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Changing lives through God's Word
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I was a single mother, raising two kids, holding down a responsible job that demanded both my time and my emotional energy but the work -
I was married in 1979 to the man I felt I would spend the rest of my life with but despite even my best laid plans, that just didn't happen. Some blame me. Some blame him. All that doesn't matter. What matters are the results of those decisions and the life that began that day in January of 1997.
I went from almost holding on to sanity to a just barely sane existence cleverly disguised as a mother, student and professional volunteer director in the non-
As a child, my life looked pretty ordinary. I was the baby daughter of a professional father and stay at home mother. I had an older brother that enlisted in the Air Force at 18 and was gone for the better part of my high school years. Though my parents divorced when I was ten, we still looked pretty normal for the mid 70's. Divorce was becoming less and less taboo. Single moms were entering the work force and shortly after I entered high school, my Mom took a full time job at a local dry cleaner.
I never really wanted for much. My mom was a responsible woman who paid her bills, had a couple of credit cards "for emergencies only" and for the most part kept all topics of financial management quiet. It was considered personal. But though we lived in a modest apartment and I didn't always wear the latest designer this or that, I still had much of what a teenager wants and needs. My mom's family was close by, we had regular celebrations at Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the 4th of July. There were lots of things that normal families went through but there were things that weren't so ordinary. There were and probably still are secrets.
There was the "big secret" I held in my heart, the one no one else knew about. The childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my step grandfather that started at about age 12 and went on each visit until I was about 16 when I could come up with a viable enough excuse to cease the visits lay as a bitter secret I would not tell anyone until I was 35 years old.
I kept this secret and from all outside appearances, to most people I looked like an intelligent, accomplished, professional woman. What I didn't set out to be was a criminal or a convicted felon. I can honestly say that I didn't put a lot of thought into what I was doing those three days I went on a spending spree at the expense of others. I just knew that something inside me no longer cared to keep up the sane exterior and a big part of me thought "you can do this, you're smart enough to get away with it."
One December day I was working for the State, traveling almost daily, usually late into the night, leaving my 15 year old daughter behind and usually robbing Paul to pay Peter; keeping all kinds of financial wolves at bay. I was making a decent living and had child support but never did the ends seem to meet.
Christmas was approaching and I was again on the road to take a child from one placement to another. This 17 year old had disrupted each foster home placement and I was frustrated to say the least. Driving from Round Rock, Texas to Fort Worth to transport this young man from his second placement to his third placement, I watched the gas gauge drop lower and lower.
Knowing I would have to use the last few dollars in my bank account to make the round trip, I remembered a gift card in my brief case designated for another foster family. Slowly, with conflicting emotions of "yes" and "no" I pulled the gift card out and stopped at a Target in Mesquite and filled the gas tank, bought some lunch and a charger for my cell phone.
I tossed the card back into my brief case and finalized my trip back home to Georgetown. At some point, something inside just snapped. I can't explain it. I can't justify it or rationalize it and even at the time I knew I was risking more than I was willing to lose but something in my moral barometer was just gone. My gas tank was full but the gauge that measured right from wrong was flipping and swirling around like a roulette wheel. The white ball bounced in my mind and I was clearly and quickly out of control.
That night, when I returned to Georgetown, I went to Target again to purchase a new sweater to wear to court the following morning. Part of my job included testifying in child custody cases and this was to be my first termination hearing in my career so I wanted to look the part. With the anger and resentment of the eight hour trip to Fort Worth, Mesquite and back home still raging inside me, I again pulled out the card and readied myself to commit another crime of theft.
I walked through the store and picked out a few items, including several Christmas gifts for my own children (my budget was tapped and I had already told my children Christmas would have to wait until January again when I got my income tax refund, a common occurrence for us but something that this time just didn't feel right). When I got to the register, the woman in front of me had left her credit card in the register machine and rather than pull it out and call her back, as the purchases were rung up I slid the card back in and walked out with yet another felony event under my belt.
