Dec 11, 2014

Bibles Behind Bars

Last Sunday morning, I was covering the God Behind Bars service for the pre-trial/unsentenced inmates at Goose Creek Correctional Center. Normally I'm just at the Friday night God Behind Bars, which is a service for the inmates in the general population mods. But the regular Sunday morning volunteer was sick, so I made the trip out.
After service, an inmate came up to me looking for a bible in the NLT version. Each service, we usually have some bibles and devotional books available for the guys. We had a few bibles on hand, but no NLT's. The guys in the pre-trial/unsentenced mods come in with nothing and generally have nothing. So these bibles and books are a big key in ministering to the inmates.
So on the drive home, I got to thinkin'... Surely there has to be some cheap bibles on Amazon... And orders over $35 have free shipping. When I got home, sure enough; I found an NLT bible for just $3.47! Cheap, right?
So then I had a thought... It's Christmas season. People are ordering gifts on Amazon. What's an other couple of bucks? For less than the price of a foo-foo coffee, people could add a bible onto their order. So I threw the challenge out on Facebook. I was hoping to maybe get a dozen or so bibles. And right away, I had a few people step up and buy some.
But then someone posted a link to an offer on the CBD website. They had a case of 32 bibles for just $55. Next thing I know, I've got people ordering CASES of bibles. At last count I've got about 150 bibles on the way.
And as awesome as that is, there's 1,400 inmates at Goose Creek. And sure, there's a couple of hundred of them that already have bibles... But there's lots that don't. So I'm going to throw it out there again. If you are ordering from Amazon and want to tack a bible on, or if you want to go big and order a bunch; I'll take 'em!
Here's the Amazon link for the NLT. And here's the link for a the case of bibles from CBD.
To keep with institutional policy, the bibles need to be new,  in their original packaging, with nothing written in them.
If you need my mailing address or if you need to meet up to hand off some bibles, just shoot me an email. I know not everyone that reads this is going to do it, but I'm thankful for those of you who will. Bottom line, 94% of everyone inmate in prison today will eventually be released. Do you want them coming back out like they went in, or should we make an effort to help them become the man God created them to be?

Update: and just like that, the first two bibles have shown up. Perfect timing, since I'm on my way out to the prison for the Friday night service!

Another Update:
After stopping by the Post Office this morning, I'm up to 94 bibles... Yay God and thanks to all who have bought!

Nov 26, 2014

The Budget

32 professional football teams will play this week. Each one of them hits the field with a game plan. I work in the construction industry where massive buildings are built and for each one there is a very detailed set of blueprints, covering every aspect of the build. You wouldn't take off on a long road trip without a map or GPS.
So why do we think we can win with our finances without having a budget? A budget is simply you telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went. It's making every dollar count.
Not sure how to do a budget? Here ya go...
 And here's a link to free, downloadable forms to make it even easier...

Nov 21, 2014

God Behind Bars

Each Friday night I host the God Behind Bars service at Goose Creek Correctional Center. God Behind Bars uses a video service from Central Christian Church of Las Vegas, NV to bring the gospel message to the men. God Behind Bars is in almost 20 prisons across the United States.
We've been doing the God Behind Bars service at Goose Creek for about 13 months. We've had as many as 110 men attending service, but currently we are running about 70 each week.
The video below is God Behind Bars newest informational video. You can also visit their website at .

GBB from PlainJoe Studios on Vimeo.

Aug 5, 2014

More Hoonah...

The other day the sister-in-law was in my old stompin' grounds at Hoonah and took a bunch of pictures for me. I've already posted some of them here, and here's the rest. You can click on the image to see a larger version
The Presbyterian Church. It's been there since the '20s if I remember right...

The school with the pool and the new gym they built after I left.

L. Kane Store. It's been around forever...

I'm pretty sure this is the house that my best friend in the 8th grade lived in.

Aug 1, 2014

A Far North Oasis

I came across this article written by a local pastor who ministers out at Goose Creek Correctional Center.


Pastor Guisinger has been doing prison ministry for decades and has been ministering at Goose Creek since the doors opened. He also pastors a great local church and is involved in community wide outreaches.

Some highlights from the article:

"As the Goose Creek population began to increase, so did attendance at our services. The small area designated by the administration for a “chapel” was fast becoming overcrowded. We mentioned to a shift sergeant that at the rate of growth we were experiencing, we would have to soon move into the gymnasium. “That ain’t going to happen,” he replied. Two weeks later it did. Services are now held on Friday and Sunday nights as well. God has a plan!"

"This fledgling church has its own team of greeters, ushers and service leaders and has developed an outstanding praise and worship team that continues to expand its abilities."

