John Schmid Music

Prison Ministry

They Are Watching

Let your light shine because your life is a testimony

“I knew this young man when he was 6 years old.”

Two inmates were standing in front of the chapel after I had given an invitation. They were waiting until everyone was finished praying so they could speak to the congregation before the yard was opened and the chaplain would release them to go to supper.

When the prayer time was over the chaplain looked up and nodded for them to step up to the mike.

Inmate William started speaking, “I was praying with this young man and I looked at his name tag so I could call him by name. When I saw his last name, I recognized it. I used to run around with people by that name. I asked him if he was related to Ray Abernathy (made up name). He said, ‘Yes, that is my uncle.’ How about Joe Abernathy? He said, ‘That is my dad.’ ”

Then William almost started crying. “Oh, my! I remember you! I used to do drugs and all kinds of crazy, bad stuff with your dad and uncle. I remember you as a cute little 6 year boy old hanging around us and wanting to be like us. I am one of the reasons you are here! I was a terrible example for you! I have become a Christian since I am here in prison and I’m not the same man you used to admire! Will you forgive me for being such a bad influence in your life?!” William went on to lead this newly arrived young prisoner to faith in Jesus Christ!

While he had the mike, he went on to repeat some of the points I made in my sermon:

  • No matter how big or small our circle of influence, we influence people by our lives.
  • People are watching.
  • Little boys want to be like the older men. Especially dad. And dad’s friends. As William had mentored this little boy to a life that eventually lead to prison, he now wants to mentor this young man to a life that leads to eternal life.

Folks, people are watching us. They watch how we behave at the basketball game, in traffic, at the restaurant… they watch how we react to adversity; how do we handle being treated unfairly, how we handle success… they watch us on Sunday and they watch us on Monday and the rest of the week.

I have heard Steve Wingfield preach from Mark 4 about Jesus calming the storm, and he notices a verse that might seem insignificant to the story: “There were also other boats with him.” (v. 36) But that little verse reminds us that in the midst of the storm the ‘other boats’ are watching. How will Jesus and His disciples handle the storm? Those other boats may be our children, our employees, our friends… maybe they are total strangers. But our reactions (our lives) are living testimonies that influence people, whether we are aware of it or not.

Your are a witness. Your life is a testimony, either for good or for bad. The professional athlete who says, “I’m an athlete, I’m not a role model,” doesn’t know what he is talking about. Little boys are watching. I watched. I put my bat behind my back like Rocky Colovito. I tried to fade away like Pete Maravich. I try to engage the crowd like Johnny Cash did. I read through the Bible every year like Dennis Kinlaw did. I work hard like dad did… I try to follow Christ like Paul did.

“But I’m not well known or influential.” Ah, dear friend, I beg to differ. Someone knows you and you have a circle of influence, small though it may be. You are influencing someone. May we live our lives so that if someone emulates us, he will end up in Heaven, not prison.

“Let your light shine before men so they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” Mt. 5:16
“…you will be my witnesses…” -Jesus

Timothy Kane

Fourteen year old Timmy Kane was watching SuperBowl XXVI in 1992 with two older boys when one of them said, “We’re going to go rob a house!” With no thought of consequences, Timmy foolishly went with them.

By the time he realized what these older boys were actually going to do, it was too late. “You’re not going anywhere,” ordered 19 year-old Alvin Morton when Tim wanted to leave. As he hid under the dining room table, he heard the shotgun blasts.

In Florida, if you are with the murderer, you are guilty of murder. Because Tim “didn’t try to leave” the scene, he got life in prison. At age 14!

I first met Tim around ten years ago at Sumter Correctional near Bushnell, Fla. I was a guest of The Gospel Echoes, who go to the Sumter Chapel every January. I have seen Tim every January since then. We have become friends.

Ron Miller, a Holmes County native who lives in Nashville, has been working to free Tim ever since he saw his story on Dateline in 1998. He even started a vibrant prison ministry called “Timothy’s Gift” to bring awareness to Tim’s situation and also to share the good news of Christ in prisons thoughout Florida and now other states.

Bahia Vista Mennonite Church in Sarasota has “adopted” Tim, writing to him, sending members to visit him, letting him know that he is not forgotten.

After his parents divorced in 1990, he had little structure and supervision. Even with a high IQ of 137, his grades began to slip and he started spending time with tougher kids- including 17-year-old Bobby Garner and 19 year old Alvin Morton, the ones who took him along to rob and murder.

In an interview, Tim said, “I got what I deserved. I did wrong things. But I like to think, I like to hope, that someone can change. I’m not that 14-year-old boy anymore,” he said.

