planned mentor training and new mentor ministries; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at [email protected] or 507-354-3130.
To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:
WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2022 designation is due by March 31, 2023.

 

 

 

Finding good peer pressure

“If you have to be a follower, why don’t you follow someone good?” The mother who asked this question was frustrated because her son was always getting into trouble. He never seemed to be the instigator. His true problem was not, she realized, that her son was a follower. There are always leaders and followers. Not all followers are influenced by the troublemakers.

She had discovered an important perspective. Peer pressure can be good or bad.

What if we analyzed who should influence us? Gang recruits and people who are incarcerated may think that they only have one option: to give in to the pressure of their peers to do bad things. What if they saw another way? What if they came to see the hope that Jesus gives and followed him?

Peer Pressure is the topic of the newest Bible study in the WELS Prison Ministry self-study Bible correspondence course series. Thoroughly Biblical (over a dozen Scriptures are studied) and Christ-centered, the new course, Peer Pressure, navigates the question of who to follow. Students follow the experiences of “Pete” who is new to prison and pressured by a gang leader, along with the spiritual guidance of his Christian cellmate “John.” Pete learns the joy and peace of following Jesus, although not without suffering at the hands of those who expected him to join their sinful activities. Having suffered, Pete discovers that when he follows Christ, the Lord gives him freedom he didn’t have when he felt trapped by going along with the crowd.

Because God wants to keep us from being led astray by Satan and this world, he gives us the church, his believers who provide the best kind of peer pressure. As this new Bible study lays the foundation for resisting the pressure to sin, it quotes Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIRV), “Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works. Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return.”

We don’t gather with other believers only to help ourselves, but to encourage others with words of hope. It’s more important than we might think. Others are looking for acceptance, hope, love, and a sense of direction. Often citizens returning to society from incarceration feel judged all over again by God’s people. Our Lord planned for the family of believers to encourage each other, not resurrect the guilt Jesus already paid for. The world is eager to pressure them to go in the wrong direction, back to old friends and habits. Our Savior put us here to provide encouragement and hope through the eternal gospel. Watch for opportunities to provide the best kind of peer pressure! Pray that this newest Prison Ministry Bible study will be a great blessing to many who are incarcerated.

Rev. Jim Behringer
Director, Commission on Special Ministries

 

 

 

Finding hope when life seems hopeless

Psalm 42 is a favorite of mine. The psalmist pours his heart out to God, looking for help because he is in a seemingly helpless situation. We feel the pangs of his heart as he asks “where can I go and meet with God? …God, my Rock, why have you forgotten me? …why are you so downcast, O my soul?” (verses 2, 9, and 11)

Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time inmate. Last week you were out, free to decide how to spend your day. This week, every moment is scheduled, every movement dictated. And yet, amid all the structure, everything is uncertain. How long will I be here? What will my sentence be? What do my loved ones think of me? And most importantly, what does God think of me?

We don’t have to be an inmate to have these thoughts, either. Life is uncertain at times for all. We may feel lonely, or that God is distant from us. Thankfully, these are only our emotions, tainted by sin, not our reality. For the believer in Jesus, our God is always near. He is not ashamed to call us his friends. He has a future planned for us, one not filled with uncertainty, but with the sure hope of everlasting life.

Not all people understand this or know how loving and understanding our God truly is. An inmate may not want to think of God as his Father because of the poor example of his human father. An inmate may not be able to trust the Bible, or the visitor who brings God’s Word, because he has never known someone who is truly trustworthy. An inmate may have a hard time believing his sins have been forgiven; it just doesn’t follow the rule of “what goes around, comes around.”