I cannot really recall all that transpired from this point forward. Though not altered by drugs or alcohol, I was altered by a false and evil sense of anger and entitlement that pushed me to what I am told was a three day spree of using credit cards and gift cards that were not mine. I filled our pantry with food, loaded our Christmas tree with gifts and threw in several luxury items for my home and myself such as new bedding and clothing for my office attire.
The woman, who had lived most of her life getting what she wanted, took that materialistic desire past the bounds of bad financial management and into the realm of felonious behavior. I was lost, emotionally and spiritually.
I had gone from a spend thrift to a thief in the matter of days. Don't get me wrong. I don't blame my crimes on the abuse as a child or the broken home or the lack of money management skills I had been taught or the fact that I was pretty much a spoiled child most of my life. I don't blame my crimes on being overworked or overtired. I don't blame my crimes on anything other than myself and irrational bad thinking that today still shock my spirit and heart.
What I've come to know, however, is that when I sit down and talk with the women in jail and prison that I work with, their stories all start out a lot like mine. Some more tragic, some more simple, some more complex. But we share a common thread. We all came to a moment when our decisions, our best laid out plans fell on the sidewalk like a used gum wrapper and tossed about in the wind without direction or purpose, turning quickly to rubbish. We all felt but didn't acknowledge that we lacked a loving relationship that felt constant and alive in our hearts and somewhere, one day along our life journey, we just gave up trying.
Less than one month after my crime spree, I found myself sitting inside the Georgetown Police Department and denying with all my might any wrongdoing (I had watched way too much prime time crime shows, I was pleading the 5th and hoping they would just take my word for things.) Finally, remembering I had one friend who was a lawyer, I asked to speak to her before I did anything else (yes, I "lawyered up") and then called my son to insure my daughter, then age 15, would be met at home when she returned from school. I can pretend I wasn't guilty but I was. I can pretend I didn't deserve what I got but I did. I can blame it on everyone else or I can take responsibility for the fact that my choices have always been my choices; good or bad. But what I can never do is look back now with any regret.
The short story of my life is that I had lived without God in my life my entire life. I had been an unchurched child grown into an unchurched woman who knew nothing about a loving God. I never knew there was a God who wanted more for me than I could even dream for myself. And while I was unchurched and unknowing about our Lord Jesus Christ, I had more than once prayed to a God out there somewhere, usually saying "if you are really there…" for something I felt I needed.
And the night before I was arrested I had prayed to God to "save me from myself". What a joyous thing it is when our prayers are answered, despite how they might look! God heard my prayer that night and knowing who I was and how I had lived my life to that point, seeing my life from beginning to end and knowing what His plans for me had always been, He stopped me dead in my own tracks and decided it was time we talked. My college educations didn't save me. My high IQ didn't save me. My knowledge of the law, my skills working with people, my ability to con my way into or out of most all situations didn't save me.
My Lord Jesus saved me. He called me into His family, greeted me warmly, lovingly and without reservation when I chose to invite Him in. With help of visiting clergy and the slow and patient discipleship I was offered, I came to know Jesus as Lord and knew that nothing in my life would ever be the same. Slowly He revealed to me His true nature, His full love and attentive eyes upon my life.
It may have happened in a dark jail cell on the Southside of the Williamson County jail but God met me there. He calmed my spirit, stilled the raging storm inside my soul and allowed me to walk through six months behind bars when I didn't think I could wake up there one more day. In time, He opened my heart to the reality of my life and the many things He had in store for me to do.
He continues to work with me, walk with me and correct me when my flesh attempts to take over. I have learned to love Him, trust Him more and more and want to share with others that He can and will meet you wherever you presently find yourself. If He met me in jail, He's willing to go anywhere, anytime to bring another of His children home to His heart.
Today, as my new husband Mark and I work toward building permanent transitional Christian housing for women coming out of prison and jail, I know God is at hand in our lives. Spirit House Ministries, Inc. was built to serve and glorify our loving God by meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of God's daughters. We are often confused, questioning, and uncertain where and what to do next. But always with confidence we know God is at work in our lives & I am ever grateful He calls me "daughter".
“You just need a little help,” the doctor looked at Phyllis with a smile as he tore the prescription off the pad, “follow the directions and you’ll feel better in no time.”
