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O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
For His steadfast love endures forever.
Enjoy this wonderful season
of grateful hearts giving thanks
as you celebrate the Lord’s
great goodness and love.
It’s November and we’re down to the last two weeks of programs, before we go home on the 21st of November, just before Thanksgiving. We wish you all every blessing at Thanksgiving.
In the previous newsletter, we told you we made it to West Liberty, Kentucky, and that we already had some car trouble, but that it was fixed there. Since then our old Chevy, which was named ‘Old Paint’ by someone in West Virginia, because we’re losing the paint on the hood, has rolled along fine.
The program in West Liberty went well. The chaplain, Father Todd, was waiting for us with two carts, and we quickly got everything loaded in them, as it was getting very cloudy and it looked like it was going to rain. It did! As soon as we were inside, the heavens opened. Good timing – thank you Lord! The officer who had to look through everything, was very
friendly, and we were soon on our way to the chapel. Had a very large crowd, of about 100 men, and one of the first ones in, was Steve. We have seen him here many times, and he writes to us occasionally, and he did so soon after we had been there.
Dear A.G. and Kate
It was great to see you again last night. Talk about two people who complement each other well, the two of you surely do. I know it is because you have been together for so long. You know, I will have been locked up for 33 years February 2016, but I choose to be free, being locked up is a state of mind. Take care, take it easy and God bless you. Steve, West Liberty, Kentucky
Afterwards a lot of men came by to shake our hands and thanked us for coming. It was a blessed night. It had rained very hard during the program, but when we needed to put everything back in the car, it was dry. Thank God. Talked to chaplain Todd about the visa situation, and he’s going to talk to his senator about it. He’s hopeful he might be able to do something.
This morning Bob (who used to be the chaplain in West Liberty, whom we have stayed in touch with after he retired, and whom we had called to see, if he knew somebody who could look at our car) called to tell us we could take the car to Terry, not far from the motel, and he would have a look at it. Terry found out the car needed new plug wires and fixed it. (A.G. wasn’t far wrong, when he thought it might be the plugs.) While we were waiting, Terry’s brother Mike came in. Mike is a Baptist minister in town, and part of the Ministerial Alliance. They always pay for our accommodation when we’re there. (Bob had arranged the motel this time, as Kate had not been able to get in touch with Mike, and had contacted Bob to see if he could help.) Bob had mentioned to us that he would pick up the bill for the car repair, so when the car was ready, we were good to go. Terry would sort it out with Bob. Later in the afternoon, Bob called to tell us Terry didn’t want anything for it. Bless him! At 4:30pm we arrived at the Little Sandy Prison (and the car ran fine!). We met Mr Ford, who told us he was going to be with us all night. Chaplain Dan, whom we set the date with and who had been the chaplain here since they opened 10 years ago, retired on the 31st of August. The prison appointed a new chaplain, but she had only been on the job for two days. Before the program started, Mr Ford introduced the chaplain to the men, and then the chaplain introduced us. The men responded very well and it was possibly the best program we have ever done here. Mr Ford appointed some men to help with the packing up, which was not such a good idea, because we ended up re-packing things and it never saves time when other people help with the packing, but they all meant well. The new chaplain was very appreciative of our program and told us that a relative of hers had written ‘That’s All Right Mama’ for Elvis.
The next day we met with Bob, had a coffee and good fellowship at McDonalds, before he had to go to a meeting and we hit the road to Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Made it to St Marys prison at 9am. Kate had scheduled this program for last night, but a couple of weeks ago, she realized that there was no way we were going to make that without some crazy travelling. They re-scheduled it for Saturday morning. Normally we don’t do mornings, but the prison had this as the only alternative, so we went for it. When we set the date, we were told the program would be from 10:30 until 11:45. However, when we were setting up, we heard it was announced for 10am. We got ready and were able to get the sound sorted fairly quickly. The program is held in the gym and they are not easy to amplify. One of the first men in, was Leo. We’ve known him over 10 years and first met him at Mt Olive. He’s been in St Marys now for several years. He writes us regularly. At first it looked like we would have very few men, as only 30 or so had come in. However, soon after we had started, more and more men came in and we ended up with 75. Leo told us later, that his unit had not been called at all, but he came because he knew about it from us. Don’t know whether that unit was called later or not. Last time we were here, security had limited the number to 40. That had not happened this time. The men responded very well and many came by to thank us on their way out. Leo helped us pack up and we chatted while doing so. At noon we were out the gate and on our way back to the motel.
