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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Drs. Roland and Susie Hill

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Drs. Roland and Susie Hill


John Bradshaw - Conversation with Drs. Roland and Susie Hill
TOPICS: Conversations

Dr. Hill has been a minister of the gospel, a teacher, and a university professor. Dr. Hill has been a teacher, a principal, and a university professor. Together, their lives have recently taken a very different turn. He is Dr. Roland Hill, she is Dr. Susie Hill, and this is our conversation. Dr. Hill, Dr. Hill, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate it.

Oh, we're excited about being here, sir.

You have lived more full lives and accomplished more than many people would ever hope to or dream to. Yet recently, things have ramped up. You're now the directors of United Prison Ministries International. And I would like you to tell me as much as you possibly can about what you're doing right now. What's UPMI?

United Prison Ministries International is a nonprofit organization committed to working with prisoners behind bars and ex-offenders when they get out. We've been doing this for over 40 years, and we've been blessed to be working with prisoners in about 4,000 prisons in the United States. And we send materials to 72 countries in the world. So it's exciting.

Prison ministry is powerful. There'll be people watching right now who know firsthand, but at the same time, others who know precious little or maybe nothing at all about prison ministry. Let's talk about that in a moment. First, let's talk about you. Take me back to the beginning, wherever the beginning was for let's start with you, Dr. Hill.

Well, first of all, thank you for having us. We're so glad to be here today to share our passion for United Prison Ministries and the work that we're doing. I was born in Honduras. I am a native of San Pedro Sula, and I grew up there for the first eight years of my life, so Spanish is my native language. I speak fluent Spanish. When we came to this country, I actually had an experience where our teachers told our parents, we should forget Spanish and learn English. And they listened to the teachers, but God gave me Spanish as my gift. So I am so glad that I'm able to speak, preach, teach, and even have a book written in Spanish.

Oh, fantastic, yeah.

But we met, my husband and I met at Oakwood College. We were married in 1975. We are celebrating 47 years of marriage. So he pastored and we were, I worked with him in ministry. I always saw us as one in ministry. We got married, we had two children. I stayed home with our children until they entered first grade and then continued to just work alongside my husband in ministry until he retired. And now we are in Huntsville, Alabama. We thought we were gonna be retired.

We thought so.

Yeah, but God had different plans, didn't he?

Yeah, but I did. I got a chance to teach. I became a Spanish teacher. That's when I really learned the constructs of my language. And then I also taught at the university and was able to help students learn about families and how family works. And it was just exciting to be able to help them shape and to make decisions for their lives when it comes to their future, in relationship to marriage and relationship to parenting. And it was just exciting for me. I loved it.

And you picked up a PhD along the way. Tell me a little about that.

Well, I went to, I actually never really had that as one of my goals in life. My husband was the one that was telling me...

That's correct.

...that I should get a terminal degree. And I said, "That's your dream. That's not my dream". And I did wake up one morning, early, and I told my husband, "I think I want to get my PhD". He said, "You do"? And he went upstairs in the office, came down in 13 minutes with a printout. And the printout said this is what you're gonna get your PhD in, and this is where you're going to get it. And I looked at it, it intrigued me. I said, "Honey, I like this, I love the family. Get a degree in family studies? That's just where I'm at". So that was Sunday morning. On Tuesday, we went to Texas women's university. And on Friday of that same week, I was enrolled in the PhD program and I finished it.

Fantastic. And what perfect preparation for what you're doing now. Dr. Roland Hill, take me back a little ways to where you sprung from. And I'm very interested in learning about your call to and your entrance into pastoral ministry.

I'm a preacher's kid, all right? My father spent 48 years in the pastoring. And he was one of those good solid pastors who lived a Christian life before us. And when I was six years old, he was preaching, made an appeal, I walked down the aisle, gave my heart to Christ, and accepted my call to the ministry.

So, from a child.

From six years old.

You knew.

I knew. I've never veered from that at all. When I was coming through elementary school, middle school, high school, college, I knew I was called to be a pastor. That's all I've ever wanted to do. Now, there have been some roads that have taken me through specialized ministry and pastor in ministry, but I'm a pastor at heart. That's what I was called to do. So I went off to Oakwood, finished up the degree there at Oakwood University now, and then I went on and did an MDiv at Andrews University. And then I followed God's calling to finish a DMin with a concentration in something that I wrote called "Theo-Economics: The Economy of God". As a pastor, I saw that many of my members were struggling with financial issues, and especially from a theological standpoint. And so I committed myself to learn all I could from the word of God, about how to help empower my people economically. And I ended up writing several books on that area because I'm committed to empowering people. I believe John, that theological enlightenment brings economic empowerment. And I saw it as I crafted out this new economic philosophy called theo-economics or theo-economism.

