Adaptation of a letter to a friend, Allen Earley
13 June 2007
I surely appreciate your interest in what I am doing in the prison ministry. I realize that the amount of money I need is quite large and it’s a large leap in faith for anyone to help me.
I started going into the prisons in 1979 when I lived in Utah. I use my guitar because I sing folk music and soft rock songs which have a good message. When my son Cyle was 15 years old, I sang my first concert in the Draper, Utah state prison. I obtained permission for Cyle to go with me and he sang one song along with playing his guitar. Sometimes I have the prisoners sing praise tunes with me and when doing this, I do not play the guitar. I have continued going into the prisons to this day; serving the inmates through music and the word of God.
As I was growing up in Bellingham, Washington; my parents always took my sister and I to the church of Christ. I grew up leading the singing, and always sang a cappella. My dad served as an elder in the church of Christ at Bellingham for many years.
I attended Abilene Christian University, graduating in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in accounting and a minor in music. During 1958-59 I was the associate minister and song director at the Highland church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama. In June of 1959 I became ill with polio. I was in the “iron lung” for about eight days, and many more months of physical therapy.
In August of 1959, the polio foundation (at that time called “the March of Dimes”) made special arrangements and used the US Air force hospital air-planes to fly me back to Bellingham, Washington, so I could be in the hospital there for physical therapy and my wife and five months old baby girl could live in my parents home there with them.
My physical therapy went on for two years. In September of 1961 I accepted a part-time job as Choral Director, Music Theory and Voice Singing Instructor at Columbia Christian College in Portland, Oregon.
My doctors had previously told me that I would never again be able to walk or sing. However, by this time in my life I was walking, with the use of two canes, singing, continuing to take voice lessons and I was able to start riding a motorcycle (carefully).
After two years of teaching at Columbia Christian College, I decided to attend the University of Oregon at Eugene. This was a difficult decision to make because my dad had a good fuel business in Bellingham which he had hoped that I would eventually come and help him run. However, my mother pointed out that electricity and natural gas was becoming more and more accessible and would soon eliminate the need for fuel oil and coal as the primary source of heating the homes. Also, there was no way that I could go and do all the physical labor necessary in running a fuel business.
My earnest desire was to work with young people in a Christian environment. I believed that teaching at a Christian college was exactly what I wanted and what God was leading me to do. It was at this point that the Lord blessed my wife and me with our son, Cyle.
In August of 1965 I received my Master of Music Degree in Voice Performance from the University of Oregon. In September of 1965 I began work at Magic Valley Christian College in Albion, Idaho. In 1967 the students voted me as the most inspirational faculty member of the year. This was quite an honor for me and strengthened my belief that I was where God wanted me to be. I remained at M.V.C.C. with a very successful teaching career until the Board of Directors closed the school down in 1969.
From Idaho, we moved back to Bellingham, Washington where I taught music at a middle school for a year. In June of 1970, I had a spinal fusion on my lower back and was in a body cast all summer. By September of 1970 I tried to start school at the University of Washington to work on a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree. It was a struggle for me to have the physical strength and endurance. But I did complete all my class work and sang one recital in the doctorial program.
For the school year 1973-74, I taught private voice lessons, music theory, and sight singing at North Seattle Community College. The Dean of the college was impressed with my teaching and my rapport with the students. However, my marriage was not going so well and my wife and I separated forcing me to make a very difficult choice. Do I stay to finish my doctorate and continue teaching at NSCC, or do I leave Seattle? I chose to move due to compelling personal family reasons. This choice was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I love both of my children very much. It is good now to see them as they are becoming "older" and to know the love between us.
Once in Idaho I felt confident that I could find a teaching job, but when that didn’t work out I moved to Ogden, Utah where there were more opportunities. In Ogden I applied in three school districts and at Weber State University; however, either because of my disability or because I was not a Mormon, I never got a job. During this time, I sang at many restaurants and made some recordings (some of which I have already sent to you). A few excerpts of my songs can be heard under “MUSIC” at my website, www.refugeinChrist.net.
Throughout these many years of growing up, attending colleges and universities, and raising a family, my thoughts kept returning to the teachings of Christ concerning Judgment Day as described in Matthew 25: 31– 46. Oh that we could all hear these words of Jesus:
“…Come ye who are blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; Naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
These thoughts, ingrained in my heart and mind, became a driving force in my life to enter the prisons. I was compelled to do something worth while; to lead men and women to Christ. Therefore, starting with only a song and my guitar in the “folk music” style I started at the state prison in Draper, Utah, taking in with me my son and a good friend who was an excellent singer.
Allen, I am sorry to be taking so long in completing this letter to you, but my days are so short anymore because of how long it takes me to do most things (like going to bed or in getting up, dressing, and moving around).