Hi A.G. and Kate,
It was so good to see you last Saturday. I was glad to be able to spend some one-on-one time with you. I hated to see you go, as I know this might have been the last time I’ve seen you. I want to thank you for the last 11 years. You both have become like family to me. I will be going home on the 4th of Feb. and will fly to Nebraska, to see my mother. If you do come to a church in Nebraska again next year, I’ll definitely try to come and see you. In God’s love, Leo, St Marys, WV
AG and Kate
I was at St Marys and listened to your show. I just wanted you all to know that I think it is a great thing that you all take your time and share it with us. Both of you play really well. It’s great that you make us feel cared about. I know God cares about us all and I pray God blesses you for praising His name and for trying to help our troubled souls. I made some bad choices in my life, but I have a very loving and caring family and they write me a lot. Your show was a God sent blessing to me and I’m sure not only for me but for lots of others here as well. Thanks for taking the time and God bless you. Raymond, St Marys, WV
The next day we travelled to Pennsylvania, where we did the one and only program in the prison in Somerset.
When we pulled up at the Laurel Highlands prison in Somerset, at 4:20pm, both chaplains met us with one cart. We weren’t able to get everything in it, and we carried a couple of pieces in. When we walked up to where security was going to check everything, we heard the count had not cleared. It didn’t clear for an hour and we just stood there, talked and waited. Eventually we made it to the chapel and set up. Rather than starting at 6pm, we didn’t get started until 6:45. Everything was running late, and due to that fact, the crowd was smaller than usual. It still turned out a good night. One of the men who came up afterwards, had seen us in the prison in St Joseph, Missouri, between 2009 and 2011. He was from PA and still had time to serve here, hence being there tonight. Another man asked AG if he was familiar with the comedian Jim Durante. He was and the man was very surprised to hear that. He told AG that he heard Jim Durante do ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow’ (the song we close the programs with this year) in a radio program. He was also familiar with the Ethel Waters version. When we were loading up the car again, chaplain Klink whom we have worked with here for many years, mentioned retiring in March 2017. He also said he might hang on for a bit longer, so if we get to come back in two years, he might still be here. We’ll see.
Dear AG and Kate,
Thank you for your most recent visit to Laurel Highlands. I enjoyed hearing the mountain dulcimer and the banjo, very nice! You mentioned that you would respond to letters. However, I have a request. Instead of writing to me, would you write to my stepbrother at SCI Benner, here in PA? He was hospitalized when three other inmates assaulted him and he needs to hear about God’s love. Thank you and God bless. William, Laurel Highlands, PA
Travelled back to West Virginia, for another two weeks of programs in prisons and churches.
Made it to Mt Olive prison (from Summersville) by 11am, and Kate went in. They needed to make new passes, so Kate had her picture taken and waited for Debbie (the chaplains secretary). She soon arrived with a cart. Debbie crossed things off the list as we put them in. She’s great. After AG parked the car, we all went in, and while AG had his picture taken, Kate and Debbie went to the office to see if we needed to fill out new paperwork, to do with our vendor permit. No, all was in place, we were good to go. While walking down the hall, Debbie mentioned to Kate that everything was already set up in the gym. The gym??? Last couple of times we played in the chapel and we hate playing in the gym. Max and Antoine came out to help with the cart and with getting several things for us (table and chairs etc). The sound wasn’t bad. It looks like we are able to get the sound better sorted out with the amplifier we were given, at Ellsworth Prison in Kansas, last year. Several men came by to say hello and to thank us for coming back. Had a short chat with James, whom we have seen here many times before. He told us he’ll be 78 soon but he doesn’t look it at all. Rick (who has made our dulcimers) came in to say hi as well. He told us he had made an instrument called a Guidulcimer, but forgot to bring it. He went back to get it and it looked amazing. A guitar with a dulcimer neck. The sound is great. He told Kate he’s going to make us one. Randy came by to say hello as well and so did others we don’t know by name. There were two volunteers as well, from the Appalachian Bible College and they came up to say hello as well. They had looked us up on line. We had about 100 men and they were very attentive. The men joined in really well and sang along real well. Guess having the good sound really helped. While packing up, Debbie told us that she might not be here in another two years. Her husband, who also works at the prison, is talking about retiring, and if they do, they’ll move to North Carolina. Things will be very different and more than likely far more difficult, if this will happen. If we do get to come back in two years, hopefully she’ll still be here. The chaplain helped push the cart back to the gate, which was great, as the men were already locked up for count. At 4pm we were on our way back to Summersville.