"Christ is raising up a thriving church in the middle of a spiritually dark place. The Christians’ testimonies are being lived out in front of other inmates, and it is having a life-changing effect. The weekly inmate-driven praise/worship/Bible study hour has already quickly outgrown the existing chapel area. Inmates are waiting in line to give their personal testimonies."

Jul 30, 2014

Not in My Back Yard?

One of the challenges I've faced in recruiting volunteers for ministry at Goose Creek Correctional Center is the fact that it sits almost an hour out of town in the middle of no where. When they were beginning to plan what would become Goose Creek, they had several sites they were considering. Half of the sites were remote, the other half were located in more populated areas. When the list of sites near populated areas came out, there was a loud squawking of people who did NOT want a prison anywhere near them. So it wound up at the end of the road.
But I've always thought living near a prison would be the safest place to be. The bad guys are stuck behind big walls surrounded by security staff. In the 18 years I've lived in the valley, I can only think of one prison escape I've heard of from the pre-trial facility in downtown Palmer. And if someone did manage to escape, they aren't going to hang around...

So the other day I came across this article:

From the article: "Residents who live near the Cook County Jail on South Sacramento Avenue are used to the sights and sounds of inmates – and they also feel safer. “We feel more protected here,” resident Francisco Salgado said of the marked and unmarked sheriff patrol cars that are a continuous presence on the street"
 “We always see police outside,” said Leticia Bahena. “We used to live in another neighborhood with gang bangers hanging around. It’s quiet here, not like other streets.

My truck had some issues this winter and died on me one Friday night as  I was leaving the prison. The brother-in-law came and picked me up and I left the truck overnight until the father-in-law could come and help me get it going. Christy was concern about leaving the truck unattended there. But as I pointed out, there's cameras everywhere, security staff, and a pickup-truck on constant patrol. There's no place that could be safer!

Jul 10, 2014


On and off for about six years of my young life, I lived in a logging camp near the Southeast village of Hoonah. This would've been in 1984, some of 1986 and 1987-1990. I've only been back to visit one time since I moved away in May of 1990.
My sister-in-law was in Hoonah for work recently and texted me some pictures. It brought back quite a few memories....
This building is currently the Misty Bay Lodge. But back in the day it was Northern Harbor Light's Store. I worked here for two years while I was in high school as a stocker, cashier and janitor. I'd work 5 1/2 hours after school each day and then 8 hours a day on the weekends. So I was getting close to 40 hours a week. I don't think they let teens work those kinds of hours during the school year anymore...
On freight weeks, I'd work even more. About once a month the barge would come in from Seattle with groceries for the store. It seems like it would always come in the middle of the night and then it would be a mad dash to get the trailers unloaded and back on the barge before it left. Unloading the freight was a frenzied chaos, but it was a ton of fun.

