LET ME TELL YA ABOUT GEORGE

My first letter from George is dated October 4, 2018.  He starts that letter with, “I understand that you don’t know me.  But here in jail someone tell me that you will help anyone that need help.  I am 59 year old and don’t have nowhere to go when I get out of here.  I go to court on Oct. 15th and I know God will go before me.  If it is His will I will be release then.  I am not from this state.  I did 17 year in Louisiana State Prison and when I get out all my people did passed away.  I hope you can come up to this jail in Staunton Virginia and see me.”

I didn’t change any of the wording in that paragraph because it reveals something important about George.  George has had almost no formal education.  That leaves one to wonder, how can that be?  He’s 59 years old.  That means he wasn’t born in the 1800s or something.  How is it that he has almost no education? 

I replied to that letter right away, as I do with all mail that I receive from inmates.  I told George about the “Turning Point” class that I conduct there at Middle River Regional Jail and asked him to sign up for the course.  He did but there has always been a long waiting list of inmates who want to get into that class.  While he was waiting to get in he and I exchanged several letters which allowed me to get pretty well acquainted with him before I ever met him face to face.  (Volunteer Ministers at the jail are not allowed to be on an inmate’s visitor list.  Strange rule but that’s the way it is). 

During that time I told George about myself and my own time in prison.  A little at a time George told me his story:   He was born in Louisiana in 1960.  His mother was an addict and lived with a man who wasn’t George’s real father but he knew no other.  At age 7 George’s mother was shot to death by drug dealers in some kind of argument.  The “dad” told the court that George wasn’t his and that he couldn’t care for the boy.  So George went into foster care.  He ran away.  Again and again.  Finally, at about 8 or 9 years of age, a gang on the streets of Baton Rouge took George under their wing.  That was the end of George’s education and life lived in homes.  As he grew older, doing the bidding of the gang, he was in and out of reform schools and finally in jails and prisons.  George literally grew up either on the streets or behind bars.  He has only very vague memories of ever living in a house or eating with other people at a table in a house.  He has no idea of what it’s like to have a parent or siblings.  Over the years he did find out about some relatives and visited with them some from time to time when he wasn’t incarcerated but never lived with any of them.

After a couple of months George was finally able to get into the Turning Point class, we were able to meet and our relationship grew stronger.  Even though we were able to meet face to face every Tuesday evening at the jail, George continued to write.  In fact, for the last year and a half now, George has averaged sending me three letters a week.  At first I could hardly read them.  He prints but even that is so poor and his spelling and use of words is so different that it took a long time for me to just be able to sit and read one of his letters.  I would even have my wife, Cathy, to help me decipher what he was saying.   And I would tell George some of the kind words she would have for him.  Then, about six months into the relationship he started referring to me as “Dad.”  And then started calling Cathy, “Mom.”   At first we didn’t know what to think of that.  Coming from an inmate – it was even a little frightening.  We prayed about it and talked about it and pondered on it for a long time.  I finally talked to George about it but that’s when I knew it was ok.  The tears in his eyes told me that we had nothing to fear from this almost 60 year old man.  He was experiencing real love and acceptance for the first time in his life.  We didn’t stop him from calling us Mom and Dad.

In that first letter to me dated October 4, 2018, George closed that letter with: “I am a man of God.  I have been save two year now.  Well, till I hear from you I will end this letter.  May God be with you.” And he signed his name.   George is a man of God.  He loves Jesus with all of his heart.  When he got into Turning Point he began soaking up everything we were teaching and, as most inmates do, took each lesson back to his cell and continued to study it all week until the next class.  Early on I gave George a good Bible.  George is in prison now.  Still writes to me about three times a week and is always talking about the Lord, his Bible and calling me and Cathy Mom and Dad.  George has about eight years to go and I’m eighty now.  I hope I live long enough to see George a free man.  If I am I have promised him that I and New Leaf Inmate Ministries will help him find a job and a place to live.  And that we will take him to church with us.  He’s really looking forward to that.  He already calls the church we go to, Church United in Staunton Virginia, his “church home.”  He has never in his memory had a place he could call home.  He has never been to Church United but he calls it “home.”   And Cathy and I are “Mom” and “Dad.”

May I ask you to pray for George.  And may I ask you to see into this far enough to realize that our little ministry is touching many lives.   Not a day goes by that I don’t get a stack of letters from inmates all over this state and even one from a Federal Prison in Ohio.  None of them except George call me “Dad”.   But all of them call me “Brother” and all of them express their love and appreciation for our love and genuine concern for them.