Kate and AG
How are you two wonderful people. I saw you at Mt Olive and you both brought a smile to my face. I think what you do for people is wonderful. Please write back. Robert, Mt Olive, WV
The next 11 days we spent doing programs in sponsoring churches in Buckhannon and Kanawha City (near Charleston), visited the West Virginia State Museum Shop in Charleston, and wonderful Tamarack, West Virginia’s Artisan Retail Center (if you have a chance, go and see it), visited friends and we did a program on Allegheny Mountain Radio, where we do a weekly radio program on Mondays at 2pm Eastern Time. We were blessed with many donations here as well, which helped to keep us going. On the 29th we were back in prison.
At 4:30pm we arrived at the gate of the Federal (female) prison in Alderson. Kate called Central Control and they called chaplain Betsy Walker. Betsy came and picked us up with her car, we went to Central Control to fill out the paper work, then Betsy took us back to our car, and we were allowed to follow her in (as usual). A couple of ladies helped us unload the car and then AG took the car back out again and Betsy brought him back, and we set up. The prison choir started with two songs and then we took it from there. The women responded with great enthusiasm and after ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow,’ we received a standing ovation. Several women came by to thank us and some for a chat. One of the ladies mentioned she was from Hyden, Kentucky, and AG replied: “Osborne Brothers.” She was very impressed. The lady who had led the choir, had seen us many times over the 13 years she has been here, and she told us she was going home in 64 days. While we were packing up, chaplain Betsy told us she’s going to retire in March and chaplain Chrissy will retire at the same time. Wow, everybody’s retiring. What will we do, when/if we do come back in two years??
On the 30th we did a program at James Chapel in Clintonville, WV, where we saw some old and new friends (from Virginia and one of them had come all the way from Dunmore – at least a two hour drive) and on the 1st of October we were back in prison.
At 4:30pm we arrived at Denmar prison. We were met by the chaplain. Kate had arranged everything with Mr Neal, the programs person, and was not told they had a new chaplain here. Jerry Moore used to be the chaplain here for years, but he passed away a couple of years ago. Two years ago they had a new chaplain, but he hadn’t lasted very long, and now there was a new chaplain again. It was Jerry’s son Mike Moore. He had not lived in the area for a long time and was not familiar with our music. He told us his mother Barbara was coming in, as well as a work team out of Georgia. He had invited them to come and had not been aware of the fact that Mr Neal had invited us!?!?! Anyway, the work team was quite happy to give us all the time. Then we found out it wasn’t starting at 6pm but at 6:30. That would cut down on our time, as it was to be finished before 8pm. The turnout was small as well, more than likely due to the fact that it had not been advertised very well. However, the men who attended were very enthusiastic, and we felt we really need to try and keep going for a couple more years yet. At the end we were given a standing ovation again, and several men helped with the packing. By 8:45 we were on our way back to the motel again, along winding Hwy 219. A.G. had mentioned his dislike of that road. He said: “If you want to know how much we love you, you need to know how much I hate driving 219.”
Hello AG and Kate,
It was such a blessing and honour to have you both with us here at Denmar prison. It’s so amazing how God works and puts others in people’s lives. I am very blessed to have met you both at such an unthought-of place for the outside world. Since my incarceration in 2013 I’ve grown closer to, and really came to know the Lord. I grew up in church but became strongly rebellious. In 2013 God rescued me. Since I have been incarcerated I have become an ordained minister and an apprentice electrician. I feel a strong calling for mission work and Christian relief response work. Thank you so much for all you do. God bless you both, Austin, Denmar, WV
The program we were supposed to have been doing at James River prison in Virginia, on the 3rd, had been cancelled, due to the chaplain having surgery. She had not been able to find some who would supervise the program. How sad. It gave us a gap of a couple of days, which we spent in Charlottesville, Virginia. On the 7th we travelled to a motel in Dillwyn, where we were scheduled for three programs in the two prisons there.
At 5pm we were at the Dillwyn prison and when Kate went in, there was already a cart standing ready for us. She asked if the officer could call chaplain Tommy and ask him to bring another cart, which she did. Tommy came out and we loaded everything on the two carts and brought it in. It was all searched, but then when we were searched, AG was told he would not be allowed to bring in the Tums he always carries with him, and he couldn’t bring in his handkerchiefs?? It made him mad and of course it is totally ridiculous. Later Tommy told us that some people had brought in drugs, hidden in handkerchiefs and they are now forbidden. Had a good turnout, of 71 men, and they responded very well again and again we got a standing ovation at the end. Several men came up for chats, and one of them told us that he was from near Mason’s Springs, home of the Carter Family. When all the men had left, we put our gear in the chaplain’s office, for the next day, and only took our guitars and the banjo with us, so we could run through some songs.