This is Mary's Restaurant. Back in the day it was Mary's Cafe. It seems like it also had another name for awhile... I can't quite remember it even though it's on the tip of my tongue. Maybe it was the Tlingit word for shark...
Anyway, I remember my eight grade year, me & Chad Stavely would go here after school and get a large order of fries and split it. We'd usually wind up fighting about who got more.
Half the time we'd forget to pay when we left. The beauty of a small town is that they would hold the check until we came in next time.
When the State of Alaska finally got around to paving and widening the roads in Hoonah, the cafe was too close to the road. So they built more pilings behind it and slid the whole thing back. It was pretty impressive to watch.
While we lived in Hoonah we attended the Assembly of God church there. When we first started going, the church met in a large room in the parsonage. Later we rented the catholic church. We'd have our service from 8:30 to 10:00 and then clear out so the Catholics could meet at 10:30. John & Joyce Moropoulos were the pastors at that time, before they went to Greece as missionaries.
Getting our own building was a priority, and towards the end of my time there, the church was able to build a beautiful facility.
This wall panel is being carved for a traditional Tlingit tribal house that is going to be built at Glacier Bay, the original home of the Huna people. Gordon Greenwald is one of the artist working on this piece. He was my favorite teacher and taught a Northwest Native Art class. I still have a canoe paddle and bentwood box that I made in his class.
Speaking of school.... I walked up those steps every school day for 3 1/2 years. At the time, I hated living in Hoonah. No movie theater, no fast food, no shopping, nothing. It seemed like prison. But looking back, the school provided a great education.
The cop shop. I've been in there before... Not for anything nefarious though. Obviously there was no DMV for getting your driver's license. So you could go to the police station and take a written test. This would get you an "off system" license that could be used for driving in rural Alaska. I don't think they do that sort of thing anymore.
I'm pretty sure this picture was taken at Gartina Creek. I remember John Elkins and I fishing for chum salmon on this creek. Towards the end of the salmon run, the banks of this creek was covered in dead and rotting salmon. The stench was almost unbearable. Long before the Lion King, I learned that the circle of life doesn't end well.
As I mentioned, I didn't actually live in Hoonah. We lived at the Whitestone Logging camp about 7 miles from Hoonah. Whitestone Logging started out as Tyler Brothers Logging. They had been around for a long time and some people in camp had been working for them for over 20 years. We came up from Oregon in 1981, when the camp was at St. John's Harbor on Zarembo Island. From there the camp moved to Cape Pole for a short time and then to Hoonah in 1984. Originally the camp was going to be at Whitestone Harbor, hence the name.
Anyone that spent time in camp should recognize this picture. It was the mail slots at the commissary. Everyone in camp had the same mailing address. The mail was picked up in town each day and brought out and sorted into each family's box. In those pre-internet days, the mail was one of our few connections to the "real world" or as we called it: "down south."
It's well past it's glory days, but this was the extent of our shopping options in camp. The commissary. Here's where the loggers could buy work clothes, toiletries and other supplies. And for us kids, it's where we could buy CANDY!! My favorite was the bucket of red licorice where you could buy it for 5 cents a stick.
I don't think the white self thing in the middle of the picture was there in my day. But I'm pretty sure the other shelves and counters are exactly the ones that use to hold the yummy goodness.
I remember there was a side door that was hardly ever used that had a padlock on it. At one point one of  the older kids in camp managed to cut the lock off and put on his own padlock. No one noticed for a long time since the door wasn't used. He'd go in at night and steal candy and tobacco. He was smart enough to not take too much at one time and arouse suspicion.
This building was the main office. My mom worked in the office most of the time that we lived in camp. It was made up of modular trailers. Everything in the camp was set up to be portable and easily moved. Obviously the building has been long neglected and is rough shape. But what seems weirdest to me is there isn't a grey Chevy six-pack pickup in front. That was the boss's truck and was usually parked in front.
 This building was the cook house. The logging camp had trailer houses for the "home guards". These were the employees who's family lived in camp. And then there where bunkhouses for the guys who were single, or whose family's still lived down south. The cookhouse was for the bunkhouse guys. They ate breakfast and dinner here. At breakfast there was a spike table set out with all the fixin's for lunch. Being home guard, I never got to eat in the cookhouse, but I was always told the cooks did an amazing job.
I'm pretty sure this is a section of bunkhouse. They were usually made up of Atco trailers connected by walkways. Two guys would share one room. There was about 250 people that lived in camp at one point. It was one of the larger logging camps in Alaska.
Because of the amount of snow we would get, the bunkhouses and trailers would often have a sloped metal roof built over them; allowing the snow to slide off. I remember one year a bunkhouse guy left his pick up parked under the edge of one of the roofs while he went home for the winter. All the snow sliding off the roof and piling up on the truck cause the leaf springs to snap.
It looks like there is still at least one trailer left in camp. And it looks like the brush has grown up quite a bit. The camp was one giant gravel pad with rows of trailers. So there was no playing in the lawn for me when I was growing up. It was all rock. So we'd head out to play in the woods. A group of us spent two summers chopping down smaller trees and building log cabins. Well, they weren't really cabins. We never figured out how to do doors or roofs. So the "cabins" where just four log walls. We'd dig out a hole under the wall to crawl in and out of . Or climb up and over the wall. But it kept us busy and out of trouble. Mostly...
This was the view of the small bay out in front of camp. Living there, I never appreciated how amazing the place I lived was. We could fish in the bays for salmon and halibut, we could fish in the creeks for salmon, we could hunt deer. We had amazing sights and scenery all around us.

Just as I was getting ready to wrap up this post, my sister-in-law sent me another batch of photos. Those will have to wait for another time.

