Archive for June, 2012

Don Harding, Moundsville, WV Prison & Jail Volunteer

Yokefellowship VolunteerFour men in an old pickup truck stopped by my house today and wanted to know if I wanted my roof checked. Before I could reply, he pointed out several things wrong with my roof. I noticed some of the shingles were not even with the others, but didn’t think much about them. Turns out they were coming loose and needed renailed and sealed. He gave me a terrific price and they fixed them on the spot. Plus, they took out a spare hot water tank we never use anymore. They’re coming back this fall and grinding a stump also.

In the process, he noticed an open bible in the garage and asked about it. I had picked it up at Goodwill and was in process of fixing some torn places and retaping the edges of others. “The Bible is going to Ohio Co Corrections this Sunday,” I replied. I mentioned about being in Yokefellowship Prison Ministry. He then said, “Hey, I remember you. I did 6 months for 2nd offense DUI. You were one of several men who came in on Fridays at Northern. You gave me a bible.”

He continued, “There are many who really appreciate your group, and your meeting is a welcome event. We look forward to those days you come in.” He said he still has his bible and has never had another drink since his release. He has tried several churches but most act like they don’t want him. Because of his record, it is hard to get a job now so he is making work himself , his son and three other men of like record.

Several families have hired them here in the neighborhood, for various jobs. His last statement was rewarding, “Please don’t give up on going in the prison. You are needed.”

It was like getting a payday. Most of the time we never hear from the men. Never know if any good is being done. We don’t go for praise or applause. We go because it is scripture. But it was nice hearing from someone from the inside. I just thought you might like to hear some positive news for a change. don harding

Carlos Caguias, Franklin County Jail Volunteer

Yokefellowship Volunteer TestimoniesYokefellows volunteer, Carlos Caguias, knows what its like to be shackled, locked up, locked down, and alone. He’s been addicted to drugs and alcohol, blinded by rage, and filled with the fury to kill. He should have died 100 times.

But through it all, Carlos believes God sanctified him, protected him, and finally, called him as it says in Jude .

“….to them that are sanctified by God the Father,
and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.”
—Jude 1:1-2

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City, Carlos first went to jail at age 15 for smoking reefer. His girlfriend bailed him out for $25. At age 17, he was sentenced to 4 years for armed robbery. Paroled after 2½ years he remained on the streets for one year. At age 20, he was convicted of 14 burglaries and served less than one year. He was paroled to Pottstown PA to live with his sister and continued to steal to supplement his drug habit. For ten years he didn’t get caught. Then he lost his regular job and reluctantly started selling drugs, as Satan whispered, “just to pay a few bills.” He got greedy and began raking in the cash, buying a quarter for $600 and selling it for $1,200. He owned 5 cars, 2 motorcycles, and an apartment filled with luxuries.

Two years later, surrounded by riches and women, he weighed 100 pounds and was so strung out on drugs that he didn’t sleep for three days. He cried out to God for help and God sent an undercover cop. “I knew it was God because I hadn’t sold to anyone I didn’t know for 10 years,” Carlos explained. Six weeks later, he was in jail.

Driven by his lifetime addiction he would shake the cell bars screaming for a hit at all hours of the day and night. On Sept 25, 1990, while searching for a radio station, the static miraculously disappeared and Carlos heard the testimony of a felon broadcast on Chaplain Ray’s ministry in Texas.

Carlos began to cry, “It felt like 1,000 pounds was lifted off of me. The bitterness and hatred left and God filled me up.” Carlos adds, “God then immediately took my desires for drugs away.”

Carlos developed a thirst for the Word that couldn’t be quenched. He studied incessantly. He wrote to Chaplain Ray who sent him books on other inmates who were given new lives in Christ. With his self-acquired knowledge he started his own bible study. When there were 5 inmates in the study, the Lieutenant told them to stop. So they broke up into small groups and stood 10-15’ apart so they could hear everything anyone said. When Carlos was released in ‘91 there were 35 inmates in the study.

Carlos’ advice to inmates prior to release is “Don’t leave God behind. You must surrender to God completely. Not just 99 percent. And, don’t try to convert your old friends.”

