Evangelism Crisis at Mission Evangelism
Please Help with the Prison Outreach!
Years ago, I sought for ways to break into prison ministry work. I knew some folk who lived near prisons who were regularly visiting inmates at a nearby jail. On three occasions before 1980 (in California, Florida, and Tennessee) I accompanied friends to jails to visit the prisoners and speak with them.
I was deeply impressed by the possibilities. They seemed immense. Here were men in the prime of life who were bewildered, wanting something they did not have, and with time on their hands to think through solutions. If somehow they could be steered into the right direction.
If somehow, we could get the final messages for this time into their hands . . If somehow. . .
I prayed earnestly about the matter. By the early 1980s, I wondered if there was not some way our little ministry could reach many jails, not just one here or there.
But, as far back as the 1960s, I had learned that it was not easy to obtain access to prisons. One friend, now retired in southern California, told me that for years he traveled to prisons all over the western states and was confronted by chaplains who did not want him there, since he was a Sabbathkeeper. Very often, the warden said he had to get the chaplain's permission to speak to the men. And, he told me, he found it impossible to get into federal prisons. I recall he mentioned how he tried to speak with the inmates at San Quentin; and the hardened warden, like other federal prison wardens, denied him access
About 1987, once again I tried to figure a way to gain access to the prisons -but now with our books; for, by that time, we had three or four book titles in print. I even paid for a year's subscription to a special prison magazine in the hope that membership in that para-prison organization might help me gain entrance. But the prison chaplains, when I wrote them, were alert to keep out Adventist books. It was clear that the only way we could get our books into the prisons -was if prisoners personally requested them. Yet we had no way to otherwise contact them.
Perhaps others have had different experiences, but that is what happened to us.
Then in the early 1990s, we began occasionally receiving a request for a book from a prisoner. By the mid 1990s, the number of requests were increasing.
By the latter part of that decade, we had a small, but ongoing prison ministry in operation. We were regularly answering requests for books.
In our monthly Songs in the Night, you have doubtlessly read some of the letters we have received from prisoners.
Gradually, the requests continued to increase; yet the project remained small. - - Then, about a year ago, we began a Bible correspondence course with prisoners. The wife of one of our workers is in charge of it.
But, then, the roof caved in. For the last four months we have been inundated with prisoner requests for books! We are astonished. We have little time to think about our astonishment; we are being overwhelmed.
Let me explain. You, who are reading this, cannot mail a book to a prisoner. It will either be sent back or discarded before the prisoner ever receives it. No books, none. There might be razors hidden in them, money, dope, escape plans, or maps.
U.S. jails and prisons have uniformly adopted this rule: (1) Only actual publishers can mail books to prisoners. (2) They can only do so when requested by the prisoners. (3) The books must be paperbacks. (4) Only two books can be sent at a time.
That means that we, here at Mission Evangelism, can ship large quantities of books into the jails and prisons, something few others can do. We are in an ideal position to do this; but, of course, we had not normally been receiving a lot of requests.
But suddenly the situation has radically changed. We are being barraged with requests for books! An ever increasing snowball effect is in operation. Prisoners are telling other prisoners; and they too are writing for books. It is a chain reaction. The more books we send out, the more prisoners learn about them, and the more requests come for still more books.
Upon learning of this, I wondered, "Is it possible that all these requests are coming from just a few jails or prisons?" But, inquiring, I was told that this is not the case. The requests are flooding in from jails and penitentiaries all across America! I asked further, "Surely, that does not include federal penitentiaries, does it?" In response, I was told, "Yes, it does!" I was told about a request received a couple days ago from a prisoner in San Quentin, one of the tightest maximum-security penitentiaries in the nation.
I want you to know that all of this is astounding to me. I cannot explain it in any way other than to say that this is the hand of God at work.
Not even visiting preachers can penetrate the federal penitentiaries; yet our books are passing through the gates and being eagerly read there.
No single person, or even a small army of Adventist workers, can visit all the jails and prisons in America; yet our books are flooding into municipal and county jails, state prisons, and federal penitentiaries!
You see, while we are being flooded with requests, we are pouring out a flood-of books. And the expense is heavy. You see, I only mentioned four prison rules concerning books. But there is also a fifth one: The books must be shipped by first class mail.
