I decided to attend the volunteer appreciation dinner at the Teen Challenge Headquarters in Riverside this year. The meal was better than most restaurants I’ve been to and at my table was another volunteer who visits men and women in the Orange County Jails who are trying to get into the program. That night we were told that the seven Southern California Centers get 385,000 phone calls from people looking for help each year. Everyone in attendance received a book containing handwritten thank you notes from present and former students in the program along with the recent Christmas CD produced by Teen Challenge.
All of my immediate family (except two nieces) was in Turlock to celebrate Thanksgiving and we took the opportunity to get some family photos. There were 21 of us who gathered at my oldest brother’s home. Ron and Peggy came the farthest to be there which also gave Peggy the chance to see Covenant Village. My brother lives near the college and so we found a spot on the campus for the photos. We are making a memory book for my parents (dad especially) using this and other photos which will be ready around Christmas.
Erick Quezada was a released youth I worked with a few years ago and saw him go to Bible College and has served as a youth pastor at two churches. I spent a lot of time preparing him for marriage but we never knew when that might happen. He met his bride several years ago when he attended Saddleback Church. Pictured above are his bride (Amanda), his mom (Lilia), and his best man (Jevon) who flew over from London to be at the wedding. A friend of our ministries gave me a $240 love gift for Erick because she has been praying for him but didn’t know at the time that he was getting married. I gave it to Erick a couple days before the wedding and he told me that he was down to a few dollars in his checking account.
October is pomegranate season in Hughson and I was able to take another visit there to help squeeze juice from the pomegranates on my parents two trees. One of the trees was planted by my grandfather and is over a hundred years old. We picked about 40% of the pomegranates and squeezed 8-9 gallons of juice. This year it was only three of us who did the work, my brother, myself, and Eric Britt. I would say we worked about four hours all together. My sister-in-law and my niece make jelly out of the juice.
On the last Friday of September I held our 20th Annual Retreat at the Youth Guidance Center. The Lord provided an excellent team of believers to serve for the five hour activity and we had fifteen youth participate. Fifteen was the goal I had prayed for. The theme of the retreat was “Entering Adulthood” and the youth were challenged to evaluate their maturity and to think like men and women in the area of relationships. Attendance at our church services and bible studies has been pretty good at YGC and half of Unit 400 is signed up as Protestant.
I had another blessed trip to Durango, Mexico to visit the Bentley’s and got to speak on how God humbles us at the Sunday service and on Ecclesiastes 3 at the Men’s Group on Monday night. The church has continued to grow each time I visit and the picture is in the sanctuary on their new property. A guy came up to us at the end to say he was at the prison when I spoke there three years ago. A lady drove by on Monday night and stopped to find out about the church because she recognized the Calvary Chapel dove on the front of the church.
Clint Pickens had been a PCM volunteer for years before heading off to England to do youth ministry. He ended up getting married to Rhoda and planting a church in Wales. Last year he came on staff with Pacific Youth and is developing a ministry to incarcerated youth in San Antonio, Texas. He and his family (two boys and a girl) recently visited Orange County and Chaplain Steve and Jan hosted a lunch for all of the area staff.
I was able to take a group from the Youth Guidance Center to the Harvest Crusade this year. Two of those in the group had a lengthy court process and have been incarcerated for two years so being in public for the first time in a long time was a big deal. Frank had just gotten out of YGC and was on house arrest but his probation officer is a believer and she approved for me to take him on the last night. His grandmother had taken him there ten years ago and he couldn’t wait to get home to call her about going again.
I first visited Andy in the OC Jail when he was 19 years old and for the past eighteen years he has stayed in contact. Andy has a perfect behavior record and has completed as many programs as the prisons offered him. He has also studied the Bible extensively. I think Andy has been to six different institutions but was recently transferred to the fire station outside of the Wasco State Prison for a special program. In August of 2019, he will be paroled and start his life over in Anaheim. He sent me the photo of those being trained with him. Andy is the one seated inside the back cab.
Dani Morrison called me in May to let me know that she had rented the Santa Ana Stadium for a prayer gathering called “First Love OC” and asked if I would be one of those who prayed. It was amazing to see what the Lord allowed to take place in just three weeks of preparation. The Monday prior to the event I got another call asking what I felt led to pray for. No one was praying for incarcerated youth and adults so that is what I selected. The three hours was well planned and I was encouraged to see the passion others have to see God move through his church in Orange County.
Everyone in my extended family was able to attend my niece’s wedding to Mark Joyner over the Memorial Day Weekend. We all met at SeaTac Airport on Friday afternoon and attended the wedding mixer to meet Mark’s side of the family that evening. The wedding was the next day at Trinity Tree Farm in Issaquah with about 120 guests. Mark and Hannah met in Bellingham, Washington when she was at college. After a short honeymoon in Santa Cruz, they traveled back to Glendale, AZ where Hannah has two more years of optometry school.
