Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda ODell, creator of "Letters For The Lord" Prison ministry a nation wide outreach to prisoners.
Q: Linda, tells us about yourself .
A: My name is Linda ODell and I am 53 years old. I have been married to my husband, for 30 years. We were unable to have children because I had cancer so it's the 2 of us plus 3 dogs, and 1 cat.  My husband had a relative who was wrongfully convicted and served 7 years. During the time we visited her, the Lord put a burden on my heart for all of the rest of the women in prison who never got visitors.

Q: How long have you been doing this ministry?
A: I started writing to prisoners back in the 70's when I was a teen. I just had a passion for the imprisoned. the Lord gave me the name, "Letters For The Lord." This ministry is my own creation. Of course, the Lord created it in me, but I have others who assist me in "adopting" prisoners to mentor by mail. I work the ministry out of my home and use the internet to promote the ministry through my website, facebook, and twitter.

Q:  How do you find inmates that want penpals?
A:  I get many requests each week from prisoners who want someone to write them. I write to as many as I can and match them to other Christians as the Lord provides volunteers. Its easy because, once you write to an inmate, they tend to share your address with others. And , by word of mouth, the requests just come in. I match the inmates to volunteers who offer to help.

Q:  Is there a screening process for volunteers?
A:  I usually get the volunteer's testimony or the reason they are drawn to writing prisoners. I ask them what their connection is to prison (i.e. have they served time or do they have a family member in prison). If I feel they want to volunteer for the right reasons, I accept them. I stress "this is a ministry for Christ, not a matchmaking service as many others are. This is a ministry to bring prisoners to Christ and to fellowship and encourage prisoners who already know Christ."

Q:  What are your guidelines for writing to prisoners?
A:  Use common sense. Write your letters as if you are writing to a friend. Begin by sharing your testimony and faith in Christ. Share life experiences, hobbies, etc. Just be a friend. Keep it simple. Share your life, your thoughts, your faith.

Q:  What are some of the things a penpal should not do?
A:  Never send money or anything of value, never get romantically involved. Don't make promises you can't keep. Never give out personal information or financial information (SS #, credit card info. etc). Just one caution. If you decide to send a photo (after you are well established with the person) send only a group photo and never one of your minor children). You can use a P.O. Box or your church's address. I have personally used my street address and never had a problem.

Q:  What is the hardest part of your ministry?
A:  The hardest thing is to find other Christians who desire to mentor prisoners by mail. Prison ministry is the least popular ministry in most churches. Even in my own church, I am our prison ministry. Most people don't think about it until a family member ends up serving time. Second, is funding for postage, tracts and literature that I send out.

Q:  What is the most rewarding part of your ministry.
A:  All of it! The letters bless my heart. To see the prisoners come to Christ and watch them grow. They minister to me far more than I do to them. Christ is our mentor. Many of the women go back into the prisons as volunteers.

Q:  Any success stories you'd like to share?
A:  One woman, Lara, has been out for several years and is starting Bible College this year. She is so excited and so am I.

Q:  How is your ministry funded?
A:  My own personal funds as well as the donations of caring individuals. You can donate safely through PayPal. I also accept stamps, Bibles, and good Christian books.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
A:  This is the most rewarding ministry. Christ calls us to visit him in prison. We do not bring Him to the prison when we go inside. He's there waiting for us in the hearts of believing prisoners. We get to join Him in His work.

Thank you, Linda, for sharing your ministry with us. To find out more about Letters For The Lord, check out Linda's website and blog.

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Readers - Please share your prison ministry stories with us!

Friday, July 22, 2011


The women of Joyful Souls (an aftercare group for women in the justice system) never cease to amaze me. We have so much fun on Friday nights at the St. Vincent dePaul Store in Waukesha, WI. People from various churches have been supporting us with donations of craft supplies, speakers, classes, food - anything you can think of. Tonight, some  benefactors gave us silk flowers, vases and floral supplies. Our group is so proud to show off their creations!

It's ordinary people caring about each other that makes this program a success.

If you're in the area, stop in for faith, fun, friendship and food - every Friday evening 6:00 - 8:00 pm at the St. Vincent dePaul Store on the corner of Sunset and Prairie in Waukesha.
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Thanks to all our members and faithful supporters.
God Bless You!


P.S. "The Women of Block 12" is now on sale at the St. Vincent dePaul Store.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011


Presentation & Book Signing
Thursday, July 28th 7:00 p.m.
Mukwonago Community Library
1012 Main Street
Mukwonago, WI 53149
(262) 363-6411

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I love to share a good story, especially when it shows how positive, creative, caring people come together to solve a problem. Here are two examples from Google News today.

Camp offers children of the incarcerated a chance to spiritually thrive and survive

Charlotte Strowhorn of Gary Indiana has a personal mission, to provide a summer camp experience for children of incarcerated parents. With the help of 36 churches from the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana, Charlotte was instrumental in creating Camp New Happenings, a tuition-free program that, this year served 32 children.
This article, written by Philip Potempa, includes some alarming statitstics about children of the incarcerated.
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Monday, July 11, 2011


Gail Grenier Sweet
WOW - What a bite reality is!
I  have led some writing workshops at a women's county jail, so I had an idea about what I was in for when I picked up Linda's book. However, the second half of the book blew my mind. The last 11 of the 22 chapters are first-person accounts written by jailed/imprisoned women of all ages and backgrounds. After I read them, I thought, "How do you ever pull yourself out of that morass?" Each woman wrote about a slightly different hell of a morass, including beyond-rough upbringings, abuse, and addiction. The message is clear... when you're so low that down seems up to you, there's only one ladder out: FAITH. Thank you Linda, for your honesty regarding your own faith journey... and for being a door through which these women may walk into our lives. - Gail Grenier
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Friday, July 8, 2011


To keep up with the times, I've joined the masses and started texting. So now, my phone sings a little "You've got mail" song. Yes, I'm probably too old for this nonsense and no, it's not my primary means of communication. But clearly, it's a challenge.

My granddaughter is patiently teaching me the language. Don't laugh. I already knew what LOL meant. But have you heard of:
  • G2G - gotta go
  • BTW - by the way
  • LYLAS - love you like a sister
  • TMI - too much information
And in case you are ZZZZ (sleeping or bored). That's all I'm gonna teach you, for now.

While texting my granddaughter, it occured to me how important it is for us all of us to communicate with each other. Years ago, people did it by writing long letters. Can you imagine waiting months for that stagecoach?

Then came the telegraph, telephone, ham radio, computer, cell phones, skype etc. and the art of letter writing lost it's appeal for the younger generation. Word is, it may also be disappearing for the rest of us. But, never underestimate the value of the written word.  Last week I received a letter from an inmate at Taycheedah Correctional Institution.

She said, "I was so happy to see you wrote! Getting mail is like gold here, especially for me.. . . so I was thinking, maybe one night, your group could color some pictures or make some postcards and send them to women like me."

That statement just broke my heart. It is so easy to send a card or letter to someone in prison. From the comfort of your home, for a cost of $.44 - you can share the Gospel and change a life. Here's a safe resource to help you get started.

Letters For the Lord Prison Ministry

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For more information on women in prison, visit my website:

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