By Yong Hui V. McDonald, Rocky Mountain Annual Conference
Jesus is truly blessing people in jails and prisons with new life when they come to meet Christ, grow in their relationships with the Lord, and learn how to serve. God also blessed me with a new life as a minister through dreams and visions of how I can reach out to people in different ways and in areas that I had never imagined. I will share how God expanded my ministry and mission in four different ways.
First, the Lord blessed me with a vision to reach out to prisoners and homeless people. After I started working as a chaplain at Adams County Detention Facility (ACDF) in 2003, many inmates requested inspirational books, but the chaplain’s office didn’t have enough. So, I started Transformation Project Prison Ministry (TPPM), a nonprofit, in 2005, to bring spiritually nurturing books to our facility. Prior to that, I had been distributing my books to jails, prisons, and homeless shelters for free. TPPM made it possible for me to expand this ministry. The most significant ministry that came out of TPPM was that which produces ACDF inmates’ books to help other inmates. Many inmate leaders who had transformations in Christ became missionaries to other prisoners. I call these effective leaders Maximum Saints—they serve God to the maximum with their gifts. Their stories are published in Maximum Saints books.
When the first inmate leader’s book, Maximum Saints Never Hide in the Dark, was ready to print, we raised enough funds for 1,500 copies, since ACDF had 1,100 male and 200 female inmates. God spoke to me, and said, “Your vision is too small.” So, I ordered 10,000 copies and visited churches, to introduce TPPM, and people generously donated funds. TPPM books are distributed in jails, prisons, and homeless shelters free nationwide. The American Correctional Chaplain’s Association told me that they have never heard of anything like it. They said ACDF inmates are the only ones who have launched this type of ministry. Within five years, TPPM produced seven English books, two Spanish books, and four DVDs. This year, Maximum Saints Dream (book) was published, and currently we are working on a book and DVD on forgiveness.
The second area in which God expanded my vision is Hispanic ministry. While attending Iliff School of Theology, I studied Peace with Justice and learned the suffering of the socially, economically, politically underprivileged and undervalued people. Incarcerated people fit in this category, but even among the incarcerated, ethnic minorities who cannot speak or read English suffer more because of lack of inspirational resources.
Our facility has a large Hispanic population, estimated at about 40 percent. When I first started working at ACDF, there was no Spanish worship or ministry. They didn’t even have Spanish Bibles when they were requested. Now we have Spanish Bibles and seven Spanish worship services every week. TPPM was able to provide two translated Spanish books through the generous funding of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church, and the Marion and Lloyd Wake Human Rights Endowment Fund from the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists. TPPM is working on another Spanish translation of the bookMaximum Saints Make No Little Plans.
Paul wrote, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Rom. 1:14–16 NIV).
I understand Paul’s eagerness to preach the gospel because I have seen much fruit, especially through TPPM book ministry, both English and Spanish. We received many encouraging letters from chaplains and inmates from other facilities. I believe God is leading this book project. America has the largest prison population in the world, 2.3 million people, and that is not counting county jails, and the mission field is wide-open. The books can minister in places where many people are not able to go.
I have felt impressed that my vision is too small numerous times before, and as proof of the truth of this spiritual impression, there is a growing demand for more TPPM books. In 2010, I challenged the TPPM board to expand our ministry goal and started the “One Million Dream Project.” We decided to raise enough funds to distribute one million copies of each book TPPM produced for prisoners and homeless people. We are also making a promotional DVD to share about this vision with others.
The third area in which God has expanded my vision and ministry is in reaching out to grieving people, not just inside the jails, but outside as well. After my husband suddenly died in a car accident on July 9, 2008, I was immobilized with grief and pain, but God guided my grieving process and brought healing into my heart. After that, I wrote a book and produced a DVD, Dancing in the Sky, to help grieving people. However, in 2010, I decided to reach out to more grieving people and started GriefPathway Ventures LLC (GriefPWV). Then I started giving workshops on grief and healing and started a grief support group.
Another area in which I minister is to those who have lost their loved ones from suicide or who suffer from suicidal thoughts. I counsel people who are suicidal at ACDF from time to time, so I decided to write a guidebook on how to recover from both the suicide of a loved one and suicidal thoughts. Twisted Logic, The Shadow of Suicide was published in 2010. I have also started another book about how we can be spiritually healed through prayer. Meanwhile, a previous title I have written is currently being made into an audiobook. God is expanding my writing ministry.
The fourth area in which God expanded my ministry and vision is through making peace with everyone. When my husband’s car was hit during his fatal accident, his truck rolled, and the car that ran into him had three young people inside who got hurt. At that time, they were fourteen, sixteen, and seventeen years old. The accident was my husband’s fault. Yet last year, these three survivors wrote to me, saying how sorry they were about my husband’s death, and wanted to know if there was any way they could help ease my pain. I was deeply touched by their kind letters, but I was not ready to meet them.
However, God started speaking to me, saying that I needed to help these young people who have been traumatized mentally, emotionally, and physically from the accident. In the letter, the driver confessed a sense of personal responsibility for my husband’s death. So, my son, Fletcher, and I met these three young adults and their mothers on April 30, 2010, for the first time. I assured them that I was doing fine because God has been helping me, it wasn’t their fault that my husband died, and they all should forgive my husband. They said they had all forgiven him. We had wonderful conversations. The second time I met with them, I gave them books and CDs to help them process their hurts and pain. I will be meeting with them again.
I learned God’s grace and goodness through these young people. I am beginning to realize that, as much as they had the need to meet me, I had to meet them for the healing of my heart.
I am blessed to have two wonderful children who are very close to me, and all the rest of my family is very supportive of me, and they bring me joy. However, when God gives me an assignment to write a book or work on a project, the Holy Spirit fills me with overflowing joy and excitement. At times, I have to say, “I am too excited. Calm me down, Lord.”
God gave me the passion to share the gospel, and my life is focused on how I can share it in a most effective way. My book ministry has broadened my ministry, maximized my gifts, and reached out to people whom I may never meet. I can’t wait to see how God is going to lead me in the future with the “One Million Dream Project.” I know I will see great things when I obey the Holy Spirit’s leading.
I have had mountaintop experiences and have seen many miracles in my ministry. However, the most important lesson I learned is to love the Lord more than ministry; to keep listening to the Holy Spirit’s direction; and to obey, even though it sounds impossible at times. It took me a while to learn this, but all I have to do is work on my loving relationship with the Lord; then the ministry will follow according to the Holy Spirit’s leading. I am truly blessed.
2019 – Unity in the Church
2018 – Claim Who We Are in Christ
2017 – Bodies, Oppression, and Gospel
2016 – Birthing a Worldwide Church
2015 – Clergywomen Lead Vital Congregations
2014 – Empowerment for All
2013 – What Next?
2012 – What Does the Lord Require of Us?
2011 – See, I am Doing a New Thing
2010 – Voicing Truth With Grace
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WellSprings, A Journal of United Methodist Clergywomen, is published by the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
Editor: HiRho Y. Park
Managing Editor: Barbara A. Dick
Editorial Circle: Patricia Bonilla, Neelley Hicks, Anita Phillips, Jacqui Rose-Tucker, Trudy Hawkins Stringer