Clint Webb, President

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CAN WE SEE GOD THROUGH OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ANIMALS?

Now there’s a question that can bring up a lot of differing ideas and opinions.  And not one that I intend to attempt giving a dogmatic answer to.  But what I can do is share something that has been occurring with me for a few months now.

          Outside of my woodworking shop I have a canvas carport with side covering that I use as a place to store my lumber.  One morning last August I stepped out of my shop and saw something move near an outside bottom corner of that structure.      I thought perhaps it was a cat or maybe a rabbit.  As I stepped around that corner to see what it was there sat the skelton of a cat, covered with hide and hair, but not much else.  As I moved toward him, he shied away, but after a few soft words he allowed me to pick him up.  His eyes were matted with mucus and when he breathed bubbles came from his nostrils.  I could tell this small animal was very close to death.  I had my cell phone on me, so I called Cathy, my wife who was in the house and told her what was happening.  She came out, took one look at the little guy and said, “You have to take him to the vet.”

          Anyone who knows us knows that we’re not long on money.  Taking a stray cat to the vet meant spending money we really couldn’t afford.  But as I stood there holding and looking at this sick and starving cat, I knew I couldn’t just let him die, which he was very close to doing.  So, after feeding him a small amount of cat food from our own spoiled cat, we put an old shop towel in the bottom of a cardboard box and I took him to the vet.  He had serious upper respiratory infection and truly was almost starved to death.  They gave him a shot, some medicine and sent medicine home with me.  We, Cathy and I, had to put drops in his eyes twice a day and give him a big capsule each day, as well as keep him warm, safe and fed. 

          The days and weeks went by.  The cat, who was a little tom, began to get well and gain some weight.  As he settled in he became very loving and playful.  After a few weeks and after much discussion about what to do with him we took him back to the vet to have him neutered and vaccinated and get him registered.  We had decided to keep him.

          Now to the point of all of this.  As he got well and grew and grew into a secure home, we began to notice that he always wanted to be where I was.  He followed me around more like a puppy dog than a cat.  That’s been going on for some months now.  He may be my cat, but more to the point, I’m his human.  When he comes to me for me to love on him, I can sense that he knows I saved him.  I saved his life and he not only knows it, he is grateful and shows that gratitude by wanting to be near me and wanting me to love on him. 

          One day, as I reached down and picked him up, this thought occurred to me:  “Is this anything like our relationship to God?”  How theologically correct is what I’m about to say?   Maybe not very.  Then again, I feel compelled to share it.   I saved that cat’s life.  No question about it.  God saved mine and there’s no question about that either.  I saved that cat, not because I needed or even wanted a cat, but because of love in my heart.  (Not bragging.  That’s just the truth).  My heart just couldn’t stand by and let him die.  Throw stones at me if you think I’m wrong about this, but I see God at the Garden of Eden after His masterpiece of creation sinned.  Death was the penalty.  But His heart just wouldn’t let Him stand by and do nothing.  His heart dictated that He had to save them.  Not all come to the edge of His lumber yard, sick and starving.  But for those who do, (and He’s calling the rest), for those of us that come to Him, He saves us.  And here’s where I think of the cat.  He comes to me regularly, almost constantly, not just wanting me to love on him, but I think he’s there showing me how much he loves me and thanks me for saving his life.

          Sometimes I have misunderstood prayer.  This cat has taught me that God isn’t so concerned about my problems.  He knows all about my needs and will meet my needs just the same as I will tend to the needs of this cat.  What I need to do is show God my love and gratitude every minute of every day.  He sent His Son to save my life.  He will care for my needs.  My cat has shown me what it looks like to love and appreciate God for the love with which He has loved us.

Just my thoughts,

Clint Webb

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Draw Near While Being Separated

Following is an article written by Dr. Randy Spencer, Associate Professor at Liberty University School of Divinity, Dr. Spencer is also the father of my Pastor, Rob Spencer.  This article is reprinted here with Dr. Spencer’s permission.

The Coronavirus reminds me how quickly things can change. Life as we knew it a few weeks ago has changed dramatically for everyone. Just a few days ago it was “business as usual” and now nothing seems usual or ordinary. Unprecedented changes are taking place in every aspect of life and we are forced to make decisions that have altered our daily routine.

