Dear Friends and Family,
The 2017 winter is in full swing. Despite the cold, I am looking forward to summer days of playing ball and sharing the Gospel with the incarcerated men behind bars with the Saints Prison Ministry! Entering their 30th year of ministry, the Saints Prison Ministry (www.saintsprisonministry.org) is a ministry that uses athletics to present the Gospel to the men and women behind bars.
Last year was an exciting year for me as I had the opportunity to travel to 16 different prisons in 3 different states. It was also exciting because our Central Illinois team had the opportunity to visit several state facilities that we have never been to before. We also made a key free agent acquisition in 2016; we added a 26 passenger bus for traveling to and from prison during the season! 2016 was an awesome year as we saw several men make decisions to follow Jesus but as great as 2016 was, it is now time to set the sights on what it will take to make 2017 a great year for serving Jesus in prison!
2016 YEAR IN REVIEW
Last year, the Central Illinois team for which I play and coach, played softball and shared the Gospel in SEVEN different prisons! I was also blessed to go on a Crusade to Florida in March, and a Crusade to Wisconsin in August. A Crusade is a short-term missions trip where our Saints team will visit 5-6 prisons over a 5 day span. We typically visit parts of the country that don’t currently have a Saints team. The team that we take on the Crusades is often a mix of players from various Saints teams across the country.
Florida Crusade- March 9-13
This was my 9th career Saints Crusade. We visited 4 prisons and handed out 1189 Gospels of John. We also saw 31 men make professions of faith that week. This trip was composed of men from the Southeast Region of the country. These are some of my best friends in ministry and I always look forward to ministering alongside them. One of the best conversations that I have had with an inmate took place at Hardee Correctional Institution on this Crusade. There was a man who was a former plumber serving time at Hardee. While he was at Hardee, he came to know Jesus and was actually already enrolled in one of the Saints Bible study programs. He talked about how excited he was to receive this material and how he always looked forward to having someone grade the paper and put “Good Job!” at the top. He told me something that I have heard numerous times in my 5 years serving in the ministry, “I thank God that I got to come here. I would have never met Jesus if I didn’t get locked up!”
Wisconsin Crusade- August 16-21
This trip was special because this trip was primarily made up of Missionary Athletes from New Jersey. The New Jersey team was the first team that I played with when I went on my first Saints trip 6 years ago, and it was special to see several of them again! One of the best ice-breakers that I had on this trip was teasing the Wisconsin inmates about the Bears-Packers rivalry! I had several good conversations with inmates at Jackson Correctional Institution. I had the opportunity to share the Gospel after a volleyball game. I received a response card after the preaching time from a man who indicated that he accepted Jesus. He told me that he was doing time for murder and he was never quite sure if God could ever forgive him. We talked about how God sent Jesus to die for all sin and that we need to repent and follow Him. Overall on the trip we handed out 1095 Gospels of John and we had 108 men indicate that they followed Jesus!
2016 Central Illinois Team
After several years of cancellations and postponements, our team started 2016 with a full schedule! We visited seven prisons and five of them had never had an outside team visit before. Because we were new to most of the facilities, we spoke to a lot of smaller crowds; often times those are the kind of days that you can spend more time talking with the inmates about the Gospel. Our team really bonded and grew together more in 2016 than in previous years. This is a really solid group of Christian men who want to share Jesus with men who are incarcerated! During our Illinois trips, we handed out 848 Gospels of John and we saw 160 men make professions that they were going to follow Jesus!
HOW TO PARTNER IN 2017
2016 was a great year but like any other championship team, we want to repeat and do it again! Our Spring Crusade will be at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana on March 15th-19th. Louisiana State Penitentiary is the largest maximum security prison in the United States. It’s been a long winter, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the field and meeting the inmates there. Our Central Illinois team is anticipating another full year with hopefully a couple of new facilities! I am also planning on going on another Crusade this October.
As a Saints missionary athlete I am asking for your support in two areas.
- I need to establish a team of people who will pray for me, the Saints team, and the inmates to whom we will be ministering. I am looking for a minimum of 10 people to mail the enclosed orange card back indicating that they will pray for me in 2017. When you fill out the orange card, please include your email address as I will be sending updates after each prison visit this year.
- I personally need to raise $2,400 this year to cover my travel, Crusade expenses, literature, inmate study materials, and softball equipment for the 2017 season. As a team, our Central Illinois team needs to raise $14,000 this year. I would ask you to prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible offering to support the Saints Prison Ministry in 2017.
I will be posting updates before and after each visit on my blog at www.tomgibson.me . While you are there you can also sign up for my email updates.
Please see the enclosed sheet for all of my social media contact information as I will be posting quite a bit this season!
Thanks again for your support and Go Saints Go!!