Fantastic. Well, somewhere along the line, there was a transition to prison ministry. Now, is this something that had been percolating away in the background for years or was this new?

This absolutely not.

Tell me how it came about.

When I was teaching at Southwestern Adventist University, there was a gentleman that would come around my office and say Dr. Hill, please, help me out at the prison. And I found all excuses not to go. And one day I was in my devotion and I said, "God, I wanna reach black men". And God says, "They're in prison". Within a matter of an hour or so, this guy calls me and he says, "Dr. Hill, I was impressed to call you. Can you please come and help us out at the prison and teach theo-economics"? Of course, I couldn't refuse him, God has spoken. So I went and taught at the prison, theo-economics for six weeks and the guys just loved it. They saw an economic philosophy that would help them to go on the right path when they got outta prison. But my problem, John is then when I finished the six weeks, the bird left and I got busy traveling the world. My wife and I do presentations on family and finance, and so we've done a lot of them around the world. And so I got busy doing that while I was teaching full time. And it was not until I was retired and at the church that we attend, they were having prison ministry day. And I told Susie, "I'm not going". And because she is a woman of God, she says, "We're going".

"Honey, we need to go. We need to go to church".

So you tell me why you were dead set against going. You knew that this is gonna get you involved in something didn't you?

Well, there were a couple things. The first thing is that when you talk about prison ministry, who gets excited about it? And then secondly, that's not something that I saw myself doing, especially in retirement. But when I got to church and the guy started preaching, the spirit of the living God started moving in my heart. Tears started coming down and then God says, "Now, I'm bringing back what I gave you 25 years earlier. You must do it". And after the guy got through preaching, I'd already made my commitment, but it was sealed because the brother that he brought up to testify, this is what clinched it for me. I was his resident assistant, his RA at Oakwood his freshman year. I hadn't seen him in 40 years. And he tells this story that he had been imprisoned for 20 years, and it just blew my mind. This is a good guy. And so we talked after service and God says, "Now, it's time for you to go to work in the prison ministry". So I started looking around, seeing how I could do it myself personally. And then I ran into UPMI international. And the Lord said, "You need to call". I call, and Natalie, of course you'd know Natalie, you've talked to her on the phone.

Yes.

She runs the organization. She's our COO of the organization. And they'd been looking for leadership for about 10 years. And she told me after the organization asked my wife and I to lead it. "When you called Roland, I knew it was God's answer to our prayer. I just didn't want to tell you on the first phone call". So that's how we got involved.

So what was it like entering into this ministry leadership? A ministry with a rich history, a broad reach, and profoundly important. I imagine this was like diving in the deep, deep, deep end.

But you know how God works.

Real deep, go ahead.

God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

Yes.

We knew the leadership that were following it. We know Natalie, we went to the same church. When I was a girl, they sat on the left side of the church. I would go and sit on the right side.

Look at that.

I saw her when she was a girl, her mom, and her other siblings. And we knew the founding fathers originally before they even thought about prison ministries themselves. So, we have a deep history. She remembers me and I remember, we're like family. So that made it easier for us when we came together to talk about working at United prison ministries. And they have done an exceptional job.

Exceptional job.

The foundation is so solid, they built a solid foundation. Started in 1981 with United Prison Ministries International, and have continued to work, giving materials and printing materials for prisoners.

What excited us, John and me, particularly. When I looked at what I was called to do it fit into everything that I've been trained to do. Writing, preaching, evangelism, and being a pastor behind bars. 'Cause ultimately that's what I am, I'm a pastor. So I said, "Now, this gives me an opportunity to share, pardon the pun, with a captive audience".

Captive audience, that's right.

And let me tell you, John, I've been going into the prisons recently and I just have been enthralled and excited to watch these men hear the word of God, and moved by the spirit of God to change lives.

Tell me a little about some of the specifics that UPMI gets involved in, in prison ministry, in ministering to inmates.

Well, we're actually, there are four things that we are actually committed to do at United Prison Ministries International. The first thing is we're committed to distributing Christian materials in the area of self-reliance, self-development, and spirituality. So we've been doing that well over the last 40 years. We've distributed over 78 million, I said million, pieces of literature.

That's a lot.

In prisons in America and all over the world, okay? Then the second thing we do is we develop materials for prisoners. 'Cause when we go inside, one of the things that we've discovered is you can bring them to Christ, but you have to take them beyond that. And so we are developing materials that's particularly designed to stop recidivism. Because there's what do you call a revolving door.

Sure.