And just as the doctor had indicated, Phyllis began to feel better almost immediately. Gone were the memories of a birth mother who gave her up for adoption at the age of two, gone was the feelings of being bought by her adoptive parents who paid for anything she wanted but never showed the love she desperately needed.
For the first time in her teenage life Phyllis felt good, and whenever she needed a little “help” she went back to the doctor who gave her something else. However, Phyllis found that she had to take the pills more often to keep those good feelings. In fact if she missed taking the pills she would get cramps, she felt nauseated and very spaced out and, frankly, that didn’t feel very good.
Valium and barbiturates had been given to Phyllis to help, but when it became apparent that she simply traded in old baggage for new, she was sent to the Walter Hoving Home in Garrison, New York (part of Teen Challenge ministry). She left the facility during two separate attempts to get clean. She didn’t want the discipline required. She wanted someone to help her as long as they didn’t take away her drugs. While she didn’t let go of the drugs, good seed was planted during her stay that would later bear fruit.
The consistent drug use only served to bandage gaping emotional wounds. Phyllis had suffered sexual and physical abuse and the more she was hurt, the more she sought comfort in her pills. She wanted to be relieved of the pain and wrongly assumed that the drugs would calm the sadness. It only relieved it for a time, while Jesus Christ, the ultimate Healer of wounds waited with nail scarred hands spread wide to gather Phyllis in an embrace she refused to accept.
During a stay at a local jail, a pastor visited her. He may have had some good intentions, but the words he said to her had a very negative effect, “I don’t think even God can help you.” Her outer shell remained hard, but inside she crumbled, for if God could not help her, what hope did she have? Since she felt that all hope was gone, Phyllis pursued her rebellion at an accelerated pace.
Nearly 3 decades would pass as Phyllis continued a lifestyle filled with drugs. She would marry & have children, but the drug use didn’t stop until a night in 1979 when Phyllis went on a crime spree after taking too many narcotics. 9 criminal charges were levied against her. Although 5 charges were dropped, she would spend time in prison for the other 4 charges including armed robbery.
It was in the humility of a prison cell that Phyllis saw first hand the pain that her behavior had caused her family. When her family came to visit, her youngest son expressed great fear for his mother’s safety. She would watch as her family left while she was forced to stay. She had reached bottom and didn’t like the view.
While in prison, a different pastor involved in prison ministry dropped by and told her about the love of Jesus and the hope only He could provide. Her heart wanted to believe it while her head had trouble dismissing the idea that “even God can not help me.”
However, over several weeks of counseling and Bible study, Phyllis did invite Jesus into her heart in the confines of her prison cell. Tears streamed down her cheeks, as she became totally overwhelmed by what Jesus had done for her. Finally those inner wounds were placed under the care of the Great Physician who would deal tenderly with this broken woman.
In time, Phyllis was released from prison. However, being on the inside gave Phyllis a heart that burned to help those who, like her, found themselves in conflict with the law and in need of a Savior.
Following a year of counseling, she discovered that God wanted her back on the inside to counsel inmates and their families. This was possible only after receiving a pardon from the Canadian government.
Phyllis attended Bible College where she completed studies in biblical counseling. These days she is involved in a full-
She has had many opportunities to reach out not only to those who have been charged with crimes, but judges, lawyers, and police as well. In a twist of irony, Phyllis was even able to share what God had done for her with a prosecuting attorney. This was the same attorney that successfully tried her case, sending her to prison.
The life she has led may not have been what she wanted, but in the end God did indeed work all things together for good and the story concludes much better than it began. Phyllis would be the first to tell you, “(God) will give you the same hope that He gave to me. He will give you something worth living for.” After all, He is the author of Good News.
My testimony is one that reinforces God’s love for sinners! I was an alcoholic at age 16! From then until 38, my life was a shamble. At times I lived on the streets, slept in doorways, ate out of garbage cans, etc. I can certainly identify with the homeless.