Typically when we face adversity and crisis the natural thing to do is to draw together. I remember the crisis of 9/11 when our nation was under attack. As the towers of the New York World Trade Center were falling people were being drawn together. People crowded the churches while neighbors and families clung to each other. There were tears and hugs as crowds embraced each other for comfort and encourage. We have always gotten through hard times by drawing close. Is it not strange indeed that this crisis drives us apart? There is a “no touch” “no gatherings” mandate. Isolation, separation and a six foot distance is the national norm.

Due to this highly contagious virus normal activity and personal contact must cease. In a moment our world just stopped. We are hearing words and phrases like “social distancing” and “quarantine”. Many Americans are finding themselves isolated from family and friends and facing days of lock down. All unessential businesses, clubs, restaurants, parks, schools, theaters, social gatherings and even churches are all closed. We are encouraged to “stay home”. There is a fear of being in contact with people and things. Have you ever been more aware of what your hands are touching? Can God be sending a message to us? Can God have a divine purpose in what is happening in our country?  Can God be using the Coronavirus to remind us that the earthly things we have grown to love and hold so tightly are empty and temporary? Even our earthly relationships can keep us from what is most valuable and enduring. Can God be saying, “Hey, let’s take a break from the world for just a moment and stop long enough to look at what is eternal and everlasting? God’s message to us is clear. Our hope is not in people or things. It is in God alone and He is the One we turn to in times of crises. “I will say of my Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” Psalms 91:2 “Be still and know that I am God”? Psalms 46:10.

May I submit to you that there is One whom you must draw close to in times of separation and isolation. One who carries no virus or health threat? More specifically, this One is totally pure and absolutely untouched by anything infectious. This is One who is calling us to “social closeness” and even intimacy. In a time when we are admonished to keep our distance from one another there is One who welcomes our closeness. You may draw as close to Him as His very breath and hear the sound of His heartbeat. You can touch His hand and His face and sense the warmth of His presence. He is pure and holy and altogether lovely.

Hebrews 10:22 “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith”

James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”

Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace”

Psalms 73:28 “But for me it is good to be near God”

 

But before we endeavor to draw close to Him there is one important requirement. Another phrase we are hearing repeatedly during this virus crisis is “Wash your hands!”  If we desire to draw close to God we must also come with “clean hands and pure hearts” Psalms 24:4 “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is vanity …”

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water”. Hebrews 10:19-22

Through the blood sacrifice of Jesus we can now approach this holy God by washing our infectious sins away.

Pray that this unusual time of isolation and social distancing will draw our nation close to our God and Savior Jesus Christ. God’s message to us is, “Run to Me!” “Seek Me while I am near!”

Psalms 91:15 “When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him”                        

We can experience revival and renewed faith if we heed to the message God is sending to us.

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Well, here we go folks.  I haven’t been able to get anyone to show me how to post a new blog so I’m just going to start writing and see what happens.   You’d think that gaining a web-site wouldn’t be so complicated.  But it certainly is.   

What I want to write about is something just to bring our readers and supporters up to date on what’s happening with New Leaf Inmate Ministries during this time of national shut-down.  I believe that all, or at least most, correctional facilities nationwide are under quarantine of some type.  They have temporarily stopped all “programs” for inmates and even personal visitation.  The regional jail where we serve, Middle River Regional Jail, has done that.  So, we have switched “our inmates,” the ones who were attending our “live class” Bible study, over to taking the lessons by correspondence.  It creates a lot of work and takes a lot of postage, but our inmates are getting their lessons.  They are also being encouraged to send us their prayer requests when they send in the answer sheets for the course.  We’re also writing and receiving lots of letters.  SO, the bottom line is, we’re still ministering, God’s word is still being taught, and our student inmates are continuing to see God’s love for them at work.

If this writing actually gets posted under, “Clint’s Blog” then I will try to find out what I can do to dress it up a little next time.

Thanks for your patience.  Computer stuff doesn’t come naturally to an 80 year old man.  But I haven’t given up either.  God will help me get it figured out.  🙂  

 

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WHEN HOPE IS RESTORED

New Leaf Inmate Ministries  preventing recidivism through a new life in Christ.

Today’s devotional, (February 20, 2020), in the publication, Our Daily Bread, brings out an important point.   It’s a point that I call, Reaching Back.  In this devotional the author, James Banks, tells of a youth pastor in a city where he, the youth pastor, was once an addict hooked on heroin.  It’s the story of a life transformed by the wonderful working power of the Holy Spirit.  And, as is so often the case, this youth pastor is now devoting his life to “reaching back” to those who are where he once was.   It seems that no life is more effective in helping the hurting than one who has walked a mile in their shoes.  No one can relate to the pain like one who has felt it.  No one can minister to the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness like one who has been there.   And no one can encourage one who has no hope to reach out once again, but this time to reach for the One who is Hope.  