The writer of Psalm 42 invites us all, whether inside a cellblock or not, to where he found answers to his questions and the hope that truly filled the hole in his broken heart. He went to God. And our God is as near to us as our Bible. There we find, “The Lord is close to those whose hearts have been broken. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.” (Ps 34:18) “He lifts up all those who feel helpless.” (Ps 145:14) “The Lord will watch over your life no matter where you go, both now and forever.” (Ps 121:8)

Our God is more than simply near; he is someone who acts on our behalf. “All of us are like sheep. We have wandered away from God. All of us have turned to our own way. And the Lord has placed on his servant the sins of all of us.” (Is 53:6) “Christ didn’t have any sin. But God made him become sin for us. So we can be made right with God because of what Christ has done for us.” (2 Cor 5:21)

When the psalmist writes “Put your hope in God” (verses 5 & 11), he means trust what God has done on your behalf. Reflect for a moment on all that God has done for you: God has come to a rebellious planet, has lived the perfect life we cannot live, has taken the punishment of hell that we deserved, has gone to a grave that should have been ours, and has risen to demonstrate his power over death. As we hope in this kind of God, we praise him for saving us by living for him, and no longer living for ourselves.

Often inmates do not know this kind of God. Many believe God is seeking only justice. That’s where we come in. “We are Christ’s official messengers. It is as if God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5:20) Our task is to show Christ to others. As God gives us opportunities to witness to others the deeds he has done for all, they learn of Christ’s love for them. As God gives us opportunities to help them with deeds of kindness and love, they see Christ’s love in action. In so doing, we bring hope to the hopeless. It is our high privilege to show Christ to others as we show them Christ working in us.

By Bob Fink, Prison Ministry Committee member

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome Bob Fink

The Prison Ministry Committee welcomes Bob Fink of Manitowoc, Wis. Joining us at the start of 2022, Bob has been involved as a volunteer in jail ministry at the Manitowoc County Jail since 2014. Bob brings the experience of both called ministry and business to the committee. He served WELS high schools in Westland, Mich., and Manitowoc from 1978 to 2008, teaching mainly chemistry, physics, math and German. In 2008 he took a position as a software engineer and Technology Specialist at Emerging Technologies of Two Rivers, Wis., retiring from there in 2019. He currently serves Grace Lutheran Church of Manitowoc as a part time retired staff minister, visiting shut-ins and teaching the adult Bible classes there.

Bob’s main responsibility will be the oversight of the production and printing of our inmate-focused Bible studies. He is also currently tasked with following up on the many chaplains who ordered our prison ministry study booklets in the past.

 

 

 

 

Are you mentor material?

Have you ever wished for the opportunity to make a meaningful difference, maybe even eternal difference, in someone’s life? Or maybe you wished you had the training to know how to truly help someone with great needs?

This August or October, you can learn about mentoring a returning citizen, providing guidance and encouragement to a man or woman returning to your community or your church from incarceration. You’re invited to participate in online training, Mentoring a Returning Citizen. The training will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. There is no commitment to serve if you take the course. The skills that are taught and practiced have application in many areas including parenting and interacting with people at work. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

The facilitator for this course will be Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell. “Mentoring is a subject near to my heart,” says Tom. “Having worked with the incarcerated for well over a decade, I have come to appreciate the challenges they will face upon release. But more than that, I have experienced the role their Savior is playing in their lives and what Jesus means when he talks about seeking and saving the lost. When you bring Jesus to such people, you learn to love them as Jesus does. It’s a rewarding experience.”

The course will be a combination of online sessions with other participants, videos that can be viewed individually by the participants, and activities in a workbook that will be a combination of individual and group exercises. You can view elements of the course at welscongregationalservices.net/mentoring-a-returning-citizen/  Details about the course can also be found there.

To register for the class or obtain more information, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at [email protected] or Tom Koepsell at [email protected].

 

 

 

 

Ways to support our ministry – Summer 2022

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: guidance for moving into electronic communication with inmates; for continued improvement in the pandemic situation so that personal visits to correctional facilities become commonplace; for blessings on the planned mentor training and new mentor ministries; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at [email protected] or 507-354-3130.

To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:

WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2022 designation is due by March 31, 2023.