To keep coming back each time. And we are committed to developing materials, to help them when they get back out. And the word is back in the free world that they can stay. Then the third thing we do is we partner with organizations that allow the guys when they get out, to find stabilization. Like people who provide transitional home, transitional housing, some of them have addictions, so we work with organizations to help that. And then the fourth thing we do is, we train churches on how to do prison ministry. Because oftentimes people go into prisons and they have a preconceived idea of what the prisoner is. Like I was talking to someone yesterday and they were saying, "Well, Dr. Hill, you know, the prisoners don't do, they're not that smart". I said, "You haven't been in the prison, because some of the smartest men in the world are behind bars. And they're looking for mentoring to take their gifts and talents, and turn them into something positive".

What I find fascinating about this is, this is not any kind of a bandaid solution".

No.

This is a very comprehensive approach, addressing an entire person, that individuals needs, not just while they're inside, but you're looking forward to transitioning people successfully from behind bars to life, as you said, in the free world.

Well see, we speak on behalf of the 2.2 million men and women behind bars and the 5.2 million that are ex-offenders. And so we get very passionate because who becomes their voice? Who really tells the world what it's like to be behind the bars? So we go in, spend time with them. We again, prepare materials that help to transition them because many of them are gonna get out. In fact, statistics tells us that there are over 600,000 prisoners released every single year. And the interesting thing, John, between three to five years, 77% of them return back to jail.

That's just a huge number.

That's staggering isn't it?

Yeah, it tells us there's something really broken in society and maybe even in that system.

Yeah, it's really hard because just last year, just to give you a personal story. Just last year, an individual whom we actually ministered to behind bars, received materials from UPMI, was released after being in prison for 20 years.

Wow.

And then they dropped him off at a corner somewhere and he had to figure out what to do after that. All he had was money in his pocket to maybe catch a bus somewhere and it wasn't enough to do anything. And now, we as a ministry have garnered our resources around him and helped him get back into society, functioning, finding him a job. We have an individual who has actually provided him work every day, that he can use and start earning money. We also helped him get his, 'cause he's a veteran, so he's able to get housing through the veteran's administration.

But without your help, none of that would've happened.

None of that would have happened.

And you gotta ask yourself-

He was actually sleeping on the streets.

You gotta ask yourself about a system. You incarcerate somebody for 20 odd years and drop him off on a street corner. You might as well, not even let him out. It's just an invitation to come back in a week.

He's gonna go back.

In fact...

It's no question.

They told him, oh, you'll be back. The guys at that were...

The guards.

Would say, you'll be back. Every time he passed him, "Oh, you'll be back". That's what he said to him. And he says, "Oh no". And we were just blessed to be able to be there for him and continuing to provide the support that he needs.

Yes.

Thank God, he will not be back.

No.

Because God stepped in through United Prison Mysteries International, and God is doing that again, and again, and again. We'll hear more about this in just a moment with Dr. Roland Hill and Dr. Susie Hill. I'm John Bradshaw. This is our conversation.

Welcome back to "Conversations". My guests are Dr. Susie Hill and Dr. Roland Hill. They are the directors of United Prison Ministries International, an organization with a rich history of ministering to people behind bars, and not only that, enabling people to transition to a successful life in the free world, and very frequently, a life lived in the heart of Jesus. Doctors Hill, let's talk about some of the many prison ministries success stories. Now, I was fortunate to pastor a congregation, and this congregation provided really the backbone for a thriving prison ministries, ministry really, organization. The miracles we saw, the miracles we saw... now, people can tend to be a little cynical...

Right.

...about prisoners, and people can be a little dismissive about prisoners. Why we would, I don't know, because this country has a gigantic prison population. There are few families that have not been impacted by the prison system in some way. We would surely want to see redemption for all. And that sounds to me that that's really in the DNA of the United Prison Ministries International: redemption for a major population that has...the odds stacked against them. Let's talk about some of the miracles, some of the success stories, some of the incredible things you've seen through prison ministry.

You know, I mentioned to you, John, about this guy that sealed my involvement in prison ministry. Well, I actually began to mentor him, and encourage, and inspired him to start his own nonprofit organization, because he's very interested in providing transitional housing. You know, he's one of the guys after 20 years in prison, they gave him a bag of cookies and send 'em on his way, and he didn't have a place to stay.

Yeah, these guys are set up to fail so very often.

Set up to fail.

Set up to fail.

So he comes out and he goes to one transitional house that eventually closes down. So he said, "I'm gonna start my own". I walked him through, helped him get his nonprofit organization. So now he's a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. And he has four men in his transitional house right now.

Thank God.

And he's such a positive man. And remember, now, he spent 20 years behind bars.

Yeah.

But he's so positive, and one of the reasons why is he has purpose in life. And that's what we do with United Prison Ministries International. We're concerned with helping men find purpose in life. One of the programs that we're launching this year is called PEREP, Prison Economic Reform Educational Program. It's a three course curriculum designed to help men while they in prison, change their philosophy and their theology, so that they become self-reliant. One of the courses teaches them what biblical success is all about. Another course teaches them how to steward their life because most of them are there because they've never learned how to manage their life. And then the last course teaches them financial literacy, and it teaches them how to run and operate their own businesses.

