As we enter this special time of thankfulness, we remember all He has done this year. With grateful hearts, we give glory to God for all He is doing in the hearts of our women.
We have wanted a faith-based dorm at Hilltop Trusty Camp for several years, and this month it was officially dedicated!
Jennifer is our newest participant in the Hilltop faith-based Dorm and tells this miracle story:
When I was arrested, I was placed in a two person cell with a girl who was my enemy on the streets. Someone handed me a “Karla Faye Tucker Set Free” book. I got on my bunk and quietly read.
After a while, my cellmate asked me what I was reading. I told her and said, “Why don’t you request a copy?” After a long silence she said, “I can’t read.” So I read it to her. We read it together all the way through. Then she asked if I would read it again. So we read it through twice. After we finished it the second time, we were friends. Then she said she’d like to try to read Karla’s story herself, if I could help her to learn to read.
So Jennifer taught her to read, and God made friends of enemies.
Linda and Edrena spent some time in Indiana, and this is Edrena's report of their experiences: The Federal Corrections Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, has maximum-minimum security levels in several different facilities. It also houses death row for men and some of those that are threats to U.S. security. Being a federal facility it is definitely a step up from Texas state prisons generally in many ways. They have a faith-based program with 130 men in which we were able to spend a day.
Linda was able to speak to the U.S. Penitentiary (maximum security) and the Federal Corrections (medium security) on Sunday and tell about her and Karla's story of redemption and forgiveness. She was able to openly share the gospel, and we were able to pray with the men individually. Several received Christ, and others wanted prayer to walk faithfully.
There is no parole to speak of in the federal system, and most of the men are from other parts of the U.S., so they don't receive many visits. Several were from Texas. The chaplains and staff were great!! We do know that there is much more general programming in our units than what is happening there, even though they have eight paid chaplaincy staff for around 3,000 inmates.
On Monday, we toured the faith-based program. It is 18 months, and we will be sharing ideas from it as we process what we can use. They graciously gave us copies of all their curriculum. Linda was able to share the story of forgiveness through Ron Carlson, brother of the lady Karla murdered. It is powerful. We divided into groups with the 130 men and discussed forgiveness. They had never divided into groups like this before.
Since this faith-based group involves any faith, we had Muslim, no faith, Catholic, Protestant and some other faiths there. There was an imam and a retired nun there as mentors as well as the Protestant mentors. Linda did a great job sharing the forgiveness message while speaking under the restrictions of the government. Ron's video spoke much of what we would like to convey for us. The chaplain said these were the best presentations they have ever had.
After this, we were able to share individually with several men and also see some of their classes, including one where they sew hats for kids in hospitals, called Happy Hats. The men gave us a great round of applause as we left them. One of the workers said they had never done this before.
It is only through the prayers lifted up for us and desiring to be faithful to our call and love the ones God has sent us to is this possible. Pray for those men that God's love would transform them and that they would be lights to that place. Also continue to pray for discernment on how to best fulfill our call here.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your name give glory, because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.
Through your faithful prayers and generous support of Discipleship Unlimited we have witnessed God at work in amazing ways in 2012.Lives were changed at our prison outreaches.
- Carole Young Unit in Texas City in January
- Mountain View, Hilltop and Hilltop Trusty units in February and December
- Woodman State Jail in April and November
Through your faithful prayers and generous support Discipleship Inlimited launched two more Faith Based Dorms this year!
- Mountain View in January
- Hilltop in October
Graduations were held at Murray and Hobby Faith Based Dorms.
- There is a deep gratitude from the women for their books and materials
- Speakers who come to provide training leave inspired by their hungry hearts
Through your faithful prayers and generous support God has raised upmore wonderful volunteers!
- Last year we had our first Reignite Retreat!
- Volunteers and those who have participated in our Faith Based Dorms were reunited.
- Stories were shared and there was an outpouring of love.
What JOY to witness freedom on the inside! And then to be reunited and free on the outside of the fences is exhilarating. Everyone was energized by the witness of God’s grace and Faithfulness.
Thank you again for your faithful prayers and generous support! You are our ministry partners!
Celebrate Graduation 2012!
40 Years in Full-Time Ministry
25 Years in Texas Prisons
Terry Meeuwsen has been my faithful friend and prayer partner for many years. She came to Texas in 1998 while Karla Faye Tucker was preparing for her execution. One evening, after leaving Mountain View, we went up on a hill overlooking the prisons in the area. We prayed for Karla and all those behind the fences. Then Terry suggested that we drive past the prisons and ask the Lord to open prison doors.
Now, 14 years later , Discipleship Unlimited is in every one of those prisons. God has allowed us to be an answer to our prayers!
An Interview with Terry Meeuwsen and Linda Strom
June 1! You are reaching another milestone ... 70 years old. How does it feel to turn 70?