 

 

 

Current Ministry Needs

Because of the stricter policies for what can be sent to an inmate, we are unable to use the normal quantity of “extras” that we often send to inmates, including greeting cards. For the time being we have an abundance in stock and do not need new donations of cards. We still welcome donations of Meditations that are less than a year old, in good shape (not curled up), and no stickers or writing on or in them. Call the New Ulm office for further details at 507-354-3130.

At this time we can accommodate a few more pen pals, but we currently have enough test correctors. In the future as our digital outreach effort matures, our need for test correctors and pen pal volunteers may increase, especially those willing to communicate digitally. If you would like to be put on a waiting list for future digital volunteers, send us an e-mail with your contact information ([email protected]).

 

 

 

“When they’re down in the gutter, stomp on ‘em!”

I loved my football coach. At first I feared his tough exterior, but it didn’t take this young high school kid long to discover the warm caring heart underneath. On the grid iron, that expression (We knew it was tongue-in-cheek.) promoted the toughness it takes to play the game. In this sinful world, things go wrong. So a certain toughness can be a real virtue. (I think the biblical term is “endurance.”)

“Indeed, whatever was written in the
past was written for our instruction, so that, through patient endurance and
the encouragement of the Scriptures,
we would have hope.” [Romans 15:4]

Let’s consider how we, the body of Christ, can potentially foster or discourage such endurance. It was the last incarceration for her. She had learned her lesson. She was in jail; her baby girl was with foster parents. She cried. I shed tears with her. “I want my baby.”

Incarceration separates parents from their families. It’s not pretty. Shall we say they should have thought of that before the got themselves into this fix? Shall we say they made their bed so now they can sleep in it? When they’re “down in the gutter” shall we “stomp on ‘em?”
Sin corrupts; sin produces dysfunction. You and I are dysfunctional because of sin. Enter: the one who associates with “tax collectors and sinners.” Enter: Jesus.

When Jesus said the fields are ripe, he didn’t say we should let it rot in the field. There is a ripe field behind bars. The consequences of sin and the accompanying guilt produce a crop ready for harvest.

Getting out and getting back together will not solve the problem. The parent needs Jesus to deal with the sin and guilt; they need Godly wisdom and guidance to learn parenting skills they never had. The whole family needs healing that only the Great Physician can bring.

Penal systems have realized that any rehabilitation they can provide falls short. Many have seen “faith-based” organizations as more capable of providing what is needed. To know the love of Jesus and the unconditional love and forgiveness provides the healing families need. Learning the patience, kindness, selflessness, and humility it takes comes from knowing Jesus. That is a major goal of your WELS Prison Ministry Committee. We want to provide God’s people with the training to carry out this mission of love.

What was written in the past can help all of us develop the patient endurance required to cope in this dysfunctional world.

Tom Koepsell, Prison Ministry Committee member

 

 

 

Parenting Behind Bars

Parenting is a tough job! It looks easy from afar, but not so much when you have to make the decisions and solve the problems in real life.
Imagine being a parent long distance. You have very limited and irregular contact with your children, who are being raised by someone else. Because of your separation, your kids view you with suspicion or anger, or doubt your love for them. You live with regrets and guilt and bouts of depression, all complicated by legal difficulties.

Very excellent book . . . You covered all the bases and in the gray areas you gave it to God. This study brought tears to my eyes.

Thomas, inmate

This could, in part, describe a military family with a parent on deployment, or a family broken by divorce. But only a parent who is incarcerated faces all the above challenges.

WELS Prison Ministry has added a new booklet, Parenting from Prison, to the 23 other titles in its Level 1 Self-Study series. Inmates can request a Bible study, complete a final test, return it for correction, and then request another topic.

Parenting from Prison revisits the root of the problem: the first sin by our first parents. That transgression separated them from their Heavenly Father, leaving them in a prison of pain and regret for having ruined the relationship. But God was determined to restore the father-child trust, which he achieved by sending his only Son.

Incarcerated parents are directed throughout the volume to focus on Jesus and his grace. They are also advised to be honest about their feelings; to be realistic about the challenges; to address their stress by talking with others; and to be patient, trusting God to accomplish what they cannot.