I couldn’t hold a job, lost my wife and daughter and my dignity. I couldn’t support my habit and turned to crime. I was in and out of jail, then ended up doing federal time. While in prison I finally yielded my life to Jesus about 14 years ago and I’ve never looked back and God has done miracle after miracle in my life! I was completely healed of my alcoholism and later of my smoking (2 and a half packs a day). My limited day parole came earlier than it should have and I didn’t even request it as I knew it was too soon!
God also brought a Salvation Army Volunteer into my life while still inside and we were married 12 years ago! He knew I couldn’t make it on my own and was sincere about changing. It hasn’t been easy but I wouldn’t go back to that old life for anything!
God has provided for us abundantly and when I look around my home and see the things he has blessed us with I can’t believe it. I never dreamed one day I would hold a good job, have a vehicle to drive, a camper in the summer, and a wonderful church family to fellowship with! I have also prayed for my family and slowly they are turning to Christ!
I give my testimony whenever I can in prison groups, Harbour lights, etc. Wherever God sends me. This is a short note of what God has done for me & I want to share it with anyone who will listen so they can be encouraged to change and give their lives to Jesus!
The Bible verse I quote often is Matthew 7:7-
I asked, sought and have greatly received.
I grew up in a non-
During the month of September, one month before my 16th birthday, I was looking for a job in the help wanted column of the local newspapers. There was a phone number for part time ground maintenance and janitorial work which I was looking for. I called the number and it was the church down the road. My first question was, do I have to attend the church? The answer was no. Ok, I will be interested in working there. I worked there 3 weeks and another employee asked me a question that I could not answer. “If I was to die today, would I know that I would go to heaven?” I had to think about this for awhile. Yes, I starting listing all my good works. To his surprise, he thought I was kidding him. He continued to question me and realized that I was serious. I did fear God and the Bible and he asked me if he could show me in the Bible how I can know. Well within 10 minutes the great thing happened to me. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8 KJV). Yes, something happen to me and I cannot explain. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). Church worship took on a new meaning. The preaching, hymns, and reading the Bible, all brought joy and peace into my life. Twenty-
In the fall of 1976, I attended the Baptist Bible College for four years and received my BA in Theology. 1980-
Have you ever received one of those presents that made you so happy that you HAD to share it with everyone that you met? Well, let me share with you the most wonderful present that I have ever received in my life. The date was December 7, 1975 (10:00 a.m.). I was at the time serving “time” in a maximum security prison. In fact I was in solitary confinement. A guard came and banged on my cell door, “Hey !! Craig. Do you want to go to the Chapel Service?”
Up to this point of my life I had NEVER read any Bible or been to Church etc. I did not know about Jesus or an altar call or anything. At this time of my life I hated so called Christians, they were all a bunch of sissies. I had no use for any one who talked about Jesus or the Bible. However, I figured out that an hour in the Chapel would give me a break from the “hole.” So I said, “Sure, let’s go.” I went in and sat right at the back of that Chapel. Looking towards the front you could see a large plain wooden cross mounted on a red brick wall. The minister was busy talking about something, I turned him off real quick. There were about seventy inmates in that service, bank robbers, child molesters, con artists etc. I settled back and started to enjoy my break from solitary when suddenly it happened...
I looked up to the front and I could hardly believe what I saw... I SAW JESUS... That’s right, I saw Jesus and He would not go away. I closed my eyes and settled back once again to the quietness of the moment... then I looked up for a second time... HE WAS STILL THERE... and He still would not go away and He was looking right at me. I put it down to the fact that I had been in the “hole” for so long that I was going what they call “stir crazy,” I was sure that I had gone over the edge.
I looked up for a third time... YOU GUESSED IT, HE WAS STILL THERE... WOW, I could not see His whole body but His eyes were looking right into mine. It was like a flowing of Love from Him to me. As I have said, I have never heard of an altar call etc. Yet,I KNEW that He had something that I needed. So I got up and walked down to the front. It was like someone had taken a large barrel of warm water and dumped it all over me. There I was a big lump of nothing on the floor of that Chapel. I remember saying “If you want what is left Lord, you are welcome to it, what ever I have it is yours.” Please keep in mind there had been no altar call and in fact that poor minister was still trying to get through his prepared sermon. I looked either side of me that day, about thirty five inmates had come forward. I went back to my cell that day and gave away ALL of my cigarettes and tobacco etc. I was placed in general population that afternoon.
