You will never get me to believe there is no God - the Great "I AM", or that Jesus, His Son, wasn't the "Word that became flesh." Jesus -- The One who died on the cross for your sins and mine. Jesus -- The One who is "The Way, The Truth, and the Life." In fact, there aren't enough adjectives to express my love for Him. I thank God for being born into a Christian family with a mother and a father who had Jesus as Savior. I also thank Him for Christian grandparents. Church and Sunday School were always a part of my life. I met my wife Fleda in a church in Altoona, PA, that I attended after returning to the city from art school in Chicago. However, it was not until 1971, at age forty-one, that I made a serious commitment to have Jesus as not just my Savior, but Lord of my life. I had been employed since 1956 earning a living as a salesman. In February 1992, I retired from R.L. Polk Co., publishers of the city directory where I began my career in 1979. Throughout my life I was able to see God had a plan for me. It wasn't just a coincidence I went to art school in Chicago, met my wife in church, and worked for R.L. Polk with the city directory assignments in various cities. God was working a plan and placing me in different areas to learn, grow, and do His will but the big surprise was yet to come!
The Lord called me to prison ministry. I was working the city directory assignment in Sunbury, PA. I had to call on Yokefellow Prison Ministry located on Old Trail Road in Shamokin Dam, across the Susquehanna River, parallel with Routes 11 & 15. I never heard about Yokefellow and I was just doing a routine business call to make another sale. I parked my car in front of an old stone historic building. I entered and approached the secretary, asking to see Newman Gaugler, President of Yokefellow. She said he was in his office and would see if he could see me. When she came out of his office, she gestured for me to go inside. As I entered I saw this man, in his eighties, seated behind a majestic oak desk. I introduced myself and told him I needed a few minutes for him to proofread his listing for the Sunbury directory. If there were any changes, I would be only too glad to take care of them. He took the card, quickly read it, then said, "Everything is correct and I need your directory for our prison ministry." In less than a minute I had made a sale. I thanked God silently, and then quickly wrote the order, as I praised the Lord for an easy sale that was much appreciated by a commission salesman. After he signed the order, I packed everything back in my case and was ready to leave but I reached out my hand to thank him and added, "God bless you with your ministry." He looked at me and said, "Are you a Christian?" "Yes," I said. "Why?" "Where are you from?" He asked me next. "Allentown," I said. "Allentown? Sit down; I want to talk to you. Why, you are like an answer to a prayer," were the next words he said. "We've been praying for years to have someone go into the Lehigh County Prison in Allentown for Yokefellow. How would you like to do that?" With my mouth hanging open, hardly able to answer I said, "Me? I don't know anything about prison ministry. I never even heard of Yokefellow until today. Tell me about it!" He began to tell me about Yokefellow being founded by D. Elton Trueblood, a Quaker minister and author, in 1950. The part that spoke to my heard was that Yokefellow does not just have meetings in county jail and state and federal institutions, but is interested in after care, re-entry, and what happens when prisoners come out of prison.
There are church and prison ministries that go to prisons, but what happens to keep them out of prison and not return again. This is known as recidivism, which is 64% [at the time of this writing]. I was pleased to see Yokefellow addressed this issue of re-entry. I was so overwhelmed what I had just heard and been asked.
I told Mr. Gaugler I would pray about it and get back to him. It was amazing to me the way God got my attention and placed a ministry opportunity before me while doing my job for R.L. Polk. As I prayed the Lord seemed to say to go forth in faith, just as I do when selling on commission. He added He would open a door for the ministry to begin in Lehigh County Prison -- and when the Lord opens a door, no man can close it! When I told Mr. Gaulgler I would take the opportunity of developing a Yokefellow Council I could hardly hold my breath as the Lord showed me how wide He would open the door.
Mr. Gaugler told me to arrange an appointment with the Chaplain of Lehigh County Prison when I got back to Allentown. To my surprise, the Chaplain told me he knew all about Yokefellow and would welcome me anytime to see him. Surprised at this and how easy it was to get to see the Chaplain, I was astonished when I met with him and looked at the schedule to decide what times were open to have meetings. There was only one! Wednesday night 7:30 to 9:30. So the first meeting took place, Wednesday, September 21, 1983. I praise the Lord for all that has taken place in this ministry and in all the areas of my life. When God has a plan, and He does for every one of us, mountains can be moved and much can be done as we rest in Him, allowing His will to be done in our life. The Lord has a plan for you so be encouraged. The Apostle Paul said it well in Philippians 4:13 -- "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."
We know upon His arrival the Lord said, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"