Oh, that's fantastic.

Yes.

Because that's the thing that's really hard. When they come out, like you said, the odds are stacked against them.

Oh yeah.

They can't get jobs, they're felons. They can't even rent an apartment.

Right.

And who's gonna hire them? When they find out that they are ex-felons they usually lose their jobs. So it's nice to know that while they're behind bars, we're giving them an opportunity to think in terms of being the job, of owning and operating their own business, using their skills, whatever skill everybody has been given a gift by God.

That's correct.

So we help the prisoners learn and identify their gift, find a need in society, and fill that need inside of their gift. That's a job nobody can take from you.

Right.

We call them God-preneurs because we believe the call to Christ is not simply to the kingdom of God, but as a worker to produce in the kingdom of God. And there's a difference between an entrepreneur and a God-preneur. These men and women that we train through our PEREP project, Prison Economic Reform Educational Program, they are committed Christians who are committed to use their God given talents in a business that will produce for the kingdom of God.

Now, tell me how you go about not so much constructing a program like that, but facilitating that inside prisons. That does not sound like a simple thing, but United Prison Ministries International has 40 years experience.

Well, that's the great thing about United Prison Ministries International. The founders laid a great found foundation. We are what's called ACA certified, American Correctional Association certified. So the materials that we produce have already been okayed by all of the prisons in America.

Fantastic.

We're probably one of the largest organizations out there that are able to get materials into prisons.

And we are in 4,000 prisons. And what's nice is, we've developed relationships with the wardens and they want and need materials. And they know we have materials that are gonna help their prisoners. So they contact us and they say, "Do you have any more"? We get letters, countless letters, requests from different organizations, different prisons, asking for our materials. And we are there ready to provide it free for the prisoners. And they just love it. We're excited that we're getting ready to launch at the Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama. The warden said, "I wanna be the first one. I want my prison to be the first one. And when everybody sees what we're doing, they're gonna want this material".

Fantastic.

So, we're excited.

And by the way, I will be personally teaching at the prisons. The prison in Elmore, Alabama, with the PEREP program to launch it.

So in your role as a director of UPMI, this is not an office job, this is a field job.

This is a field job.

It's a field job.

Getting dirt under your fingernails.

John, it's something that I'm passionate and love. I like to preach, I like to teach, these are the gifts that God gave me. So now I get a chance to influence a group of men and women that I believe when their released, will have even greater impact for the kingdom of God. In fact, this guy that I was telling you about, he says, "Doc, when you train guys in prison and girls in prison, they become the most loyal soldiers you could ever train".

Why do you think that is?

Because we get 'em when they're at their lowest.

We give them hope.

Yes.

We give them hope.

And that's the thing that they're needing more than anything. We provide hope to every prisoner. And when they receive the information that we share with them, it liberates them. So we're trying to prepare them for reentry by bringing them hope through the PEREP project, so that when they do reenter society as returning citizens, they can make it. They don't have to go back to prison.

See one of the things John, I found in my personal study of the word of God. And then my academic study, is that, when the gospel is presented correctly, it doesn't just liberate spiritually it liberates economically. And that's what prisoners need to hear. The number one reason why they're in jail, they're trying to provide for themselves. And so you walk through a process from the Bible, truth from God's word about how to live a productive life in this world, it gets them excited. And when you teach them that, as I said earlier, they become loyal because nobody else took the time to do it.

I wanna talk about some of the, some more of the success stories that you know of, people you've worked with. People that United Prison Mysteries International have assisted over the years. 78 million pieces of literature gone into the prison system, phenomenal. Countless people ministered to, thousands of prisons have been impacted by the work of the United Prison Ministries International. Let's talk about some individuals, men or women that you know of whose lives have being turned around. That that UPMI have ministered to. And today you gotta call this person a success story.

Well, our "star student" is a guy that's been in prison for 47 years, 47 years. At 16 years old, he was in prison for a crime that he didn't do, a hideous crime. And he's been behind bars for the 47 years of his life. I don't even understand that to be honest. But when he got in, he was so discouraged and so distraught because it was an unjust commitment to prison, and he didn't know what to do. He was just 16 Years old.

And by the way, I'm gonna insert myself in here.

Go ahead.

A lot of people have a hard time accepting that there are people behind bars unjustly, because the vast majority of prisoners that most people have spoken to, "I don't deserve to be here". Okay, sure. There are a lot of people in prison facing very, very long sentences. We've spoken to some on "It Is Written". Very long prison sentences, wrongfully convicted. That's heartbreaking.

It's heartbreaking.

That's heartbreaking.

It's hopeless. And see this guy entered into prison, and his whole family abandoned him. No one in his family has contacted him in 47 years.