At the current time, we are spending over $800 each month on postage costs alone (not counting the cost of books) for books we are sending to men and women in U.S. prisons. (Yes, women in women's prisons are requesting our books too.) At the present rate, the shipping cost alone for these books will soon go beyond $1,000 per month.
But we just do not have the funds to handle this. Ever since the turn of the year, our donation income has dropped heavily. In spite of it, we afterward prayerfully decided to give away 50,000 free copies of Broken Blueprint and Biblical Defense to our friends who would agree to distribute them to Seventh-day Adventists. Since making that decision, our income has continued to drop lower.
If anyone out there imagines that we make any money on book sales, forget it. We could close down our book work tomorrow and save money. We price the books at a couple cents above what outside printing houses charge us for them-so you can distribute large numbers of them. You are doing it, and we rejoice.
Both you and I know that if we charged $1.95 per book in the box, like other people, we would sell hardly any books. The reason is that you are not reselling those books, but handing them out free. You need them at a low price so you can give them to those who, whether they realize it or not, desperately need them.
But now we have a crisis on our hands, a success crisis. It would be easy to cut back on our missionary projects and close down our free book shipments. But we do not believe we should do that. Do you believe we should do that? We are helping to support several overseas missionaries with funds (or, at their request, an equivalent amount in boxes of books). We are paying the costs of maintaining and upgrading our two websites for Adventists and five for non-Adventists. Must all this be curtailed?
Did God move on the hearts of prisoners all across America to hold out their hands, pleading for books and we should turn them down? Should we stop that ministry? May it not be.
As mentioned earlier, we are also receiving an ever increasing number of requests for free books from individuals overseas, especially from Africa. That flood of requests has been growing steadily year after year.
Inquiring, I was told that, at the present time, our monthly postage costs to fill free book requests to Africa-is larger than the amount we are spending each month for books to prisoners in America! One person in Africa tells another, and more keep writing. For the cost of an air letter or airmail postage stamp (which costs them a lot, so they must want the books), they can get free books from America which they can read to help them learn about God.
We urgently need help for all this free-book mailing project. It must not wilt on the vine. Those people need those books! Can you help?
Think about it a minute. If you wanted to give the message to grown men, how would you do it? I do not mean the kind of men who like to attend church, but everyday men who usually pay no attention to religious things.
How could you do it? To make the situation even more difficult, how could you do it-if the message you were trying to bring them was the Bible Sabbath and the truths in Great Controversy, Ministry of Healing, Christ's Object Lessons, and Bible Readings for the Home?
The only organization I know of which is trying to reach a lot of adult men is Promise Keepers with its massive stadium meetings; each one of these costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet many of those men come from churches, and you can know they would not come to hear Great Controversy read to them!
Yet here we are doing it, week after week, month after month-placing Great Controversy and similar inspired books into the hands of men and women who have nothing else to do all day long, with months and years of prison sentences ahead of them. And they are asking for our books! And when they finish them, they are asking for more.
Indeed, those in charge of prison libraries are also writing and asking for free copies to place in the prison libraries! They have found that our books make the prisoners more manageable.
Along with each two books which we send, a sheet listing all our paperback missionary books (with, of course the exception of the books for Adventists-Broken Blueprint, Biblical Defense, Medical Missionary Manual, etc.) is enclosed. All of those, more than two dozen, book titles (including Evolution Cruncher and International Meat Crisis), plus our larger book, Family Bible Studies, are offered them on that sheet. We also offer them our Chart of the Week, which proves that the Bible Sabbath is the seventh day of the week.
When I stop to think about it, where else in Adventism can such an offer occur? Do you, do I know of any other Adventist organization in the world doing a similar work-sending free books to prisoners from a book list containing 27 different Adventist message books?
No other Adventist entity offers more than two or three free books, if there are many that offer that many. But here we are pouring out the best, at no charge, including two books in Spanish.
Every book title is requested. As soon as prisoners finish reading books, they request more.
We wondered, could there be some other reason why this deluge of requests Is coming in from prison inmates all over America? Could it be that a few are asking for them, so they can sell them for a cigarette? But if that is occasionally happening, the book is being sold to another prisoner anxious to get it!
