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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wishing you abundant joy,
and may you continue to be blessed
by the goodness of the Lord.
As you know, we have been back on the road in the US since the 27th of August, and we thought it would be good to cover the first half of the trip, in a shorter newsletter, so we can also wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. In the letter with the tour schedule, I already told you about the flight and the fact that the guitars took a bit of a detour, but caught up with us. After spending 5 days getting ready for the road, we left ‘our’ apartment in Kentucky and travelled to Tennessee, to do a program in the Shallowford Pentecostal Church, one of our long time supporting churches in Hendersonville, Tennessee. It was wonderful to see our friends there, not only the ‘local’ friends, but also our friend Dale from Jewell, Kansas, who had travelled 750 miles to be with us, and friends from Hampshire, Tennessee, who had travelled over 100 miles and whom we hadn’t seen for 25 years or more. All wonderful blessings. From Tennessee we travelled to Missouri, to do the first 6 prison programs. Travelling has been more tiring this year, due to the fact that it has been very hot, and we don’t have air-conditioning in our old car.
Tuesday Sept. 6th – Farmington, MO
At 4:30pm we arrived at the Farmington, Correctional Center. The officer at the gate of the prison, was very
friendly and chaplain Abrams was already there when we arrived. The officer came out to the car and checked everything off the list, before we put it in the cart. It was very hot, but it was easier to do it this way than loading it in the cart, unloading it in the gate house, loading it back up again and then go to the B-side chapel. (This prison has 2000 inmates on each side, and they call them A-side and B-side.) AG had to do a lot of carrying because chaplain Abrams had heart surgery and liver problems and was not allowed to carry anything heavy. Chaplain Abrams is 70 and still works 40 hours a week though, not bad! The men arrived very late, but once we got started, it was ‘wow.’ Incredible reactions of love and enthusiasm. A concert not ever to forget. So many got blessed and shook our hands and thanked us for this night. It was a blessing for us also. Packed our gear and two men stayed behind and helped. The gear could stay in the chapel and chaplain Abrams was going to make sure it was brought to the A-side chapel the following day, for the next concert.
Wednesday Sept. 7th – Farmington, MO
When we arrived at the prison, around 4.30pm, the same officer was on duty as when we came in yesterday, and he was easy getting us through security. Chaplain Mark was already waiting for us. We had not met Mark before. The gear was already at A chapel. We put the guitars in one of the golf carts and took a seat and Mark drove us to the chapel. It’s a pretty long walk from the gate to the chapel. We set up, soundchecked and tuned, and then had to wait over an hour before the men arrived. It was supposed to start at 6pm, then they called and said it would be 6:30 due to late meals, and it was 7pm before we actually got going. We were still able to do the same program as last night. Reactions were great again. At the end chaplain Mark thanked us for coming and said the men forgot where they were and that’s a major achievement. He later told us he was there to bring some humanity to the place. A bunch of men came by for quick autographs, as they needed to be out in a hurry, because we played longer. A couple of men mentioned they would be going home in the next couple of months and this was their farewell party. Once all the men were gone, we packed up and two chapel helpers carried it all to the cart (golf cart with loading area on the back). Once everything was loaded on the cart, there was no space for us to sit, so we walked back to the gate. The officer on duty was happy with the fact that Mark assured him that everything on the list was there, as he had seen us pack up. We loaded up the car and went back to the motel. When we were carrying our instruments into the room, a couple of guys were sitting on the balcony and asked whether we had played anywhere locally. Kate told
them, yes in prison. They asked whether that was in the Farmington prison. ‘Yes, to make them forget they are in prison, for an hour,’ AG replied. ‘That’s great,’ they answered.
On Thursday we were invited by Maria, who is Mexican, who used to work at SORTS in Farmington, where we were going to do a program the next day. She is not allowed to go in with us, that’s a rule for people who used to work there, so she invited us to come and see her and her husband and she cooked a wonderful Mexican dinner for us. Had a lovely time!
Friday Sept. 9th – Farmington
At noon we were at the gate of SORTS, a rehabilitation and treatment center, next door to the prison in Farmington. When Kate walked up to the gate, an officer walked up at the same time and said: “Are you here to make some music?” When she confirmed it, he said: “I’ll tell them to open the gate.” Which they did and we were in, in no time. Jean (one of the workers here) welcomed us and was waiting (with two other ladies) with large carts. We loaded everything in there, we took the car out (they took the carts up to the recreation room) and we walked back in. Jean met us again and escorted us to the Rec-Room. They had done a lot of work to it and it now looked like a proper gym. The acoustics weren’t so good, but we managed to get the sound right. They brought in a lovely cake and took some pictures of us with the cake.