Oh, have mercy.

And so at the age of 21 United Prison Ministry comes alongside of him. And he sees the founder of it and says, out of a challenge to one of the guys in the prison, he said, "I'm going to ask him if he would be my dad". Just out of a challenge, kind of, whatever it was. And he went up to him and he said, "I'll be your dad". And actually United Prison Ministry has become his family. If you talk with him today, he will tell you that the only family I have is United Prison Ministries International.

Yes, and our COO says, "He's my brother". They consider Andre, his brother, he's family. And he sees us as his family.

As family.

We're checking on him and just following him. But he did some phenomenal things while he was behind bars, he earned 10 degrees.

10?

10.

10.

They have time. We were talking about how much time they have. They have a lot of time available. Will he maximized the use of his time. You would think, and I got a chance to meet Andre 'cause I went to the prison. You would think that if you were committed to life in prison and now without parole for a crime you didn't do that you'd be angry.

Yes.

That you'd be bitter.

Sure.

He has no bitterness. He's preaching, he became a preacher.

He preacher?

He is a preacher.

In fact, who was that preacher that he said he started listening to?

Brooks.

Brooks.

C.D. Brooks.

Yeah well, if he's listening to C.D. Brooks, you're gonna get straightened out.

He did.

Can't go wrong.

Oh wow, and he now, when you meet him, he is a phenomenal Christian.

Beautiful.

He has helped thousands, people who have been released, they give credit to Andre for the success that they have because of the ministry that he has behind bars. He actually helps to direct our Friday night ministry that we have at the Elmore prison.

Beautiful.

Every Friday night, it's called UPMI night.

Nice.

And they come in and he has done a marvelous job of preaching, and teaching, and encouraging others while he himself is behind bars.

Okay, let me ask you a question. Maybe it's a delicate question. Some of the people you minister to have done very bad things, hurt people, maybe killed people, have upended lives, destroyed families, some of the people that you minister to. So I wanna give you the opportunity to answer this question. Why fool them? Why do they deserve resources and assistance, and people pouring themselves after what they have done?

John, that's an excellent question. And I got into this prison ministry because God drove me into it. I was retired planning to write books, okay? Not really concerned about going into the prison. But then when God gave me this responsibility, I began doing my own personal research, talking to prisoners, reading books, reading all the information, and my heart was broken. Because when I realized the Bible itself was written for prisoners by prisoners.

That is a very fascinating insight.

You know, the first five books of the Bible were written by Moses, who was a criminal on the run.

That's right.

He should have been in jail, okay?

He was a murderer.

And then Paul in the New Testament wrote 14 of those letters and gospels, and four of them were written in prison. And they were not the best conditions that he was writing under. And so, I began to watch Paul's life through his word in his writing. Hebrew was chapter 13 in verse three, he says, "Remember those that are in prison". And I said, "God, I've been seeing this for years. Help me understand it". God says, "Because that's the condition you were in when I found humanity and I don't want you to ever forget it. They're the lost, they're the isolated, they're the forgotten. And that's what this planet was until Jesus came". And so God says, "As I did it for you, you need to do it for these men and women behind bars. It's a reminder what I've done for the world". So with that in mind, when I look at these prisoners, I see myself man, if it were not for Christ, I'd be in the same shape.

That's right.

I think Paul said it: "You were dead in your trespasses and sin". And many of these men and women who are behind bars didn't have the opportunities that we had.

Right.

They came up in dysfunctional homes. As a pastor on the frontline who pastored 33 years, 13, 14 different churches, I saw people whose lives were horrible because of their family of origins, the communities that they lived in, the broken lives. And it's a wonder that more of them aren't behind bars. So when I look at them, I say, "Well, God, thank you for this opportunity to minister to my brothers and sisters, on and from the grace you've given me, I can give to them". They are just as redeemable as anybody in society, because they're just like us, our brothers and sisters.

Prison ministries really functions from a place of compassion.

Yes.

Dr. Susie Hill, isn't that right?

Yes it does. And you know, God does. He shows us when we do that in as much as we've done it to the least of these my brother, and we've done it into Christ. So we want the same thing. We want the Lord to do the same for us. So all we're doing is returning that very same love that God has given to us. The grace that he shows us every day in our lives. We are no better. The first time I went into a prison, I was shocked. It was a worship service. I want you to know, John, that it was like, I looked around and I said, "Wait a minute, are we in church"? It was hot. They were singing from the top of their voices. And I looked at those men and they didn't look any different than I had looked. And I said, "These", and they were men from all various professions. And so I said, "Wow, there's no difference between me and them". And one of them said, "Yeah, the only thing that's different between me and you is that we got caught". So I said, "Lord, we can't look down. We have to be there, we have to be able to serve. We must put ourselves in that position of having a heart and a love for the men and women behind bars". And we don't do it by ourselves, by the way, our organization actually partners. We talked about the partnership. We partner to make this ministry available. The materials available with other organizations like Amazing Facts, like It Is Written, like Christmas Behind Bars. We help prisoners get materials. They call us for the materials and we're able to distribute it, we can't do it alone. We cannot, and we don't do alone. So we're grateful for the partnerships that we have.