Since ‘97, Carlos has volunteered at Huntingdon County prison and SCI Smithfield. Carlos has his own home, a loving wife Lydia, and a son. Three years ago Carlos was diagnosed with liver cancer and is awaiting a liver transplant. During his illness, on his good days, he continued to minister behind bars and to everyone who crosses his path, encouraging others to share the Good News. His spirits are high and now more than ever he is relying upon the peace and love of Jesus Christ, his savior. (see Jude 1:2 above).

Bryan, Sentence 19-75 Years

In 1988, I was in jail in Pittsburgh awaiting sentencing. It was Sunday morning and they were announcing the morning worship service. I wasn’t about to go. Then a guard came to my cell asking me why I wasn’t going. I told him flatly I didn’t go to church. Three times he came back to ask the same question. I finally agreed to go if he left me alone. I know God was trying to save me because I was planning to kill myself.

I went to the service but don’t remember the sermon. Afterwards, in my cell, I had such a heavy heart (heavy laden) and still wanted to die. Then the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit came over me (Isaiah 61:1) because I truly was broken-hearted, captive, and bound, now physically as well as mentally. Falling to my knees, I asked Jesus to forgive and help me (Psalm 51).

From then on I started seeing, hearing and even feeling the presence of God in my life. The people God has placed in my path for the last 17 years has been amazing and that especially goes for the Yokefellows volunteers.

Being part of Yokefellowship in SCI Somerset and SCI Greensburg, I have learned so much of God’s love from the Word and exactly how and what God has planned for my life. Yokefellow volunteers have shown me through their actions how Christians are suppose to be (James 1:22,23; 1John 4:7-12; 17-21).

I’ll tell you how an inmate like myself can be an effective witness for the Lord. I’ve been through a lot: sexual abuse, mental abuse, drug/alcohol abuse, no education, no father, and a Mom who did the best she could raising 5 children alone! I believe a born again Christian, set free from these bondages, has more wisdom to deal with those who are living these foolish lives. They can’t lie and deceive me.

When I was 14 years old, I started looking for a man to fulfill my void of not having a father in my life. And, as most young boys do, I ended up looking up to my uncle who was and still is a drug addict, thief, womanizer, etc. Which is part of the reason that I am now doing 19 to 75 years prison sentence.

You see for me, I would never had known the true love of God without seeing, hearing, and feeling it through the Yokefellows and pastors I have met over the last 17 years. These Christians have touched my heart like I’ve never felt in my entire life. I cried for days after my transfer from SCI Greensburg.

Yokefellowship is so strong and anointed of God that it has showed me, a young man of 18, now 35, that no matter how bad I was or what I did, God forgave me and continues to bless me if I continue to do as Psalms 1 and Joshua 1:8,9 tells me. God will see me through.

Remember this! I wouldn’t be the man of God, brother, uncle, son, nephew, or friend that people tell me they love today without the love of Christ and the love of the Yokefellows I’ve met and Lord willing will continue to meet, even after I come home July 2007!!!!

Matt, SCI Pine Grove

My name is Matt. I am 18 years old and am currently serving a prison sentence of 4 to 8 years for armed robbery. I grew up with two deaf parents and a brother six years older than me. Our family was dysfunctional. My father was abusive to my mother and occasionally to me and once to my brother. He passed away from lung cancer when I was twelve years old.

My family was part of the Catholic Church although we only went on Easter and Christmas Eve. The only time we prayed was before we ate and it was a “standard” prayer. My parents sent me to CCD classes but I don’t remember much. I made my first Communion but that was as far as I made it in the Catholic Church.

Because of my father’s abuse, my mother contacted CYS (Children and Youth Services). They were there to protect us and they got us involved in family counseling. The family counseling was not effective. My father wasn’t interested and I was rebellious. Due to my rebellion, I listened to no one. CYS felt they could correct my problem by removing me from the home when I failed to comply with the household rules. This happened from the time I was seven until I was twelve. I am not sure how many times I was placed in foster care to correct me but obviously it was to no avail.

When I was 12, I was arrested for terrorist threats and was put in a detention center then sent to Adelphi Village. I was put on a 45-day evaluation to see what kind of treatment I needed. I spent the next eleven months in a group home then I was released back to my mother.