We have here a two-way flooding. They are flooding us with book requests; and, in return, we are flooding them with books. This means books are laying around on cots and tables in prisons throughout America. When families visit, prisoners share books with them. When inmates are released, they take books they have come to treasure home with them. (We receive requests from prisoners to mail copies of books they have read-to wives and parents outside the prison.)
Nearly every request we receive is for a specific book title. A very real interest is there.
It is not easy for prisoners, or people in Africa, to get enough money for postage-for-the book requests they are sending us. Are we to keep filling those requests?
The situation is so serious that, at this time, I am going to put my entire monthly Social Security income into postage costs for these free books. One of my closest friends here said I should not do this. He said, since I have no savings and no financial investments, I should take care of my own future needs. I had been using it to help print new missionary books. But we just do not have the money for the shipping costs of free books to prisoners and overseas. Something has to be done. We have to give all we have. Men and women in prison and overseas, primarily in Africa, need help. This is an emergency.
Jesus described the judgment scene in Matthew 25:31-46. A significant part of it is given in verses 36, 39, and 43-44. Jesus meant those words. They were written for you and me today.
Will you help?
If you wish to have a part in these ongoing book projects, mark your donation, "Evangelism Crisis," and we deeply thank you.
We are providing God's inspired eBooks, free of charge, to prisoners, to impoverished people overseas, and to individuals throughout the world on the internet (through worldincrisis.org).
If our situation were reversed, and we were in prison for years, would we appreciate having free Spirit of Prophecy books sent to us; so, for the first time, we could learn about God, the Bible Sabbath, and the coming-final crisis?
I am sure that many of you wish you could send the books direct to the prisoners yourself, but prison rules do not allow it. However, the providence of God has opened the way so that we here at Mission Evangelism can regularly ship large numbers of books into prisons throughout America. An increasing number of prisoners are asking for them. Very likely, no other prison ministry anywhere -Protestant, Catholic, or Adventist is offering them their choice of 27 different, free books. It is a task we must not, we dare not, pull back from.
Thank you so much for your help. Vance
This is the book list that we send from HARVESTIME BOOKS PRISON MINISTRY
Great Controversy 448 pp. The amazing story of what happened when the Bible ended.
Beyond Pitcairn 256 pp. The Mutiny on the Bounty and much more. A powerful book.
Desire of Ages 856 pp. The earthly life of Christ. This book can change your life.
Shelter in the Storm 216 pp. How to come to Christ and stay with Him.
Other outstanding books:
Patriarchs and Prophets 800 pp. From Creation to the death of David.
Prophets and Kings 576-pp.-From Solomon to the end of the Old Testament.
Acts of the Apostles 488 pp. From the ascension of Christ to the end of the New Testament.
Ministry of Healing 360 pp. Valuable principles of healthful living.
Christ's Object Lessons 376 pp. The deep truths in the parables of Christ.
Bible Readings 648 pp. 180 topical Bible studies, in 18 sections.
Family Bible Studies 384 pp. (51/2x 81h), an excellent study book.
Mark of the Beast 208 pp. Explains Daniel 7 and Revelation 12-14.
National Sunday Law Crisis 112 pp. A book about a coming danger.
Prophet of the End 224 pp. The life story of E.G. White.
Magnificat 352 pp. The song of Mary in Luke 1:46-55 and what it really means.
You Can Quit Tobacco 104 pp. The dangers of tobacco and how to quit.
Evolution Cruncher 928 pp. Thousands of scientific facts disproving evolution.
International Meat Crisis 176 pp. Mad Cow Disease and similar problems.
Chart of the Week 8-page tract set. Not a book, but often requested. Ask for this
in addition to two books.
Defending God 176 pp. Errors which separate people from God. The truth about hellfire, etc.
World Crisis Foretold 128 pp. ENGLISH// or // 144 pp. SPANISH
Great Controversy, SPANISH 800 pp. Full-size edition of Great Controversy.
Beginning of the End 216 pp. Written before 9/11; warns of a coming crisis. Powerful.
Send donations to:
HARVESTIME BOOKS PO Box 300 Altamont, TN 37301
PO Box 300
Altamont, TN 37301