Tag Archive for: Prison Ministry Fall 2023

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.