Before I was put in placement I was already getting high on weed and dropping acid (LSD). I was eight the first time I got high and twelve the first time I used LSD. Placement didn’t help needless to say. A month after release, I was getting high again and back into my old ways. My life was spiraling out of control and I was hanging out with people in the same predicament. I didn’t care about anyone or anything, especially God. I, along with one of my grimy friends, was breaking into houses, sometimes for no other reason than just to do it. I was also putting myself at high risk by having unprotected sex. I didn’t value life, mine or anyone else’s. I wasn’t suicidal but I certainly put myself in situations where I could have been killed and made to see my creator in whom I didn’t believe. I cursed God and wanted nothing to do with anything or anyone that would impede my selfish ambitions.

In March 2000, I committed armed robbery at the age of 15. Later that night I was apprehended and put in front of a judge early the next morning. I was informed that due to the violent nature of my crime I would be going to court as an adult. I was sent to the county jail and waited to get bailed out. I was bailed out 2 weeks later and went home to my mom. But my attitude didn’t change. I wasn’t scared straight and as a matter of fact I was on the verge of getting into more trouble. While I was out on bail, I was almost thrown back in jail because I was pulled over at 1:00 am with the trunk filled with booze and drunken companions in the car with me. I was the designated driver. Remember I was fifteen and had no license. I was fined and released. Because of this incident, I was brought back before the judge and given one more chance. I was placed on intensive pre-trial supervision. I was assigned a probation officer and was told to stay out of trouble. I didn’t. I continued to skip school and act up. I made it to my first hearing. There juvenile probation announced they were arresting me for a burglary I committed prior to the armed robbery. I have been incarcerated ever since May 2000.

The first six months I spent in a juvenile detention center and was always in trouble. The next six months I was sent to a maximum security juvenile facility. I was constantly in trouble there and made no improvements in my behavior. On April 4, 2001, I was brought before the judge to be sentenced on my armed robbery. I was given four4-8 years and was sent to Camp Hill, an adult prison. then transfered to Pine Grove. In my first 30 days, I was put into the Hole for fighting. I spent 48 days in the Hole. This ended up being the start of a turning point in my life.

This is my testimony of how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, transformed my life. You have read a brief excerpt of my life without Jesus. The first time I heard about being born again and accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior was about six months before I committed the robbery. That wasn’t the last time I was to hear of the gift of eternal life. All through out my incarceration I was given the opportunity to make the choice to accept or reject Jesus as my Lord. While I was at the juvenile detention center, I prayed to God to forgive me of my sins and I accepted Christ. But I had a misunderstanding of what would happen after I got saved. I had it in my head that everything would be a bed of roses. I thought the swearing would be supernaturally taken away, the temptations immediately removed etc. I failed to read the Bible and get an understanding of the God who loved me so much that He put up with me for so long and not only that but died for me so I could live with Him forever. I wasn’t interested in making an effort to change so I continued in my selfish ways. I came here to Pine Grove and went into the hole. While in the hole (confinement in a cell 23/1) I had a lot of time to think.

While in the hole, I was forced to look at my life. I wasn’t happy and the things I did all my life including drugs and sex and attention getting through bad behavior were only temporary. I didn’t want to spend my life in and out of prison and always getting into trouble. I didn’t want to keep hurting those who love me especially my mom. I wasn’t sure what to do. Ever since I can remember, I was getting into trouble. I wanted to change like I did many other times in my life but I knew that was unlikely. For no matter how bad I wanted to change in times past, I couldn’t. I’d last for a month at the most and give up and go back to my old ways of running from reality. Counseling couldn’t change me, placements and prison couldn’t change me. My love for my mother couldn’t change me. It seemed like nothing made me really want to change. I wanted to break free from the chains that were holding me but I just didn’t have the will power and the desire to break the chains came and left. When the desire to be free wasn’t in me I felt content in my bondage. But when the desire to break free arose, I was uncomfortable with what was revealed to me. I indeed felt like Paul in Romans 7:19, “for the good that I will to do, I do not do, but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” I was not in control of my life. My sinful desires of the flesh were. Of course I didn’t know that at the time. Because I knew I wasn’t in control of my life and wasn’t sure how my life became like that I was confused and forced it out of my head denying the conviction. Even while I was high or drunk I would be convicted or feel trapped and confused. I knew my life was a wreck and I would desire to be sober and have real happiness. During these fleeting moments of self-examination, I would ask myself what I was doing, why was I doing this to myself. I would think of my mom, knowing she was w worried sick about me since I hadn’t come home. I would think in my altered state of mind that this isn’t fun. I felt helpless to stop it. But of course I pushed it out of my mind and tried to just forget about it.

