Love Has a Special Meaning Beyond the Tennis Court

Love may mean nothing in a tennis match, but among some tennis players, it meant warm coats for persons being released from the Marion County Jail.

A coat to wear home can be especially important for those inmates who were arrested in the heat of the summer but are released in the cold of winter. And when Margo Ward, a member of Castleton United Methodist Church and also a member of the UMJM Steering Committee heard of the plight of these people, she was inspired to do something about it.

Margo is a member of a tennis team and when the group had their annual Christmas party, she spoke of the need for winter coats for jail releasees. Her team mates and their friends responded with two dozen coats delivered to the Marion County Jail Chaplain�s office. All were delighted to help, Margo explained, including one who had no spare coat to donate but nevertheless made a $25 donation.

And when Margo�s husband John heard about the women�s project, he began a similar appeal to the members of his squash club and also business contacts. Also joining in the Coat Crusade was Rev. Karen Powell of New Horizons UMC of Anderson who is expecting to deliver a few more coats when she is UMJM�s guest speaker at the February Chapel service.

John Ward has been active in UMJM for several years, and only recently has Margo become involved. Both have attended chapel services, and John is serving as treasurer. Both have been very sensitive to the needs of the jail inmates, and they both seized upon the coat project as a way to not only help, but also to involve others in a ministry that too often has few �hands on� opportunities.

There is a misconception that jail inmates have few needs, that everything is provided for them. Although it is true that �rent and utilities� are provided, and clothing isn�t an issue since it�s �county issue�, there are some needs that do arise, especially for those with no funds on their books. Among these are such basic hygiene items as shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant, �long johns� to keep warm in chilly cell blocks during the winter weather, stamped envelopes and paper to write home, and even underwear, especially bras for large-sized women.

For a look at how UMJM is intentionally meeting many of these needs, take a look at our budget on page 3. But our budget doesn�t cover all the expenses of those being released from jail. It doesn�t include housing; it doesn�t include bus passes and other transportation needs; it doesn�t include kitchen utensils and groceries; it doesn�t include a basic cell phone to call potential employers; it doesn�t include clothing to wear to interviews, etc.

But it does include, thanks to tennis players from the Indy Racquet Club, winter coats for this year.

Three Members of UMJM Steering Committee Receive Recognition for Their Work

Three members of the Steering Committee of United Methodist Jail Ministries have recently been honored for their work in prison and jail ministries. They are Phyllis Newton, and Jane Ann and Gordon Lemen, the latter award given posthumously.

Phyllis Newton was recently named Religious Services Volunteer of the Year at the Indiana Women�s Prison in Indianapolis. Phyllis has worked there as a volunteer instructor-mentor for several years and was instrumental in the establishment of a United Methodist Women�s circle of residents within the prison. She has also honored for her work in the PLUS program within the prison.

Phyllis has been a long-time member of the Steering Committee of UMJM, currently serving as coordinator of the group�s monthly chapel services at the Marion County Jail. Not only does she secure speakers for the services, she encourages the musical programs at the services and has been a stalwart participant. In addition, Phyllis is a member and recording secretary of the Prison-Jail Ministry Committee, a committee first created by the Board of Church and Society of the old South Indiana Conference.

Phyllis and her husband Gene recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Phyllis is a member of Broadway United Methodist Church where she is active in an English as a second language program, the choir, and the United Methodist Women. She is also district president of UMW.

Receiving the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Award were Gordon and Jane Ann Lemen. The award is given annually at the Dr. King Day celebration at Lawrence United Methodist Church to someone who �has demonstrated the values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.�

Gordon and Jane Ann were said to have lived out the value of peace and justice, hope and forgiveness, albeit in different ways. Jane Ann continues with that struggle following the death of her husband Gordon in a senseless murder.

As a couple they had helped two children who had been in foster care by adopting them and providing a loving and caring home for both these two daughters and their two sons, and now provide that same love and care for nine grandchildren.

