But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.   
       
 

Chaplain David T. Wilson, Retired
100 Cole Lane, Apt 106
Lawrence Twp., NJ 08648

May 10, 2011

TO: Wings of Eagles Ministries, Inc on their 30th Anniversary

 

Dear Wings,

To all the Wings of Eagles Ministries’ extended family, I extend my warmest heartfelt congratulations on thirty years of faithful and effective ministry, and especially to Mary Lynne Farrow, founder, director and prime motivator of Wings.   Your caring has touched the lives of thousands of inmates, ex-offenders and their families over the years.   Your support and assistance to prison staff, especially chaplains, has not only been continual and dependable, but exemplary of the Christ whose grace is available to all who desire his aid and whose faithfulness never fails.  Your ministry has demonstrated the compassion and the “seventy times seven forgiveness” of Jesus to those most in need of a caring friend.

If my memory is correct (and that is becoming a rarity these days), I first met Mary Lynne Farrow, founder and director of Wings, in the late fall of 1985. It was at the home of her dear friends, Sgt. Jerry and Florence Dilks.   They were hosting a meeting of the Keepers of the Keys, a group for Christian prison officers and other staff, organized by Chaplain Paul Pedrick of Leesburg State Prison (now Bayside S. P.) to share the story and needs of Christian ministry in prisons.    I had been the Protestant chaplain at Southern State Correctional Institution for less than two months and was a novice in the work, even though I had been a pastor for over twenty-five years.   Approaching the house, I was greeted by a man who introduced himself and said with a threatening grin, “I killed a priest”.  In the house, I learned that his intimidating remark was true and that he was a paroled inmate near the end of his sentence.   A member of the Parole Board had asked Lynne to supervision him, which she did with considerable finesse and sometime distress (after he left Lynne’s supervision he murdered two other persons in north Jersey).   I share this story because it illustrates the respect those who know her have always had for her compassion, commitment and competence in dealing with criminal offenders.   My own appreciation, respect and affection grew as I got to know and work with her across the years.   Her commitment to Christ, her concern for the men and their families, her ability to see their problems, her clarity about Biblical values and her consistency in follow-through made her a “mother” figure to many of the men who had never experienced that kind of caring relationship before.

Lynne was the first volunteer approved at Southern State when it opened in 1984.   She was involved in helping with organizing concerts and doing individual counseling for the chaplain’s office, and she and her son, Bill, were leading a Bible Study before I became chaplain.  Because Southern State was built in two self-contained sections, plus a Minimum Camp, we had to run programs in triplicate so the chaplain needed many volunteers to minister to all the needs.   Lynne, Bill and a few other volunteers were a gift from God. When I needed music for the Sunday evening church services, Lynn enlisted Rick and Kathy Miles to provide guitar accompaniment, which they did for several years until their first child was born.  Lynne was always willing to help in whatever need I had.  Once while leading a Disciple class that was reading the Bible in nine months and discussing each book, I was unable to continue because of other responsibilities.   I asked Lynne if she could cover the New Testament sessions for me and she did so willingly and effectively.

Wings helped with providing and distributing Bibles, Bible Studies, religious books and literature.  They helped with Christmas parties and brought in cookies and other treats for the men, demonstrating again and again that Christ cared about the men who were separated from family, alone and often depressed.   Wings of Eagles volunteers gave dignity, value, hope and the possibility of new life to the men and their families.  Lynne and Bill also helped with the Bill Glass Weekend of Champions when Bill Glass, a former All-American football player, would bring in professional athletes to share their Christian testimony in the prison.

After I retired from SSCF because of health, Lynne took over the supervision of several groups I had led.   The Healing for Damaged Emotions class (using a book with that title by Dr. David Seamands) had been the class most in demand by inmates that I had taught.  Many said it was the most helpful material that they had ever seen and wanted a copy of the book.  Lynne took over and continued to lead the class for nearly ten years until she had to stop going into the prison because of her health.

One reason Wings of Eagles Ministries has been so significant in prison ministry is the emphasis on getting to know the inmate while incarcerated and providing care, supervision and support when released.   Other volunteer groups did aftercare with an occasional inmate upon release, but Wings was the only volunteer ministry at Southern State that systematically ministered to inmates and followed up with supervision, phone calls, mailings, and Bible studies after release.   They also provided volunteer opportunities after the person became adjusted and stable.

I thank God for the unique ministry of Wings, for Mary Lynne’s responsiveness to the spirit’s leading (as was the other Mary --  Jesus’ mother) in beginning this work of love, and I thank each one of you who added your special gifts as part of the thirty years of Wings’ ministries.  Moreover, I praise our Lord Jesus for all you have contributed to the care and aftercare of inmates and their families, for your never-failing courtesy and support of prison staff, and for your encouragement of churches in support of prison ministries.  May you be lifted up on eagle’s wings, may you walk and not be weary, may you run and not faint, and may you not grow weary in doing good.

Wings Of Eagles Ministries, Inc.
Malaga Camp
Newfield, NJ  08344
856-305-1299
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Dave Wilson

 
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