Practical, common-sense, straight forward approach. Teaches how to overcome obstacles of separation, and build a solid plan for the future. Doesn’t belittle or talk down to prisoners, but helps recognize past mistakes, discourage self-doubt, and foster relationships of growth in faith, love, understanding and forgiveness. Thank you for loving me with the truth!

Kelly, inmate

Simple suggestions are offered for communicating with children, such as weaving God’s Word into letters and phone calls; being truthful about mistakes that were made; consistently expressing their love for their sons and daughters; inquiring about events in their lives; and using positive words in all their interactions.

A chapter is devoted to what happens upon release and reunion. The parent in custody will have to readjust to freedom and responsibility, but the entire family will need to readjust their thinking, their behavior, and their priorities when mom or dad returns home. That calls for patience, love, wisdom, and forgiveness by everyone involved.

The study closes with a look at what the Bible says about parenting, including a study of Moses’s mother, Jochebed, and what we can learn from her.

Do you know any parents who are incarcerated? You can submit their contact information to WELS Prison Ministry at wels.net/refer. Please ask the Lord to bless this new resource, helping mothers and fathers to do what is possible in a task that seems impossible: parenting from prison.

Editor’s Note: By Pastor David Rosenbaum, Prison Ministry publications editor. Originally published in the His Hands blog from WELS Special Ministries, January 26,2022. If you would like to receive His Hands in your e-mail every two weeks, go to the form at wels.net/subscribe and subscribe to “His Hands.”

 

 

 

 

Correctors Corner and Pen Pal Pipeline

Thanks to all our current test correctors and pen pals for your patience and dedication as we seek to support your ministry efforts. We apologize for any difficulties in your ministry that are caused by the disruption in mail procedures that we are experiencing. Some of you may have pen pal letters delayed; others may have fewer tests to correct because of the difficulties in delivering booklets to inmates; others may not not be affected by the changes, depending on where the inmates you serve reside.

As WELS Prison Ministry seeks to adapt to the changing landscape, it will be helpful to know which of our volunteers may be willing to explore using digital communication methods, like e-mail, to carry out ministry tasks. We are working toward establishing clear and safe procedures and will at some point need test correcting and pen pal volunteers to do some or all their ministry correspondence digitally. If you would be willing to explore becoming involved in this aspect of Prison Ministry, please notify us ([email protected]).

 

 

 

 

Prison Ministry meets the 21st Century

At one time nearly every inmate in the country could receive mail, cards, books, and other encouraging material sent by our ministry via U.S. Mail. Unfortunately, this is changing. More and more facilities are changing the way they serve inmates and the requirements for messages and material sent to them. To continue to serve inmates with the life-saving and life-changing gospel, our ministry is adapting to the new situation.

What’s driving the changes?
There are many factors, but two are prominent. One is the influx of contraband into jails and prison via mail. Drugs and other items are sent in very sophisticated ways, including as liquid drops applied to letters, which the inmate can consume to get high. Departments of Correction, along with prison and jail staff, are seeking to interrupt this process by entering into contracts with companies that photocopy each piece of mail and deliver the copy to the inmate. Alternatively, some inmates have access to either a tablet or a kiosk in the facility where they can receive, display, and read a file with the scanned letter.

A second factor is facility staffing. Hiring correctional officers and staff to work in correctional facilities has been difficult, especially during the pandemic. Sorting, inspecting, and delivering the mail for inmates is time consuming and labor intensive. The companies that scan the mail also sort it and organize it for inmate delivery, which greatly reduces the workload. The third party mail service allows facility staff to focus on other tasks and hire fewer people.

What are the impacts of the changes?
The impacts affect various aspects of our ministry:

    • Delivery of Bibles and Bible studies. Many locations now require physical books to be sent directly from the publisher or online retailer. Bibles and Bible study booklets we send are rejected by some facilities. Others that still accept them indicate their acceptance may be temporary. Others indicate that original material, like our Bible studies, will have to be reformatted in electronic format to be sent to inmates chapter by chapter.
    • Delivery of pen pal letters, corrected tests, and other items. Some pen pal letters have been returned because they come from an organization (WELS Special Ministry) rather than a friend or family member. We are finding corrected tests don’t fit the third-party mail vendor requirements for a maximum size of 8.5×11 inches. Page limits reduce the number of encouragement items (cards or bookmarks) we can send with corrected tests.