That's why we are named United Prison Ministries because we unite with all organizations like yours and others to help minister to our brothers and sisters behind bars.

Profoundly important. There's much more I want to ask you. I'm so glad that you've taken this time to join us with Dr. Roland Hill and Dr. Susie Hill. I am John Bradshaw. We'll have more of our conversation in just a moment.

Welcome back to "Conversations," where my guests are Dr. Susie Hill and Dr. Roland Hill. They are the directors of United Prison Ministries International, an outstanding organization, which for 40 years has ministered to people behind bars and has helped people to successfully transition to a life outside of the prison system. Now, you were called to this role not too terribly long ago, it had to be tremendously overwhelming, but you're excited about the future of United Prison Ministries International with good reason. Dr. Susie, I'll start with you. Tell me one or two things that you are just plain excited about that UPMI is involved in right now.

Well, you know, we're relaunching. I am so glad to be a part of the ministry. Like I said, God directed us. And then when God is leading you, he opens the door. We're walking through it. We have a powerful team. I have never seen a group of dedicated foot soldiers. They have been carrying the ministry even during COVID. When a lot of people were not allowed to go into prisons, we were able to continue carrying our materials.

Fantastic.

And the prisoners received it, it didn't affect us at all. I said, "Wow, this is a God thing". And some other ministries are asking us to share our materials with them because they can't go in. They're just now, even now as we speak, they're closing some of the prisons on the East Coast. And so we were talking with one of the ministry federations and they said, what are we gonna do? I said, "Well, we can still get into the prisons. We can still send the materials to the prisons on the east coast". So that's exciting. I'm glad that the gospel can continue to go forward. We carry the gospel where we go, wherever we go, the prisoners are receiving it. And when they've request it, it's free to them. So what more could you ask for? So it's exciting to see the team working hard, and we are just looking for great things that God is getting ready to do through United Prison Ministries.

Roland, a couple of things that are firing you up is you are sitting at the... at the helm of this thing alongside your wife.

Well, you can feel my propulsion. I am really excited. I love to teach and preach, and we get a chance to go behind bars and share the gospel of Jesus Christ, the three angels' message, in a way that I think is unique, because I am a pastor, and I've had a long history of studying God's word. And so I'm able to bring new and fresh understandings from God's word. In fact, we're scheduling three prison revivals this year. That's correct.

That's fantastic.

Prison revival, and I'm gonna do prophecy for prisoners, and I'm gonna do it in a way that will help them see prophecy where they are. And that excites me. I'm excited because I believe this will be an opportunity for people to awaken to see what's really happening behind bars. I've talked to bishops in other denominations. I've talked to a number of our leaders and our faith community, and they really aren't sensitive to what's going on. So I become the voice, and that's what excites me. I become the voice to speak on behalf of 2.2 million brothers and sisters behind bars, and 5.2 million that are out here trying to find their way to reenter society. I love being the voice for those that are the underdogs. So that excites me.

A friend of mine, don't wanna overstate that, a fellow I knew had been in prison, significant sentence. The vast majority of people later on never knew that he became a minister of the gospel. So the potential behind bars is just phenomenal. It strikes me, though, as odd. You spoke about speaking to religious leaders from a wide variety of faiths. They're not really familiar with what's going on behind bars, which is fascinating. I asked you a question earlier. We've been commanded to minister to people behind bars.

That's correct.

It isn't an option for the Christian, it's a command. And Jesus spoke about this and he said, "I was in prison and you visited me". And then he contrasted, "I was in prison, you did not visit me". That's a pretty significant thing there in the way Jesus shared that. So, you have an opportunity to reach and represent a vast group of people. Speak to me about the receptivity to the gospel that you find behind bars.

So I was preaching New Year's Eve, all right? That's just a couple of weeks ago. And in the chapel was about 30-some men. My wife was there with me, okay? And, John, I'm gonna tell you, because I'm one of those, I'm a pastor, preacher, okay? I feel the hearts of the listeners. Man, these guys were on the edge of their seat. And it's interesting. I wanna throw this in because one of the reasons why I want to be a voice, because most people think that it's only minorities behind bars, but 69% of the men and women behind bars are white. And so I have a passion for reaching all people. So we're in this chapel, and it was largely white men.

They were on their feet, they were, and they know the Scripture.

Yes.