Timothy Kane was release from prison!

Long story short: Last week Tim was released from prison! After 25 years! The 14 year old boy is now a young man of 39. I was able to talk to him by phone the day after he got out. He was going to go swimming for the first time in 25 years. He had just eaten at McDonalds and then went to Hardees and ate some more. He’s never driven a car. He’s never used a cell phone… “I don’t have the words to explain what’s going through my mind…” he told me on the phone. He’s in a new world.

Tim developed a habit of reading Prov. 1:10-11 every morning in prison:

My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul… my son, do not go along with them.

“Am I worthy of a second chance? Two people lost their lives. They don’t get a second chance. I don’t deserve anything. But I hope to have a chance to have a second chance.”

Tim has learned his lesson. Pray for him. And for the victim’s family. They still grieve.

P.S. We booked Tim to speak at our Feb. 20, 2018 Sarasota Banquet. Mark the date!

Forgiving Bullet Bob

The prison band at St. Clair Correctional in Alabama is about as good as it gets. They play like professionals, they have written songs and they even have a music video of their band that has gone to churches outside the walls.

At our We Care Revival chapel service there last week (Jan 25), they sang a song for Bullet Bob. “You guys remember Bob?” the guitar player asked. A cheer of recognition went up from the prison chapel.

“As you know, we made a music video here in our chapel. Our video was being shown at a church in Montgomery and during the presentation, a loud gasp erupted from a woman in the congregation. As she watched the video, the camera scanned the prison chapel and she saw Bullet Bob, the man who had murdered her father! Bob was serving a life sentence for this crime and at the time was in the prison infirmary with terminal cancer. When this woman pulled herself together, she went up and talked to the people who were in charge showing the DVD.”

“How is Bob?” she asked. When she found out that he was basically on his death bed, she asked if she could get a message to him.

“Could you please let Bob know that we as a family forgive him? We have no ill feelings or enmity toward him and we hope that he is right with God. Please let him know that he is forgiven.”

The song leader who was sharing this story in our chapel service told how he was able to go to the prison hospital and deliver this message of forgiveness and freedom.

“The Smith* family wants you to know that they forgive you.” The look on Bullet Bob’s face was one of relief, disbelief, joy, amazement… He looked up at the ceiling from his hospital bed and let out a sigh and began to weep uncontrollably. He died several weeks later. In victory. Forgiven!”

Now folks, no matter how correct and right it is to forgive, that would be tough. I pray that I can be a forgiving person. One of the most terrifying verses in all of scripture is found in Matthew 6 right after the Lord’s Prayer:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, you heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” -Mt. 6:14,15

If we want forgiveness, we must forgive.

“Forgiveness is the only way to heal.” – Miguel Ruiz

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” -C.S. Lewis

“All I know is that justice did not heal me. Forgiveness did. The cost of forgiveness is nothing compared to the benefits of forgiveness. I feel like I have found new life through forgiveness.” -Debbie Morris, author, Forgiving the Dead Man Walking

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” -Corrie Ten Boom

A Redeemed Life

Sometimes, prison may be the best thing for you

Every now and then I hear a story that encourages me to keep going. I plan going to keep going, no matter what, but encouragement always helps. We received this letter recently:

Hello John and Lydia,

When I saw you last week, I really wanted to tell you about my ex-daughter in law. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison for theft of doctor prescription pads and impersonating a doctor.

She became an opiate addict because of health problems she had at age 17. The addiction destroyed her marriage to our son, but God has been so very good to her in prison, and a miraculous new person emerged!! She is now working with our local judge for the past year in a program directed for persons being released from prison. She is leading this group called Half-Way Home,* which the judge is mandating they attend before they get the final release by him.

God has answered so many prayers I prayed. I am in contact with her regularly, even though she is my ex-daughter-in-law.

I stand amazed in the presence of God, how he works in His mysterious ways. I thank you both for the ministry you do.

The Kairos group in the prison is a much needed ministry, and we continue to support them.

God IS in the prisons, but these persons really have to work hard to change their lives and many of them do not have the people like my daughter-in-law had to help them during and after their release. Most of her roommates have been re-admitted to prison due to the difficulty of making it on the outside. Most of them are from families with many problems, and they try to find love and acceptance from all the wrong groups of people.

Thank you again and may God Bless you as you continue you ministry!

Joe and Mary*
*Names have been changed, but the story is real.

After talking with this couple, I remembered that we had visited this ex daughter-in-law in prison. We saw her during a chapel service – she knew who we were and we knew she was there, but we didn’t know her. I hope to meet her now that she is out. It sounds like God did a great work in her life.