Medicare has provided me with a motorized wheel chair which is such a big help. I can only use the chair here at the house because I have no van for carrying the chair. I drive a 1993 Ford Explorer which my son gave to me a couple of years ago when my car quit running. The chair however, is still a very big help in everyday use. I still use the manual wheel chair when I go out to the prisons, to church, etc. but I have to arrange to have someone there to help me with it. To receive a van outfitted for a power wheel chair would be a wonderful and needful blessing.
I have been living back in Washington State since about 1982. I have been living at Bellingham where my parents lived (my dad dying in 1989 and my mother in 1997), and in the Seattle – Tacoma area. I did marry a Christian lady in November 1996. We lived in Kent, then moved to Buckley in August 2002. My wife works as a teacher’s aid (called a para-educator) at an elementary school in Auburn, three hours a day during the school year.
My wife, Marjorie and I are both good friends with Roger Kramar’s parents who lives in Wenatchee, Washington. I met Roger Kramar last August in S.L.C., Utah. I spent the month of August going to ten different congregations of the church of Christ in Idaho, Utah, and Oregon, making contacts and renewing acquaintances with churches and individuals who are helping me in my prison ministry.
About twenty years ago, as I began going into the prisons more regularly, I realized that I did not have the income to take care of my expenses. I had a choice, do I sit at home, don’t go anywhere and be able to pay my bills; or, do I go and do and see if God provides. So, I have gone and done and God has provided some help from others. But mostly God has provided me with the loans at very low promotional interest rates. However, the time has come when I MUST not borrow anymore, and I need help to pay on the amounts I owe. This is why I took the month of August last year to help me raise money. I am pleased with the responses which God has provided.
My big problem right now is that during April of 2007, I was ill and I was a day or two late making my payments to two of my largest loans. On my Chase credit card the interest went up from 3.99% and 4.99% to 25.99%. On my Advanta card the interest went from 2.99% up to 25%, but now they have lowered it to 16.99%. With these two payments I am required to pay more than a thousand dollars per month and most of that amount is for interest. The only real solution is to pay the entire amounts off to close out the accounts. It really hurts me to see the Lord’s money needing to be used to pay such high interest rates. Obviously, I need help as soon as possible.
The good news is: beginning 10 July, we are approved and scheduled to begin a Bible class and program at the Minimum Security Unit at the Monroe Correctional Complex at Monroe, Washington. One brother from the Fellowship church of Christ is going in with me, Marshall Morrison. Marshall comes from Pocatello, Idaho, where he was teaching Bible at a state prison there.
I have been trying for over twenty years to be able to teach Bible at the Monroe Correctional Complex, singing concerts, teaching guitar lessons, and for the past several years singing a concert at the M.S.U. every three months. The prison’s schedule has changed and now we have been given the opportunity to go in and teach. I thank God for opening the doors to us after all these years of effort.
I continue to go to the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, Washington. I pray that God will give me the energy and strength to continue these programs.
Two men whom I encouraged and enabled to start teaching Bible classes while I was Music Director at the Shelton Correctional Center in Shelton, Washington, are continuing to teach there. While I was at the Shelton prison, we baptized about 200 inmates. I feel like my efforts are not wasted and that the Refuge in Christ Ministry is continuing to produce fruit for the Lord.
As you may recall, it was May 6th that I had my heart attack. The doctors talked about doing a heart bypass surgery, but they decided that a major surgery would probably kill me since my body is already so weakened from the polio. Therefore, a doctor was able to put three stints into my heart. It has taken me many weeks to recover, but I am doing much better now. I hope and pray that God gives me several more years to work in His ministry in the prisons.
Allen, finally, I think I have covered enough about myself that perhaps you will feel more confident in helping in my financial plight.
Please go to my web site again. My very good friend, Larry Henderson who lives in Wenatchee, Washington, who was a music student of mine at Magic Valley Christian College in 1968 – 69, is building, adding, and improving my web site each week. It now has some excerpts of my singing folk music and a cappella hymns on my website. There are also some statements from some of the inmates who are now out of prison as well as my latest news letters. My Website: www.refugeinChrist.net. Larry is in the business of computer programming and he is using my website as a sampling of his work for others to see.
Please do let me hear from you soon. I am sending a copy of this letter to Roger Kramar just for his information about myself.
I hope you are well and recovering from your terrible hotel fire loss.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Clio B Eldred
P.S. 11 September 2007
The good news right now:
· Chaplain Ellis at the Federal Detention Center at SEATAC has given me another Bible class making my day there start at 11:00am and out at 4:00pm. This gives me 5 Bible classes. What a wonderful day! We baptized one man two weeks ago.
· Also: Chaplain at the Minimum Security Unit at Monroe Correctional Complex has given Marshall and me another half hour, making our Bible class 2 ľ hours long. The Chaplain told me that she is hearing good things about our class. We baptized 2 men there two weeks ago, and one more wants to be baptized next week.