During a recent Sweetwater Kiwanis meeting, members were informed about an opportunity to reach out to a group that often goes overlooked.
Gonzalo "Speedy" San Miguel, Jr. has been a volunteer chaplain with the Texas Department of Corrections for the past 25 years. His ministry has allowed him to teach various Bible studies in Breckenridge, Sweetwater, Snyder, Colorado City, and most recently, in the country of Belize at the Belize Central Prison.
The Wallace and Ware Units, located in Colorado City, currently house 1900 inmates. And within the Wallace Unit, there are a group of men called the "Foot Soldiers of Christ," whose core belief is to serve one another.
"The focus of their ministry is to see to it that those who do not have resources to purchase the essentials such as shampoo, soap and toothpaste are supplied with these needs even at their own expense," explained San Miguel. "Just as in our society here in the 'outside world', there are people in the prison systems who have no means to purchase these items. The state does provide them with soap and toothpaste, but only on a very limited basis."
Thus, the group has set a goal to present each inmate within the Wallace and Ware units a care package that consists of a bottle of shampoo, bottle of conditioner, bar of soap and tube of toothpaste (all normal-sized containers).
"The enormity of this blessing will require the assistance of as many churches as possible in Sweetwater and surrounding communities, as well as organizations who wish to be involved," said San Miguel. "This is an open invitation to join Foot Soldiers for Christ in a vision given to this group of men."
To stay in compliance with TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) regulations, the items need to fit in a small brown lunch sack. Children from First Baptist Church in Sweetwater will be decorating the sacks, and others are encouraged to do the same.
However, San Miguel stressed that sacks cannot have stickers on them, as stickers are considered contraband.
The church will be the storage point for the packages, and donations for the packages will be accepted starting on September 2. The packages will then be distributed to all 1900 inmates on Saturday, November 9 following a worship service held inside the prison.
San Miguel cited a quote from Henry Blackaby, the author of "Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God", which says that "when God speaks, it is always a God sized assignment [but] how we respond shows what we believe about God."
"Letters have been mailed out to churches in Sweetwater detailing the needs," he added. "In order to keep up with inventory we would appreciate a response from churches and organizations wishing to participate. Please join the Foot Soldiers for Christ to make this vision a reality."
For more information on the "Foot Soldiers for Christ" initiative, contact San Miguel at 325-333-1954 or his wife Becky at 325-933-9160.