That's another thing. They receive the gospel because they have time. They are reading the Bible. They are reading "The Great Controversy" that we have sent to them. They're reading these books, and they are informed, and they're responding to it. So when you hear them and see them, you say, "Man, these men know God. They know God". So when we come and we tell them we're coming to prepare them with the prison economic reform educational program, they're signing up.

They're signing up.

Because they want to be changed. They want to receive the message that God has for them, for salvation. They wanna be saved. I do sign language. So I presented a song in sign language entitled "Going to Heaven". And I asked them, "How many of you wanna go to heaven"? They all raised their hands.

Sure. Amen.

They all wanna be saved. And so it was wonderful. And then I had them signing with me. They loved it, they just ate it up. As a matter of fact, did we tell you that we, Roland and I, have prison fever?

Prison fever?

Prison fever.

Prison fever.

All right.

Yes, I caught it when I took over this organization. And now the thermometer doesn't even hold my temperature any longer.

Amen.

We're so passionate about it, John, these are our brothers and sisters, man. And you ask about receptivity, man, these guys are dying for hope. That's the great thing. When you are locked behind bars, your family doesn't talk to you, see you. Some of them have been abandoned. They're looking for an organization. They're looking for people. They're looking for a word that will give them hope. And we get excited about bringing them hope. In fact, here's one of the things we've decided to do. We are going to teach them mastery.

Tell me about that.

Glad you asked, sir.

I love the sound of that, tell me about that.

Well, studies have shown, in order to master something, you need six to 10 years, and many of these guys, that's what they have, okay?

Sure.

Or 10,000 hours. So now they have the time isolated, in solitude, uninterrupted time where they can master, I call it SEATS. It's an acronym for, the first "S" is for spirituality, spiritual mastery. The next "E," or the next letter is "E," and that is emotions. They can master their emotions and...

Yeah.

Go ahead.

...'cause many of them are behind bars because they didn't master their emotions.

That's right.

They're outta control.

That's right.

So we are now helping them to take, first of all, responsibility and ownership for their emotions, and then learn how to control their emotions and master them.

Yeah, that's important.

And then some form of art, that's the "A". I mean, art allows you to express yourself in ways that words can't do it. So master either drawing or a musical instrument or singing, whatever. And then the "T" is for a trade, okay? You learn some kind of trade. Many of these guys are going into culinary school to learn how to cook and be chefs. Some are becoming carpenters, electricians. So they master trade. And then the last thing is some specific body of knowledge. Just think, John, if you had 20 years to take one specific topic and you master it. So when they leave, as I tell them, and as I told them, "When you leave, you'll be a seven-degree black belt".

In almost anything you want.

In anything you want, yes.

And when you leave, you are able to sit at any seats that are available out there.

Beautiful.

Because now you're in control and master of your life.

Yeah, Fantastic. That is profound. Now, I'll ask you this: 78 million pieces of literature, thousands of prisons, foot soldiers. You can't do this on your own. So what does it take to keep an organization like United Prison Ministries International on the front lines? How can people help?

That's an excellent question. We have a number of full-time workers that work with us, okay? And we have to pay them. We have to buy material. We have to print material. So it takes...

You buy and print a lot of material.

A lot.

A lot of materials. In our warehouse right now, we have over a million pieces of different literature, that costs us.

That sure does.

So we need monthly supporters.

In fact, we're actually launching Pentecostal givers. We need 3,000 Pentecostal givers.

That's correct.

Very good.

We're not asking for large sums, like $25 a month. That helps, because like we said, all the material is free for the prisoners, but it's not free for us. We've got to invest and it takes time. In fact, we have a shipment that's going off next week to Cuba, 180,000 pieces of literature. And you know, Cuba was closed for a long time.

For long, yeah.

But we have, United Prison Ministries International, we have been given an open door to send materials to Cuba. So we've been in touch with the Cuban Union, and they are actually the go-between for us to be able to get the materials into Cuba, but it costs money. And so we need supporters, people who are willing and wanting to be a part of the prison ministry so that they can help get the gospel out.

We need sponsors, this PEREP project.

Yeah.

It costs $99 to sponsor one of our prison inmates, okay? Either in or out. And then of course there are people that, major donors who say, "Listen, I see what you're trying to do. And we want to give a major contribution". We will tell you, we will make sure that your investment is well taken care of because the vision for United Prison Ministries is huge. You know, our goal with the PREREP project is 330,000 prisoners and ex-offenders trained over the next five years.

Is that right? That would be fantastic.

And by the way, it's not difficult to do because we're in 4,000 prisons.

Yeah.

So that's less than a hundred prisoners per prison.

Yep. Over the next five years?

Over the next five years.

Over the next five years.

That's doable.

I was about to use that exact word. That's very doable. See, I'm thinking about this. I'm thinking of United Prison Ministries International without financial support. What happens is the whole thing dries up, because...