Hello AG and Kate,
I hope you get this letter before you go back to Holland. Just want to thank you for ministering to my soul and many others. Enclosed is a check for your ministry. Keep up the good work. Ken, Dillwyn, VA
Back at the prison again by 5pm and Tommy met us and escorted us in. Kate ‘smuggled’ in a hanky and nobody bothered to check anything. Tommy had already brought the gear back into the hall, then we finished setting it up and connecting it up. While doing so, Tommy also talked about retiring?!?!?!?! He’ll be turning 65 later this year and his wife (more than himself) wants him to retire. He’s also the pastor of a very small church. Tommy had to leave at 6:15, for the 6:30 service at his church, but told us that everything seemed to be running on time and we’d be able to start at 6:30. Not so, it was 6:55 before everybody was in. We were told we would be able to go on until 8:30pm, so we had plenty of time to do the whole program. Tommy came back in again at 7:45pm. Afterwards a couple of the men told us they live near the Carter Fold, and about the grave yard nearby, where AP’s ancestors are buried. One of the men told AG we had taken him away from the prison for an hour and a half. Some of the men had been able to sneak in again, and saw us twice. One of the men (in a wheelchair) told us about his mules, Draft Mules, and about breeding them. When the men were gone, we packed up and Tommy helped us cart it all back to the car. Hopefully he will change his mind on retiring.
Hello Country Gospel Singers,
Just thought I’d drop y’all a few lines, since y’all were grateful enough to give us some entertainment, and I truly enjoyed it. It reminded me of the time I was in the service, and groups came and entertained us. I’ve lost my grandma, mother and girlfriend in the last 2½ years. I also lost my home, my 2 trucks and everything else. I’m really praying that they will bring back parole again. When I was 17 I enlisted and was sent to Vietnam. I did this, because I wanted to die. However, I didn’t die, but did become an alcoholic. I was wrongly accused and I am still appealing. I have no money and I only get one free letter a week. When you write me, please could you send some pictures of Holland? Thanks very much and I’ll keep you in my prayers. Randy, Dillwyn, VA
Got to the Buckingham prison around noon. Chaplain Stine brought two large laundry carts and we loaded everything in them. Then in the gatehouse, a male officer took his own sweet time to look through everything and the female officer who also worked in there, questioned the lights and the spare bulb. The chaplain remarked that there are lights inside, but she didn’t think that was funny and ended up calling somebody, and was told everything was good to come in (of course it was, as the list they were on, had been signed for approval). It all delayed us a bunch. Then, once we took the carts in, we noticed we were not heading to visits. Kate asked the chaplain where we were going and he said: “the gym.” Kate said: “I don’t think so, that was not agreed on, and if we had known, we wouldn’t have come.” The chaplain asked why, and she explained about the very poor acoustics in gyms. AG would have told him ‘no deal’ but Kate decided to go ahead and see what the sound would be like, as the chaplain mentioned that they had padded the gym and the sound shouldn’t be bad. It could have been worse, but it wasn’t great. We managed. Warden Younce came and introduced himself and thanked us for coming. Kate told him that we always played in visits because of the poor acoustics in here and he mentioned that next time we should request it being in visits again, and he would be ok with that. He had decided on the gym because he thought visits would be too small. When we talked about the restricted time we now have in the States, he suggested to get in touch with him and he’ll try and pull some strings. When all the men were in (and they could have easily fitted in visits), we started. Had a great reception when we started with the ‘boogadee, boogadee. The warden joined in as well, and stayed for the first couple of songs. When AG asked whether there were any hillbillies, he put up his hand as well. Kate had checked with him on the time and he told her we could go until 3:15pm. However, just before 3pm, the chaplain signed us that we had 5 minutes left. When the song was finished, Kate asked what was up with that, as the warden had told her we could go until 3:15. A little bite later we were told we could go until 3:10pm. We managed to get most of the program in. Afterwards AG met some men who were from the Carter Family area and lived near the Holston River (we have a song about that by Johnny Cash – ‘Tears In The Holston River’). One of the men has been inside for 30 years and mentioned that this was the greatest day of all that time. Another man said this afternoon had made his year. Many others came by to show their appreciation. The security officer in the gym checked everything as we packed up, so we thought we wouldn’t have to go through that at the gate. Wrong!! The officer at the gate did it all over again. It made Kate really mad and she didn’t hide it either. When everything was packed in the car, chaplain Stine handed us the check and told us that he is thinking of retiring as well. Don’t think there will be many of the same chaplains left if we come back in two years.
Dear AG and Kate,
You were wonderful, keep up the good work.
Clarence, Buckingham, VA
The next ten days we did 4 programs in various churches, one in Virginia and three in North Carolina. Most of the people were very responsive and generous with their offerings, and we were able to keep going for a while again. We’ll cover the second half of the tour in the next newsletter.
Yes, sometimes the going gets rough, but with grace God kept us going.