As these memories were brought into my mind while in the hole, I started to realize, life as I am living it will never be truly enjoyable. There would be no real peace or happiness and anything I experienced would be temporary. I would be a failure. This is the time I really started to think about God and Jesus and the Bible. I remembered my prayer for forgiveness while in the juvenile detention center. I remember the things I was told about Jesus. I knew that if I wanted to change I should at least give God a try. I didn’t come to this conclusion in one day. But I decided I would attend church services when I got out of the hole. I read a little bit of the Bible and while in the hole I started Crossroad Bible studies which is a correspondence course for inmates. When I got out of the hole, I went to church and decided I would live my life for Jesus. I re-committed my life to Jesus in the month of September 2001. I have since been walking with the Lord. I attend church services weekly and attend Bible study groups at least five times a week. I have learned much about Jesus and the hope He has give me. After I made my choice to follow Christ I didn’t want to do wrong any longer. I felt different. I had a sense of hope and peace which I never had before. Now that hope and peace is as strong as ever as I learned what I believe and what great things Jesus has done for me. I love reading the Bible and fellowshipping with other Christians who really want to live their lives for Jesus.

Jesus Christ has changed my life tremendously. I know the change in my attitude and behavior and even my desires can only be accredited to the transformation that took place when I re-dedicated my life to Him and decided I would life for Him. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things pass away, behold all things become new.” I may say with great confidence that I am indeed a new creation. I no longer want to do the things I used to because the Holy Spirit has come to live within me and enable me to hate the works of my old self. I often look back and scratch my head because I am in awe of how much my relationship with Jesus has changed me. I now have the things which I attempted to get through vanity, that is, peace, joy-real true joy that is sometimes beyond understanding and explanation. I no longer have a guilty conscience and now have confidence where I will be when I depart from this body. Not only that but I have been assured that I can stand before God knowing that all my sins are forgiven. He has removed them from me as far as the East is from the West! It is all because Jesus loved me even though I was His enemy and died upon the cross for my sins that they could be erased from my record. I most certainly can’t claim that I turned over a new leaf. The change that has taken place was not me changing my actions but the Holy Spirit changing my heart. I know that the only reason I am going to be in eternity with God is because “For grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” I know I didn’t earn eternal life, I certainly do not deserve it, but that is what is so awesome about the only God of the Universe. He made a way, because no one deserves it, “As it is written: there is none righteous, no not one.” All mankind is in the same boat and it is sinking quickly. God has cast Himself into the waters of our sins and has provided a life saver for us. Will you grab on? What do you have to lose? Your soul is what you would lose. If you do not grab on and have faith and believe in Jesus Christ to free you from your sea of sin, you will drown in them. As long as you depend on yourself and your own strength to keep you a float in your sea of sin you will never make it.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior and are traveling down the same road that I was on, now is your chance to repent of your rebellion against God and receive His full pardon. It is that easy. If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9) “Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.” Jesus has changed my life and He wants to change yours and give you eternal life but you must make the choice. He will not force anything upon you. Now then I am an ambassador for Christ, as though God were pleading through me: I implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. Jesus wants nothing but the best for you here on earth and in eternity. The devil wants nothing but the worst for you. Jesus said in John 10:10, “the thief (the devil) does not come except to stea~ kill and to destroy. I (Jesus) have come that they (those who will believe on Him) may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”.

To those of you who already belong to the fold of Jesus, I pray, this testimony which He has given me will be an encouragement to you. Especially to my fellow youth brother and sisters, with God, all things are possible, let us stand up today in the wicked and lost generation and proclaim Christ is Risen to all who will hear whether they are young or old. Do not believe the devil’s lie that you are too young for God to use you. Get grounded in the word of God, memorize scripture, and “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly living the word of truth.” I pray God would spark a fire for Him in your hearts. Let us heed Paul’s words to young Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. “Stand strong in the Lord.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you in all fullness.

from the

Yoked to You is a bi-monthly newsletter to YPM leaders and volunteers from the Executive Director.

Yoked to You July-Aug 2012

Yoked to You May-June 2012

Yoked to You – March 2012