3:45 am, 60 minute yard times, and how God used us in Vandalia

“Be on time.  Bust your butt.  Play smart.  And have some laughs while you’re at it.”-  Whitey Herzog
I stumbled across the quote above from former St. Louis Cardinals manager, Whitey Herzog this morning while preparing this email.  Every element of his quote came into play as we executed one of the most interesting days in all my years in the Saints ministry.

Yesterday’s visit to Vandalia was indeed unique.  The typical model for a game consists of over two hours of planned yard time to complete two full games and have a full time of sharing the Gospel with the inmates.  This was the plan until the Monday before the visit when we found out that we had to not only arrive 90 minutes earlier than we thought, but also had to adjust everything to fit into two 60 minute sessions and instead of seeing the entire prison yard, we would only see the inmate team.  This was a tough assignment, but we made the adjustments to our schedule and met at the church at 3:45 am to arrive at Vandalia by 7 am (all of our missionary athletes showed up on time!  Proud of this team!).  Despite having to redirect due to a closed road and almost having one of our guys get car sickness due to the winding roads leading up to the prison, we were signing in and getting through security by 6:45 am.

Once we were through security we had to hang out in the chapel until yard time.  We had already discussed our plan to modify the game down to 35 minutes and utilize the most of our preaching time.  Kudos to Brent Gerber for immediately finding the umpire and inmate team coach, quickly negotiating rules, and getting information back to our team quickly.

We lost the first game.  That was a game we really should have won but the men we played battled hard and came back and won a tough game.  It is always exciting to see the inmate team band together and then ultimately celebrate a tough win.

As soon as the game was over, Robert Cook delivered a solid Gospel message and talked about how we all have sinned and why Jesus had to die on a cross for our sin.  Out of the 12 men that we talked to, 7 of them indicated that they accepted Jesus as their savior yesterday!  This is incredible news and made waking up around 3 am totally worth it!  A few of our guys had time to talk with these guys prior to us having to leave.  I’m very proud of our guys for sharing the Good News of Jesus with the inmates!

Once we left the prison, we had about 3 hours to kill.  We had a really good breakfast at a local small town restaurant and had time to fellowship.  These times are fun because we have time to bond as a team.  The topics of conversation range from making fun of each other, talking about work related stuff, and talking about what God is doing in our lives.

After breakfast we went to the local high school and took a little batting practice on one of their fields before heading back to prison.

Because of the way things went in the morning, the officers in charge decided to extend the yard time from 60 minutes to 90 minutes. This allowed us to play two quick games and have a full ministry time in between.

We won both of the games and had a blast with the inmates.  Darrell Pine did a wonderful job explaining how Jesus took our punishment for sin and how we need to accept and follow Him.  Out of the 12 men that we saw, we saw 6 of them indicated that they accepted Jesus for the first time today.  Once again, we had several guys who had time to talk with some of the men who made decisions.

God worked in a mighty way yesterday as we saw 13 men indicate that they wanted Jesus Christ to be their king.  Please keep these 13 men in prayer and that they would find mentors in prisons who can help them grow and that God would use the material that we will mail them to help them know Jesus better.

Thank you so much to everyone who has decided to support this ministry either financially or through prayer.  Being a part of this team and organization has been one of the biggest blessings of my life and I’m so happy that God chose to use me to be part of it!

Please keep us in prayer as we head to Robinson Correctional Center on July 9th!

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