Gordon served as the treasurer of United Methodist Jail Ministries since its inception. He was responsible for finding sources for the hygiene kits UMJM provides indigent inmates.

But Gordon also helped others in a more informal way, that of simply responding to needs as he became aware of them. He was ready to lend a helping hand to whoever was in need, regardless of race, economic status, value system. Gordie would help. Perhaps it was the greatest irony that he should die by violence as he himself was a most nonviolent person. His brothers mentioned that Gordie �wouldn�t argue with you. He might disagree, but he wouldn�t argue.�

Jane Ann Lemen, Gordon�s widow, has been active in jail ministries for over twenty years, including thirteen years as a volunteer chaplain and another two years as a part-time chaplain at the Marion County Jail where she assisted Chaplain John Merriweather. She currently serves as president of UMJM and is also a member of the Conference Prison-Jail Ministry Committee.

Both Jane Ann and Gordon are members of Horizons of Faith United Methodist Church. Jane Ann is a Sunday School teacher and chair of the Christian Education Committee. Gordon served as financial secretary prior to his death.

One of Dr. King�s signature contributions to the cause of peace and justice was his Letter from Birmingham City Jail. It is appropriate, therefore, that these three workers in the field of jail and prison ministries and Christ�s Kingdom should be recognized.

UMJM Sets Budget for 2010

The Steering committee of United Methodist Jail Ministries has set a budget of $7,200 for 2010. The budget is geared to respond to some of the needs identified by the Chaplain�s Office as well as members of UMJM.

The budget will consist of the following items:

  • $2,000 � hygiene for indigent inmates
  • $1,000 � under clothing such as boxer shorts, panties, and bras
  • $1,500 � for Bibles
  • $600 � Upper Room Devotionals in both English and Spanish
  • $200 for winter coats
  • $800 for postage
  • $600 for printing
  • $500 for miscellaneous items

Why were these Items budgeted? We�re so glad you asked?? Read on----

Why budget for hygiene for indigent inmates? Many inmates have no money on their books and are unable to buy such basic hygiene supplies as shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant. We will continue to help these inmates.

Why underclothing? Many inmates are without these, especially women. We provide boxer shorts, panties, and bras, especially large size.

Bibles? That answer should be obvious! So they can read the Word of God!! We will provide paperback NIV translation Bibles and also Spanish language Bibles. We recently sent 500 NIV�s to the Jail.

Upper Room Devotionals in both English and Spanish? These popular devotionals are used by inmates in individual and group settings.

Why winter coats? These are needed by people arrested in summer or warm weather attire but released in winter.

Postage? $300 of this amount will go for UMJM mailing expenses. However the remaining $500 will go for inmate needs.

Printing and Miscellaneous Needs? Printing costs are primarily the cost of The Key. Miscellaneous � who knows what opportunities God might present us with??!!

  • Pray with and for prisoners and ex-offenders
  • Provide acceptance ? words of welcome and a warm handshake go far.
  • Assist in finding employment
  • Help connect with support groups

Why Is It Important That We Do Jail Ministry?

Jail Ministry, and its sibling Prison Ministry are important to you whether you have ever known or even met someone who has been incarcerated or not.

Consider this statistic: In 2008 the Department of Corrections released over 19,500 inmates back into their communities. Let me repeat that�19,500 people were released from the state prison system in that one year alone.

These 19,500 persons were released into every county in the state. The vast majority, abut one-fourth, were sent back to Marion County, the state�s most populous county. Tipton County received the least with only three.

Who were these people? The vast majority were adult men over 15,500. There were also 2,500 adult women, a thousand male juveniles, and 200 female juveniles.

The charges could range from relatively petty crimes to murder; the length of sentence from a few months to decades.

Regardless, they are coming out with a gap in their work resumes and mostly ill-prepared for the world as it is now. Their hope will rest on how meaningful their prison time was and how equipped they are to leave behind old habits, friends, and values. They need someone to tell them of God�s love. And they will need that love shown to them in the flesh, i.e. by the Church. And that�s why we do this.