“I knew this young man when he was 6 years old.”

Two inmates were standing in front of the chapel after I had given an invitation. They were waiting until everyone was finished praying so they could speak to the congregation before the yard was opened and the chaplain would release them to go to supper.

When the prayer time was over the chaplain looked up and nodded for them to step up to the mike.

Inmate William started speakng, “I was praying with this young man and I looked at his name tag so I could call him by name. When I saw his last name, I recognized it. I used to run around with people by that name. I asked him if he was related to Ray Abernathy (made up name). He said, ‘Yes, that is my uncle.’ How about Joe Abernathy? He said, ‘That is my dad.’ ”

Then William almost started crying. “Oh, my! I remember you! I used to do drugs and all kinds of crazy, bad stuff with your dad and uncle. I remember you as a cute little 6 year boy old hanging around us and wanting to be like us. I am one of the reasons you are here! I was a terrible example for you! I have become a Christian since I am here in prison and I’m not the same man you used to admire! Will you forgive me for being such a bad influence in your life?!” William went on to lead this newly arrived young prisoner to faith in Jesus Christ!

While he had the mike, he went on to repeat some of the points I made in my sermon: -No matter how big or small our circle of influence, we influence people by our lives. -People are watching. -Little boys want to be like the older men. Especially dad. And dad’s friends. As William had mentored this little boy to a life that eventually lead to prison, he now wants to mentor this young man to a life that leads to eternal life.

Folks, people are watching us. They watch how we behave at the basketball game, in traffic, at the restaurant... they watch how we react to adversity; how do we handle being treated unfairly, how we handle success... they watch us on Sunday and they watch us on Monday and the rest of the week.

I have heard Steve Wingfield preach from Mark 4 about Jesus calming the storm, and he notices a verse that might seem insignificant to the story: “There were also other boats with him.” (v. 36) But that little verse reminds us that in the midst of the storm the ‘other boats’ are watching. How will Jesus and His disciples handle the storm? Those other boats may be our children, our employees, our friends... maybe they are total strangers. But our reactions (our lives) are living testimonies that influence people, whether we are aware of it or not.

Your are a witness. Your life is a testimony, either for good or for bad. The professional athlete who says, “I’m an athlete, I’m not a role model,” doesn’t know what he is talking about. Little boys are watching. I watched. I put my bat behind my back like Rocky Colovito. I tried to fade away like Pete Maravich. I try to engage the crowd like Johnny Cash did. I read through the Bible every year like Dennis Kinlaw did. I work hard like dad did... I try to follow Christ like Paul did.

“But I’m not well known or influencial.” Ah, dear friend, I beg to differ. Someone knows you and you have a circle of influence, small though it may be. You are influencing someone. May we live our lives so that if someone emulates us, he will end up in Heaven, not prison.

“Let your light shine before men so they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” Mt. 5:16
“ will be my witnesses...” -Jesus


Adam and Katie bought a house! That is the exciting family news this month. They won’t be moved in by the time you read this, but after closing and some remodeling they will move about a mile from where they live now in Harrisonburg, Va. Amelia and Katie are working their online clothing business as well as their lip balm, called “Lorain’s Honeyed Lips”. Their Instagram names are: Schmid.and.daughters Also: Lorains.honeyed.lips If you understand those addresses, you are younger than I am. Lydia is sewing clothes for the girls and helping with the massive amount of paper work to get volunteers into the three prisons for the cookie project in December. I continue to adjust to being an author, but I’m not sure how authors are supposed to act.


It’s a long way off (two years), but I’m thinking about one more cruise: The Journeys of Paul- Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, Athens, Pompeii... Think about it. October 2019 (exact date not certain, yet).


1-3 Last Days in Costa Rica
4 Denny & Mary Hofsteter 1st Anniversary, Kidron
5 Song & Salsa, Kidron Heritage Village
6 Legends Night! Elvis/Cash Tribute
8 Family Fest, Ron Archer, Winesburg, O.
10 Family Fest, Ron Archer, Winesburg, O.
11 Book Signing, Gospel Book Store, Berlin, O. 9AM
11 Miller Trucking Banq.
13 Family & Business, Mt. Hope Heritage Center
18 Company Banquet, Berlin
20 Orrvilla, Orrville, O.
21 Freedom Builders Banquet, Ind.
22 London Correctional, London, O.
23 THANKSGIVING with the family, Home
24 On The Square, Berlin, O.
25 Book Signing, Gospel Shop, Sugarcreek, O.
25 Southwood Lumber, Orrville, O.
26 Belmont Correctional, St. Clairsville, O.
29 Pack Cookies, Dayspring Mennonite, Berlin 9AM
30 Youngstown Super Max Prison (Cookies)  


1 Cookies to Marysville Womens’ Prison
2 Cookies to London Correctional
2 G & L Banquet, Kidron, O.
4-7 Recording session
8 Alpha Lumber Banquet, Shipshewana, IN
9 Banquet, Bunker Hill, O.
10 Noble Correctional, Caldwell, O.
14 Lorain Correctional, Grafton, O.
14 Eco Seal Banquet, Berlin, O.
15 Little Cottages Banquet, Berlin, O.
17 The Innkeeper at MCA 10 AM
21 Yoder Hydroulics, Kidron, O.
22 Weaver Leather Christmas Brunch
31 First Night Concert, Harrisonburg, Va.

Underlined dates are open to the public


Common Ground Ministries

John was singing in a country western band at the time of his conversion in 1972. God changed his desire for stardom in Nashville to ministry.

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Address: Box 178
 Berlin, Ohio 44610
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