Yes.

Now, now, we are not gonna minimize the importance of prayer support.

Yeah, and God, right?

We need that, no question about it. But literature doesn't print itself. Paper doesn't pay for itself. The time, the effort, the organization, the collaboration, running the ministry doesn't pay for itself. So this is, I'm just imagining a world without UPMI.

Well, I can tell you what prisoners say through their letters.

Go ahead.

They thank us, every day we get dozens of letters in from prisoners who're saying, "If it had not been for United Prison Ministry and the literature that we get behind bars, we would be hopeless. We would not have any desire to do better, but your literature helps to transform our hearts and minds".

And even when they return to society, we have currently, like we were talking about Daniel, his family, they're not, he cannot leave the state. His prison sentence locks him into the state of Alabama. He cannot leave. And his family members, they would like to take him in, but they can't. So this is what they're saying to us: "Thank you," because we house them. "Thank you for making sure that he's gonna be on his feet". "Thank you for providing the opportunity for him to get a job". And so it's a wonderful opportunity for us and God has blessed us, so we can't do it alone. So we do partnerships with other organizations, and God is blessing. So we do ask for people to come, come alongside. If you can't go into the prison, you can certainly give and donate and allow the message to go forward.

I will say this too. While we distribute literature into prisons, we also give toiletries.

Oh?

Yes. You know, many prisons don't provide these guys toothpaste and toilet paper and things like this. They have to purchase that, family members have to give it. And if they give some toiletries, it's very limited. So during the Christmas holiday, United Prison Ministry gave 720 tubes of toothpaste.

Regular size because the prison provides a little, you've been to the hotels, right?

Oh yeah.

Whenever you leave, the little small tube...

Yeah.

...how many times can you use that?

That ain't good for much.

That's what they give them. So when they got a regular-size tube of toothpaste, it was like a hundred dollars for them.

That was true Christmas for them.

That was Christmas.

That was better than anything. And they said, "Thank you so much". So we were blessed to be able to get toothpaste for the prisoners, that was their Christmas present from us.

So you are making a difference in, I think, more ways...

Yes.

...than people can imagine. Looking into the future, I have to believe that the future for United Prison Ministries International is bright. And what that means is a bright future and bright hope for countless men and women who today are behind bars. Lord willing, tomorrow they may not be and become productive members of society, leaning on Jesus, demonstrating what the power of the gospel can do in a person's life. Let me ask you both. We just have a short time left. Let's just transition ever so slightly and talk about, because I think this undergirds United Prison Ministries International. Talk about the power of the gospel. We don't have long, I'll give you about a minute each. Speak to me, Dr. Susie Hill, about the power of the gospel as perhaps you've experienced it, seen it in the Bible, or seen it in the life of somebody else.

Well, I can tell you from the very beginning. I gave my heart to Jesus when I was 10. I was baptized the year that I turned 11, but I was still 10 years old. And I remember when I was baptized, I remember feeling the spirit of God moving in my life at that young age. And I stayed committed to Christ. And I love the Lord, and my home church grounded me. I was involved in the church, and it helped to make a difference. I went to a Christian school and then went to college and met my husband in college. But I've also seen... when I met my husband, I didn't have the faith. He would say, "We're gonna be doing this". And I said, "Oh no, I don't know about that". But I've grown in my own faith. Now, when God is telling us to do something, I believe him. I believe him, and I'm able to share that faith. So it has been a wonderful walk with him. I've enjoyed knowing the Lord. I count it a privilege, because there are some who don't know Jesus.

That's right.

So I count myself privileged to know the Lord as my savior and to follow in his truth. To be in this wonderful message, to know about how I can make my life, what he has in intended for it to be. And when I think about those who don't know, Jesus, it's so wonderful, because I've actually helped others come to know the same Jesus that I know. That is the most rewarding experience. To see somebody go through an evangelistic crusades who didn't know Christ receive the message, and then be baptized.

Amen, that's right.

The gospel transformed my own life. And as a pastor, I preached the gospel and I baptized literally hundreds whose lives have been changed because of the gospel preached from the word of God. I'm convicted that it is "the power of God to salvation".

Yes, it is. Tell me what you see, you've got a few seconds. Looking forward, what's exciting you about United Prison Ministries International, what God is doing?

We're developing major materials that will transform how prisoners think behind bars. That's exciting. I'm a writer, I love to write, and God has blessed me with the gift. And we have a number of projects that will be going out into the prisons all over the world from the writings that God has given us. We're excited about that.

I wish you God's blessing. We all do. Dr. Susie Hill, Dr. Roland Hill from United Prison Ministries International, thank you, this has been a blessing. God bless you both.

Thank you.

Appreciate you joining us. He is Dr. Roland Hill, she is Dr. Susie Hill, and this has been our conversation.
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