‘Thanks for your gift of music.’
The first guys started coming in early, but they all came in small groups and it took a while before everybody was in. Janine, head of programs and the lady we always arrange everything with, came in at some point and thanked us for coming all these years. When all the men were in, she gave us a good introduction and you could see that all the men were all geared up for a good time. They had advertised it as our ‘farewell concert,’ because Kate had mentioned to Janine that we weren’t sure whether we would be able to come again in two years’ time. We’ll see how things go and what God has in store for us concerning this. Had a brilliant time with lots of smiling faces. A lot of men came by afterwards to thank us and to have a chat. One of the men had seen us in Greenville (at the Federal Prison) and next door at the prison as well. Another man had seen us next door and had recently come here. The cake was shared by all, together with coffee and cold drinks and we had a piece and coffee as well. One of the men who had seen us here a lot, is now in a wheelchair and came by to say goodbye. He’s one of three men who will be released on medical leave, and that means they will go to a nursing/care home. When men came by to say goodbye, they were all sad to hear we might not be back. After packing the gear we went back to the motel and didn’t do a whole lot anymore. The heat is wearing us out. Early evening it got very dark and after loud thunder and bright lightning, we lost all the power, a good reason to go to bed early
After a couple of rest days, we went back to prison. This time in Bonne Terre, only 20 miles from Farmington, to prevent travelling in the dark.
Monday Sept. 12th – Bonne Terre, Missouri.
At 5pm we were at the prison in Bonne Terre. Everything went very smooth. Chaplain Skeen and a very friendly officer were already waiting in the lobby, with a cart. We signed in and walked to the visits area. Had a little delay as the door was locked and the officer didn’t have the right key. He was a bit annoyed as he had arranged for another officers to be there at 5pm. Any way, he walked around and opened up, so we could get in. The chaplain told us the room was set up with 100 chairs, as that was the number that had signed up, and they wouldn’t let him have more than that. 80 of those who signed up attended and we had a very good time. When we finished, we received a long standing ovation. We didn’t do another song, as we wanted to have time to meet them and to sign cards, which we ended up doing for the next 10 minutes. Several men wanted to know more about the dulcimers, another man told us he used to have a music store and Rhonda Vincent had done a CD signing session there, in 2005. Yet another man told us that he had seen us every time we had been, first in the chapel and the last several times here in visits. When the men were gone, we talked to the officer who had escorted us in. His father is from Keyser, West Virginia, and he loves it there. He also told us that Ferlin Husky was from this area. (A.G. collected some Ferlin Husky tracks for him and mailed them to him.) He and the chaplain helped get our things to the car again. Chaplain Skeen is always very friendly and enthusiastic about us being there.
AG and Kate,
I hope this letter finds you well and good. My name is Chris and your concert was my first concert ever. I am 48 years old and God has been dealing with me the last couple of months. I am trying to live the way God wants me to but I am not perfect. However, today he gave me a beautiful gift by giving me you two of you. You are something I will carry with me for the rest of my life and the concert was a blessing to me. Thank you so very much for your time and your love. I will keep you in my prayers. God bless you both. Your friend, Chris – Bonne Terre, Missouri
AG & Kate,
Hello and many blessings unto you my dear friends. I just got back to my cell after leaving the visitors room from seeing you guys perform. Such a blessing. This was the second time seeing you and you both are definitely anointed and sent by God. The presence of love in the room was very peaceful. It is hard to describe what a true blessing you are, not only to the prison system, but to the world. I pray that you will be able to return again in two years. Being able to mentally escape from this place is a huge gift. Had a lot of fun and laughs. Thank you guys so very much, God bless you and take care. Your brother in Jesus, Daniel – Bonne Terre, Missouri.
From Bonne Terre we travelled to Fulton for the next two programs at the Missouri State Mental Hospital. They have many different groups here, and one of them is a group of SORTS. Several of these men used to be in Farmington and know us from there. The other group we play for, is the mental health section.