For the sixteenth year in a row, PCM sponsored a National Day of Prayer Gathering in front of Juvenile Hall at noon. I distribute flyers to the believers I know in the various departments and then wait to see who shows up. We had over 50 employees come together to pray for 15 minutes. Since the theme of the NDOP was unity, I spent part of the time leading the group in praying through the parts of the Lord’s Prayer. A supervisor on the seventh floor of the court building took this picture and a pastor friend who works with her sent it to me.
Teen Challenge brought everyone together on Good Friday morning for a communion service and to go over the last seven sayings of Christ from the cross. There were seven of us who shared and I was given the saying, “Mother, behold your son……” I felt led to share how the guys in the program may have had people taken out of their lives (like Jesus was taken out of his mom’s life) but the Lord will use someone else to fill that need.
Erick Quezada was in Juvenile Hall eight years ago and I was able to meet with him for awhile after his release to see him get off probation and graduate from Bible College. Today Erick is on staff at Canyon Hills Calvary Chapel. He gave his testimony and did a painting at the Joplin and Youth Guidance Center’s Easter Outreaches. Erick started with the picture to the left and proceeded to turn it into what looked like a stained glass window. One of the minors asked if he could take it home with him.
It’s been awhile since I have been in a 5th-6th grade Sunday School class but I was recently invited to two at St Andrews Presbyterian Church to talk about what I do as their missionary. These were the kids who made Easter Cards that I handed out on Easter Sunday at each of my church services so I was able to thank them in person and tell them that one of the guys at Joplin said, “Tell Grace (the girl that signed his card) that it feels good to be loved like this.” I told both of the classes that morning that I didn’t know what a chaplain was when I went to church at their age and to be open to how God may want to use their lives.
On February 24th, PYCM and CMCA co-sponsored a “Correctional Ministry Matters” Conference held at Coast Hills Church in Aliso Viejo. We had about 100 leaders and volunteers from several correctional ministries around the state. I think the attendee who came the farthest was from the Bay Area. It was encouraging to see trainers with a national presence as plenary speakers and as workshop instructors.
Pastor Bryan from River47 Church in Orange asked me to fill in for him on January 21st while he was away at a meeting in Chicago. I was able to adjust my schedule to be there and began to pray about what to share. At the end of December I was briefly going over Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 with a young man in the Youth Leadership Academy when the Lord began to give me insights on how to teach this passage. The title of my message was “What Time Is It?” and another youth who recently got out of YLA was able to join me.
I was blessed to be able to get a free room at Ayres Inn for a reflection day. At the beginning of another year I really enjoyed being able to get alone with God and reflect on the past and ask him questions about the future. I left the time realizing that the Lord isn’t that concerned about my ministry as much as he is about my own personal fellowship with himself.
Chaplain Steve and Jan Lowe hosted our annual Christmas Luncheon with the team from Orange County, Chaplain Charlie Corum (front left) from Los Angeles County, and retired Chaplain Jess Frey. Charlie shared that 24 churches had donated 2000 gift bags for every incarcerated youth in the LA probation facilities!
I got to attend the Calvary Chapel Mission’s Conference for one day only this year and heard missionary and author Patrick Johnston speak on discipleship. Discipleship is establishing a relationship with another believer to teach them to do what you do and then allowing the Holy Spirit to continue the work. Patrick teaches that we are living in a 6th Great Awakening that has been occurring in Africa, Asia, and South America since 1964. In the 1990’s over a hundred million believers were added to the kingdom. He became a missionary in South Africa at age 24 and the mission organization had a policy that you couldn’t marry for six years. Patrick wrote the book Operation World and The Church is Bigger Than You Think. At 79 years of age he is still going strong.
Northeast of the Well is a ministry started by a PCM volunteer (Laura Suk) and works with women in fifteen different county programs. They recently received a grant that will be used to start a social enterprise and will allow the women they work with to become employed. I was asked to be on an advisory board to help put a plan in place. We have met twice to gather ideas and have visited other sites doing a similar work.
I remember meeting with Valentin Garcia over twenty years ago and he recently called our office to see about ministering to the youth. We met for lunch and got caught up on how the Lord has been working in his life. I was able to get him cleared to attend my 19th Annual Retreat at YGC and the picture is when he shared his testimony. He texted me a couple days afterwards to thank me for the opportunity to serve. The next time he’ll be back will be for the YGC Christmas Outreach.
Omar at Boys Republic invited me to their 110th Annual Awards Ceremony where youth at various stages of the program received twenty-eight different scholarships to help them continue to make progress towards their goals. The ceremony was held in the chapel and the guest speaker was State Senator Connie Leyva. A few of the scholarships were to past graduates who have transitioned successfully into a life out of the system. One of the board members who was there has been on the board since 1949!
With the help of family and a lot of friends, the Johnson Ranch Estate Sale was a success! My mom had already given away special items to friends and family but we still made $1500 on other stuff. The Lord totally blessed the weather and attendance was pretty good. It was hard to see sixty years of memories leaving the farm.