Unreal … However, seven is a significant number in the Bible AND I am celebrating 70 years. If seven is a number of completion, I want to press on to complete this great adventure with God. So like Caleb at 80 I am ready to take the land.
What do you see God doing today that energizes you?
I see God changing lives in our prisons like never before. We still do outreaches and weekly studies. These are awesome and exciting, but we also have Faith-Based Dorms where inmates are being trained to be inmate ministers. Wardens and Chaplains partner with us to make these dorms as effective as possible. Senator Whitmire, who heads the Texas Dept of Criminal Justice, has endorsed the dorm concept. The rate of recidivism of graduates has proven the effectiveness of a walk with Jesus. The word of God works! Texas State Senator Dan Patrick says, “Our ultimate goal is to make our communities safer by changing the character of prisoners so, when released, they do not go back to a life of crime.”
What is the process for a Faith-Based Dorm?
Inmates apply for the program. We interview them, and with approval from the chaplain and warden of the unit, we accept those who have a heart for God and a teachable spirit. They live in a separate faith-dorm community. We take 12 to 18 months to prepare them to be “sent out” to other housing units in the prison.
Explain how it works in the dorm.
We have both men and women’s faith-based dorms, which have classes at least three days a week, plus special seminars. They have homework as well as their prison responsibilities. They also have daily devotionals as a dorm and an individual quiet time.
I had a meeting this week with the women in our newest faith dorm at Mountain View. It opened in January. I walked into a prison housing unit filled with joy and women eager for more of Jesus. They are ready to be taught the word. They live in a forced community, so their rough areas are exposed. During our community meetings, they own their issues. Grace is freely given; however, they hold each other accountable.
Some of the praise reports from that night.
I have been in prison for 24 years and this is the first time I’ve had hope. I can see how my life can still have purpose.
We have received prayer requests from other inmates and staff on this unit. We started praying for the women in segregation and the population is dropping.
We have seen over 50 answers to prayer since we started praying two months ago.
And then they graduate? Is it difficult for them to go back into general population?
It is a challenge, but we are preparing them to be missionaries from the beginning. When they graduate, we send them out in twos or threes to the other dorms, much like a church plant. Last week at our graduation in the Hobby Unit, 24 women graduated. Every graduate shared how her life had been changed. Some of these women had never received a diploma before. Graduations are highlights. It’s all about equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. That is the great commission.
Who teaches these classes and studies?
We have over 150 active, local volunteers, and they are committed. One teacher retired early to oversee one of our dorms. We have retired volunteers as well as people in their twenties. They are on mission with God and have joined Him in what He is doing behind the fences.
How do you stay connected with so many volunteers?
I still take an active part in all of the outreaches and have weekly contact with leaders of the studies. We had a volunteer retreat this year where over 100 people attended. Released offenders came to thank the volunteers and give updates of their lives. One of our first graduates is now the Chaplain at Harris County Jail in Houston. People who once were incarcerated are now free and active in local churches and ministry.
Terry and Jean joined you in 2005. That has allowed the ministry to address some key issues in the lives of inmates. Tell me about that.
85% of our inmates have substance abuse issues. Terry and Jean and their team are doing amazing things in the area of recovery. They do recovery work, both inside and outside of prison walls. They welcome those newly released men and women and their families into local Christ-centered recovery programs.
Terry loves leading worship, and Jean has a heart for the women on death row. It is amazing how God fit our staff and team together. Kathy Diaz has been with us for seven years. She keeps us on track with detail. Kathy and Rich Diaz and Terry and Jean are friends who work together. They speak at local churches and impart the vision. Our goal is to train leaders who train leaders. Motto: Always think multiplication.
I know your heart for Africa. Are you planning another trip?
Yes! I can’t wait. I did my first Johannesburg Conference with you in 2001. This year in August will be my seventhtrip. I will go to Cape Town and Wellington, South Africa. I stay for a month; I speak at Women’s conferences and church services. I also am involved in prison ministry, and we are developing a similar discipleship program for the prison there. Edrena and Mike Smith plan to come to Wellington for 10 days and we will minister in the prisons together. Edrena is an amazing administrator, and she does our curriculum development.
What is the greatest need for Discipleship Unlimited today?
The doors are open and the volunteers are in place. However, our Chaplains do not have a budget. All equipment and materials must be provided by the ministry. We supply material for hundreds of inmates weekly. We bring in speakers and musicians for the outreaches and have celebrations for graduation. We are very grateful for our faithful financial supporters, however, we continue to need additional ongoing support and gifts in order to expand and deepen our efforts.
We also need prayer. We are establishing communities of light in the heart of medium and maximum- security prisons. This is a great day for the church on the outside to come together with the church on the inside. The Bible instructs the church to go. You can go as a volunteer, a prayer warrior, or a financial supporter. The prison doors are open, and our goal is to disciple men and women who’ve come to faith into wholeness and lives of purpose.
Texas has opened the door for every prison to have a faith-based dorm!