Jul 5, 2014

Goose Creek Correctional Center

An update: Ministry out at Goose Creek Correctional Center continues to go well.
It's been almost a year since I started volunteering out at GCCC and I am 1/3 of the way into my fourth round of teaching the Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. The classroom I use only holds about 22 guys, so we have to limit each class to that. I continue to get great feedback from the inmates on the impact of the class. An inmate told me the other day he's managed to save up $200 in his commissary account to help him get started when he gets released. And that's at a prison job where he makes 55 cents an hour.
I've taught two, 12 week sessions of John Bevere's Bait of Satan curriculum, which teaches how to deal with hurt, bitterness and unforgiveness. It's a great class, and the men have enjoyed it, but I've taken a break from teaching it during the summer. I'm not entirely sure I'll start it back up again in the fall. I'm trying to keep my schedule a little more in balance to avoid burnout.
I'm continuing to host the Friday night God Behind Bars video service. We have 80 to 100 inmates that come each week. This service is one several that is offered at GCCC for the general population. There's also a Sunday afternoon service, a Wednesday night service and a Thursday afternoon service. Each service has it's own feel. My Friday night God Behind Bars service is very contemporary. The Sunday afternoon service is more traditional. The Wednesday night service is more charismatic and the Thursday afternoon service is more of an in-depth teaching time. Each service attracts it's own group. If you got all the believers together at one time, you'd have around 350 inmates there.
Last weekend we had our first baptism service at Goose Creek. Chaplain Lewis had been working on getting a portable baptism tank and came across on old one at the old nearby Pt. MacKenzie Prison Farm. A little TLC got it back into action. We announced the baptism in all service and had 16 men step out in obedience and take the plunge. It was a great service of celebration!!
If you are local, I'm always looking to recruit some volunteers for the Friday night God Behind Bars service. Up until 3 weeks ago, it was just me. But I've another gentleman who is wanting to minister who has been coming. If you want get involved, there's a basic background check and a one evening orientation class.
And my stack of workbooks for the Financial Peace class is starting to get low. If you'd like to donate towards that, the details are here...

Thank you to all who have been supporting this effort with your donations, prayers and encouragement.

Jun 28, 2014

So many Geocaches...

June 25th marked the 9th anniversary of our first geocache find. (You can read  how we got started here...)
We've been trying to average 100 caches per year. Right now we are a little ahead of the curb, with 929 finds. We have cached in 28 states and two countries and have traveled 78,760 miles in our geocaching journeys.
Here's what it looks like in Google Earth:

Here's the map of states (and 1 Canadian territory) that we've cached in:
Here's some various other statistics:

Profile for AKStafford

Jun 19, 2014

The Road Trip - Zanesville

 One of the stops on our 15 state, 3,235 miles, ll day road trip was Zanesville, Ohio. A Y-shaped bridge (called the "Y-Bridge") spans the confluence of the and rivers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is one of very few bridges of its type in the United States.

The Y-Bridge is located downtown and enables locals to give tourists directions that include “turning left or right” in the middle of the bridge. The Y-Bridge has been an aviation landmark for many years. Amelia Earhart was quoted as saying, “Zanesville is the easiest recognized city from the air because of the Y- Bridge.
Zanesville was named after Ebenezer Zane, who had constructed Zane's Trace, a pioneer road from Wheeling, VA (now part of West Virginia) to Maysville, KY through present-day Ohio. In 1797, he gave land as payment to his son-in-law, John McIntire, at the point where Zane's Trace met the Muskingum River. With Zane's help, McIntire platted out the town and opened an inn and ferry by 1799. In 1801, Zanesville was officially renamed from Westbourne (Zane's chosen town name).
Novelist Zane Grey, a descendant of the Zane family, was born in the city. He grew up in Zanesville; from an early age, the boy was intrigued by history. His first three novels recounted the heroism of ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

Jun 16, 2014

The Road Trip - Bristol Motor Speedway

So in the last part of May we flew from Anchorage to Chicago and kicked off an 11 day road trip. In that time we cover 15 states and drove 3,235 miles. I don't know that I would do that trip again, and I don't think I've recommend it to others, but we had a great time. We got to see A LOT of country, traveling along the Appalachian Mountains.

The plan is to do a series of post sharing the pictures from the trip. It's going to be kinda random but hopefully you'll enjoy it. I think I'm going to start with our time at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Full Disclosure: A good chunk of the text below was copied & pasted from Wikipedia.
Bristol Motor Speedway is the 4th largest sports venue in America and the 8th largest in the world, housing up to 165,000 people. The track is so short that speeds here are far lower than is typical on most NASCAR oval tracks, but they are very fast compared to other short tracks due to the high banking.
 We took a $5 hour long track tour that was well worth the money. For part of the tour they stopped and let us walk up to the top of the bank. It's hard to see in the picture, but it is steep, measured at about 26 degrees.
The tour also took us up to the owner's suite. It was pretty impressive. The track is ringed with suites overlooking the track. Most of them are leased by large corporations and sponsors and offer the chance to watch the race in style.
Right now the infield is painted with football field grid. On October 14, 2013, after years of attempts to schedule a game, Virginia Tech, UT, and Bristol Motor Speedway announced plans for the game to be held on Saturday, September 10, 2016. Organizers envision attendance for the non-conference game, dubbed the Battle at Bristol, College Football's Biggest EVER, to draw 150,000 spectators, which would surpass the current NCAA record for highest single-game attendance.
 The track is so small that "Victory Lane" sits on the roof of one of buildings. We got to go up here and take some more pictures. With all of these pictures, you can click on them for a larger version.