There was a revival in that prison that day. I was to be in prison for another year. During this year I read my Bible from cover to cover nine times. When I was first returned to my cell that day I opened up a Bible and the VERY FIRST thing that I ever read in any Bible was “Psalm 142:7.” YES, by all means look it up for yourself.
How many of you know that when we become Christians that all of our problems do not go away. In fact in many cases a true disciple of Christ will undergo hardship like never before. In my case I was originally ordained with the Pentecostal Holiness Church Of Canada in 1982. I was used by our Lord to head up a very large prison ministry. I saw many souls come to the Lord because of this ministry. However I came under spiritual attack to the point that I almost gave up everything. Yet our loving Father was not finished with me yet.
May 21, 1999 the Lord saw fit to bless me with a beautiful spirit filled Christian wife. Jackie is now a very strong supporter of CONtact for CHRIST, Prison Ministry. I thank God for His continuing hand upon my life and this ministry.
My husband and I minister at a women’s prison every Friday night leading worship. This week we were asked to give the teaching as the usual leader was absent, and the story of Gideon was strong on our minds. Yes. I had heard the story before. But as my husband told it afresh to the women of Rainbow Prison Camp I heard many things for the first time. Funny how God’s Word is that way-
Gideon. He was ready and waiting for the call of God to be a warrior. NOT! He was hiding in the winepress hoping to be “missed.” But God’s angel found him and called him “Warrior of God.” God does that. He calls us out by name and awakens something inside of us. Something sleeping. Something timid and afraid. A destiny. Our destiny. And here we are, Gideons at Rainbow with but a few women, 10 or so. “They’re my warriors!” I heard Him say. Yet everyday they are being treated like losers, 24/7, by each other, by guards that for various and sundry reasons have chosen a profession where they can be mean to people and get paid for it. (Well, maybe not all of them). LOSERS. The inmates there would surely raise their hand, “Yeah, that’s me,” if that name was called out. LOSER. NOT what the angel called Gideon! Gideon, who was also in an obscure place, hidden from the rest of the world was called WARRIOR OF GOD. That’s the name God gave him and then he supplied him with one of the mightiest armies in Israel’s history ... using just 300 “lappers!”
“Oh Lord, these women here. They are Gideons. They are so like him and so are we.” So after worship this week I get a Gideon idea if there ever was one. A Gideon idea is of the sort that when you hear it, (trust God to win MINUS the 170,000 men you need...) you go, YEAH, RIGHT! So the idea pops into my head: “Tell the drummer to give you a marching rhythm and tell the women that God is going to give them their marching orders.” What do you do when you hear an idea like that? The drummer got on his seat and waited for a VERY long pause probably feeling just like I was. I began to pray for the women. He began to drum. The feeling of God’s empowerment started to come. Soon all were standing, drums were pounding and our arms were raised in volunteer fashion to BE Gideon’s army, “Yes Lord, take me, I’ll go, here’s my YES. I am feeble, I am weak and lacking, but through Your power I’ll be victorious to fulfill the call of God on my life.” And this was how we ended worship somewhere over the rainbow this week :o) Please continue to pray for the Gideon army being raised up out there.
In order to become more interactive with our web viewers, we include this section “Testimonies of Individuals.” Although Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc. is primarily a prison ministry, these testimonies have been submitted to us by people on the outside. And we feel that they are too good to keep to ourselves. If you would like to submit your own personal testimony, please email it to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org Do not use the Contact Us form since it limits the number of characters to just 500.
We’ll be unable to provide a response to everyone who makes a submission, due to understaffing and a heavy workload. But, if your testimony is chosen to be used on this site, we will email you back and let you know. All testimonies chosen will be subject to editing at the publisher’s discretion. Please do not send any testimonies through the mail or fax! They will not be accepted. No financial remuneration will be made for any submissions that we use. They will be considered a freewill donation to this ministry.
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