Unfortunately, there is little consistency on guidelines and requirements from one vendor to the next and even from one DOC or facility to the next using the same vendor. This creates a great deal of confusion and extra work for both staff and volunteers in our mailing center.

Hope for the future
The WELS Prison Ministry staff and Prison Ministry Committee members are working hard to find both short- and long-term solutions to these challenges. Several approaches appear worth pursuing. It is obvious that eventually a significant portion of the correctional facilities in the U.S. will have some form of electronic service for their inmates to deliver messages and material. A portion, especially county jails and other smaller facilities, will also likely retain the direct use of U.S. Mail for their inmates. As a result, in the relatively near future we may need both volunteers who support our historic ministry-by-mail approach as well as volunteers that enable us to supply our Bible studies and pen pal letters to inmates electronically. Our ultimate hope is that the electronic delivery options provide the opportunity to reach many more inmates, especially if the electronic delivery costs are lower than the costs for printing, envelopes, postage, and the other ministry-by-mail costs. We will keep everyone posted on our progress both in this newsletter and on our website—wels.net/pm.

 

 

Ways to support our ministry – Winter 2022

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: guidance for efforts to communicate with inmates digitally; for continued improvement in the pandemic situation so that personal visits to correctional facilities become commonplace; for blessings on the mentor training; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at [email protected] or 507-354-3130.

To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:
WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2021 designation is due by March 31, 2022.

 

 

 

Finding Peace

How do you define the word “peace?” There are many ways, including “the absence of conflict,” or “a feeling of serenity,” or “quietness.” So what does Jesus mean when he says: “I leave my peace with you. I give my peace to you. I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be troubled. And do not be afraid. (John 14:27 NIrV).

The second half of the verse gives us Jesus’ meaning. He doesn’t want us to be troubled or afraid. So why does it seem I’m almost always anxious or fearful about something? That’s because I still carry around my original sinful nature that hates following Jesus. Apostle Paul talked about this in Romans 7:19, “I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do.” I don’t want to be anxious or afraid, but part of me can’t help it. It’s always going to believe the devil’s lies that God does not love me, isn’t strong enough to help me, or just doesn’t care.

But Jesus shows us his way out. Let’s turn to Roman’s 7:24-25: “What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body? I give thanks to God who saves me. He saves me through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus doesn’t just give us peace; he IS our peace. When fearful thoughts attack you, and they will, remember two things. First, remember how much Jesus loves you. My favorite verse for this is Romans 5:8: “But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Second, remember the trouble is temporary. I have two favorites for this. John 16:33b “In this world you will have trouble. But be encouraged! I have won the battle over the world” and 2 Corinthians 4:17 “Our troubles are small. They last only for a short time. But they are earning for us a glory that will last forever. It is greater than all our troubles.”

God says “Don’t be afraid” over 300 times in the Bible. He knows we need to hear it constantly. It has been said: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act despite the fear.” Let’s live our lives for and with Jesus despite any fear in our hearts. What are some actions that can help focus on Jesus instead of fear? Here’s a few:

  • Live one day at a time (Matthew 7:34). Plan, but don’t dwell on worst case “what ifs.” Focus on serving Jesus today and cross tomorrow’s bridge when you get there.
  • Trust Jesus to provide the grace needed to endure any temptation to fear, but not until you need it (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • Memorize scripture to recall when you need to replace fearful thoughts with Jesus’ promises. Some candidates include the verses above, Psalm 23, Romans 5:3-5, 8:18, and 8:37-39, Hebrews 13:5-6 or use your own personal favorites.

He will give us true peace as we need it now, and perfectly in eternity.