Who Should Be A Pen Pal?
What is the profile of an ideal pen pal candidate?
- Someone who is stable, emotionally and spiritually. The volatile environment of prisons means that prisoners often have roller-coaster emotions and experiences. The pen pal needs to be able to rise above the volatility and stick to the original purpose of spiritual encouragement.
- A pen pal must be motivated for ministry. There is little public glory attached to this ministry, but there can be great personal reward and treasures in heaven. “Doing unto the least of these” has its own particular brand of encouragement and satisfaction that comes only from being obedient to God and His Word.
- It is important to commit. Follow-through is vital. It can be emotionally devastating for a prisoner to take the risk of writing and then not to hear back, or to be rejected without good reason. Some pen-pal relationships continue for a decade or more, and some volunteers write to many prisoners simultaneously. This is a long-term friendship and discipleship ministry, not a short-range or “one-time” ministry.
- Buoyancy is required. The pen pal must not easily be discouraged. There may be months when the prisoner doesn’t respond. Gifts may return unopened or just disappear. You may be disappointed – prisoners often relapse or tire if their personal agenda isn’t being filled. You may be assigned to 2 or 3 prisoners before finding one who results in a satisfying relationship. Stay at it. Do not be discouraged.
Now that you are motivated to minister and understand the commitment necessary, it’s time to look at how to get started.
Getting Started With Your First Letter
- Start in prayer instead of ending in prayer.
- ALWAYS use a safe return address. You can use ours:
Disciples 4 Christ
P.O. Box 1052
Caddo Mills, TX 75135
- When addressing your envelope, always include your pen pal’s name and Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) number. Be careful to be accurate, or your letter will be returned.
- Use blank or lined paper, stationary, note cards, or greeting cards. DO NOT tape, paste or stick anything to the paper, nor can you use cards with layers of paper or glued-in attachments.
- There is a chance that your pen pal has been released or transferred since he/she requested someone to write him/her, so keep your first letter short.
- Include the following information in your first note to your pen pal. Please use your own words.
• Introduce yourself as a volunteer with Disciples 4 Christ Ministry
• Explain that you have chosen him/her as your pen pal and would like to write to him/her regularly.
• Tell her you will pray for him/her regularly and ask him/her to let you know if he/she has a prayer request.
• Share one of your favorite scriptures with him/her.
• Remind him/her that God loves him/her.
How Often and What To Write?
- Mail a card or letter to your pen pal every one or two weeks. Do not wait on a response before you write your next letter.
- Remember that you are not doing this receive mail; you re doing this because God has called you to serve as a spiritual mentor to a woman who desperately needs the love of Christ in her life.
- The following are suggestions of things you may want to include in your letter:
• Send a prayer – either write scripture as a prayer or write your own prayer for your pen pal.
• Share favorite scripture verses or a scripture that addresses something he/she has shared with you.
• Ask your pen pal to describe what him/her day is like (wait until you have established a relationship with him/her to ask this.)
The DO NOTS
- DO NOT enclose stamps, return envelopes or bookmarks. These are considered “contraband” by TDCJ.
- DO NOT send money, no matter how reasonable the request may sound. If an inmate has less than $5.00 on her prison account, he/she will be classified as “indigent” and can request up to five stamps per week.
- DO NOT use staples or paper clips. These are considered “contraband” by DCP because they can be used as weapons.
- DO NOT probe into your pen pal’s personal life. If he/she chooses to share personal details with you, that is fine.
- DO NOT try to fix your pen pal’s problems – you are not his/her counselor! Your job is to encourage him/her spiritual growth and to pray for him/her. Let scripture references from the Bible be him/her “counselor”.
- DO NOT share information about yourself- where you live, work, or about your family. If you believe a circumstance or happening in your life can be used as part of your testimony or ministry and the pen pal may benefit from knowing the, ask God’s direction in sharing.
- DO NOT ask what you can do for your pen pal. Instead, ask what you can pray for him/her?
- DO NOT offer any legal assistance or advice.
- DO NOT share confidential details with others about your pen pal. Respect her privacy and do not gossip.
- DO NOT wait for a response to your letter before you write again. It is more important that you write regularly and consistently.
- DO NOT promise help with employment, housing, etc., after release from prison. Any request for social services should be channeled through D4C office staff.