May I tell you that this is the story of my life  –  and the story of New Leaf Inmate Ministries.   A man named Jesse Basnight came into a jail where I was in 1985 and told me that I hadn’t been too bad to be forgiven.   In accepting the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, that Jesse Basnight introduced me to, completely change my life.  Three years later, when I was released from prison, I started my first jail ministry, and named it, “Reaching Back.”  Today, 32 years later the ministry is no longer just me.   And the name has changed to New Leaf Inmate Ministries.  And while the goal is still the same, it too has changed a little.  At least for me as an individual it has.  I’m 80 years old now and someone recently pointed out that I’m now in the last trimester of my life.  Yes, the goal is still to reach the lost with the message of forgiveness and restoration that can only come by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  What’s changed for me is a hope that through me, through my testimony and meager efforts, God will raise up someone to follow in my footsteps.  Since August of 1985 I have been trying to emulate Jesse Basnight.  I think of him often.  On a Saturday morning in sunny southern Florida he could have been out golfing, or fishing, or just laying on the beach soaking up the sun.  But he wasn’t.  He was at the jail “reaching back.” 

One reason why today’s Our Daily Bread devotional so captured me, is because I have an inmate in my Tuesday night Bible class at the local jail now who wants to be a youth pastor.  Praise God!  And I have others who are saying that when they have finished their sentences they want to come out and join New Leaf Inmate Ministries so that they too may  “reach back.”  So that’s something that’s always in the back of my mind now.  Now I’m no longer just teaching people the Bible and encouraging their new life in Christ,  I’m encouraging them to reach back.   

And how about you, the one who has taken his or her time to read all the way through this lengthy blog?   Are you reaching back.  Some hurting soul needs your knowing touch.  Allow God to use you.

Clint Webb

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Clint Webb - Founder & President

PRAISE FOR FIRM FOUNDATIONS

copying here an email sent to MissXYZ   re: her email informing me that she’d moved to another state.

Hello MissXYZ,
Sorry to just now be getting around to answering this email. Our jail ministry, “New Leaf Inmate Ministries,” just has so much happening, although it’s still in it’s infancy, that I spend most of my time playing “catch up.” Anyway, though I realize I may never see you again, I wanted to wish you well and pray for God’s best blessings on all that you do. I assume that you took the course note book, Firm Foundations, with you. I want to impress upon you the importance of finishing that course.  Look up the Scripture references, fill in the answer sheets and send them to me so I can send you a Certificate of Completion.     

My goal isn’t in just wanting to send you a certificate.  As you may recall, if you were in the classes when we had this discussion, I was asked to write and teach this course at the time I was in training by the Institute of Biblical Counseling.  Firm Foundations, by design, not only covers the same basic Biblical information other basic courses cover, it also covers subjects relevant to life itself. That’s why I think this course is so important.

I wrote Firm Foundations 29 years ago. During those years Firm Foundations has helped many people overcome things like depression, anxiety, fear, feelings of worthlessness and more.  More than once I have had people say that they were entertaining thoughts of suicide until they took this course. What does it do? Is it magical? Of course not. What it is, what it does, is that it helps us get to know how much each of us really mean to God.
    
God wants many things for and from each of us. Mostly He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son; To become as holy as He has declared us to be.  In the midst of that is a very, very big word = JOY ! ! ! Realizing how much we mean to Him, realizing what He really has given to each of us, brings JOY. God wants our lives to be full of JOY.  And that’s what I want for you. That’s why I want to encourage you to finish the course.  I want your life to be FILLED with JOY!
God Bless You,

Clint

Please Note:

Firm Foundations as a correspondence course it is offered to anyone without charge.  There certainly is a cost involved in paper, printing and postage.  And there is time involved in putting it all together and in the mail and there is more time involved in looking over answer sheets and corresponding with the student.  Yet it’s my personal wish that everyone reading this would take the course.  Because of the cost involved I will “ask” for a donation to the ministry of at least $20.  However, the course is free and will be mailed to anyone who ask for it, donation or not.

Arrangements for “on-line giving” have been made but as of this writing are not yet set up on this webpage.  It will be available very soon.  Checks can be written to New Leaf Inmate Ministries and mailed to P.O. Box 10,   Middlebrook Virginia 24459.

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