Thursday Sept. 15th – Fulton
We had arranged to be at the facility at noon, but when we got to where the entrance building was two years ago, there was nothing but what looked like a building site. We pulled over to the side of the road and Kate called. The lady she talked to gave her directions to the right building. Kate walked in, and the man directed her to the back gate. We pulled up at the Sally port, but there didn’t seem to be anybody there. However, after a while a man appeared, and a truck that had to get out. We backed up, but the man signaled us to come on in. The truck waited for us to get in, and then pulled out. The security man looked under the car with mirrors and under the hood (bonnet) and then directed us up the hill to the back entrance of the building where we would be playing. Another man was waiting for us there. He went in to get the people involved and both Tony Jackson (whom we had met several times before) and the lady Kate arranged everything with, music therapist Liz Snyder, came out to give us a hand. Tony went to get a cart and Liz carried the instruments in. The acoustics in this room are terrible. When you talk to each other, while setting up, it is not bad, but once you start amplifying the sound, it’s horrible. We were supposed to do the first program at 2pm (45 minutes) and the second one at 3pm (an hour). The first group were the mental health men and women. They came rather late and it was 2:15 when we got started, after an introduction from Liz. They clapped a lot, sang little, but really enjoyed it. Several came by for a chat, including the chaplain, who had been in charge of most of it last time we were here. Tony got us another coffee and more water. We quickly tuned everything again, and at 3:15 the men from SORTS arrived and we did an hour for them. They joined in well, but the singing wasn’t as good as in Farmington. One of the men came up and introduced himself as the one who writes to us all the time. His name is Johnell. Liz and Tony stayed behind to help with the gear.
AG + Kate,
I hope you are well. I was so happy to see you again when you came here. I was the one who asked you to come and see us, and I hope you will come again and put another show on for us. Johnell – Fulton, Missouri
From Fulton we travelled to Leavenworth, Kansas, where we met up with our friends in David and Judy in Lansing. David had fixed a lovely spaghetti meal and we enjoyed the food and fellowship very much. On the 18th of September we took the service at Southern Heights United Methodist Church in Leavenworth. They have been supporting us for more than 20 years. From Leavenworth we travelled to the prison in Ellsworth.
Thursday Sept. 22nd – Ellsworth
At the start of this newsletter we mentioned Dale from Jewell, Kansas. Dale had organized several dates in churches for us, in Kansas, but couldn’t be with us when we’d be there, so we had arranged that he could come into the prison with us. Dale did time in prison, here in Kansas, and has been out for almost 7 years. This was the first time he went back in, as a visitor this time! He arrived early and we visited in our motel room, before we went to the prison at 4:15pm. When we arrived at the prison, chaplain Dale was already waiting with a cart. We loaded (almost) everything on there and carried the rest. An friendly, easy going, officer checked everything and once we were on the yard,
chapel clerk Jeff was there and took over the cart from Dale. Jeff was the one who helped us with the amp two years ago, when our amp had broken down. We were given an amp by them and still use it today. It’s better than the one we had, and now carry as a spare. The men came in early and we hardly had time to get ready. Before we started Dale already handed Kate a check. They are so good here. Chaplain Dale did an introduction and we had a great time with the 101 men who attended. Their singing wasn’t so loud, but they listened really well, clapped a couple of times for my guitar breaks and clapped along with the banjo breaks on ‘Let me commend my Saviour to you.’ We received a standing ovation for ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken.’ A lot of men came by to thank us. One of them told AG he had never seen anybody play the autoharp. So he told him to come on the stage and he showed him how it worked. The man was over the moon. He told AG his family had LP’s by the Carter Family. Another man told Kate that his grandmother played the Mountain Dulcimer but that he had never seen anybody else play it. He also thought her singing was out of this world. One of the officers came up for a chat as well. He had lived in Lelystad (in Holland), before the company he worked for, moved to Germany. All the officers were friendly again tonight. After we’d packed up and said goodbye to Chaplain Dale, our friend Dale took us out to eat, before we travelled back to Jewell. He also wrote a piece for the newsletter:
Well – one more year is almost finished and as always it is extremely heartwarming to see and hear you guys perform. You know you always talk about the joy you get from seeing smiles on peoples’ faces when you perform and I had no idea the true concept of those thoughts until Thursday evening at the Ellsworth Prison when you had 101 inmates in that chapel responding the way they did and the participation of them singing along with you guys is just unbelievable. You truly are God’s Angels. It was a blessing for me to have the privilege to help you with your equipment and be able to sit with you during a meal and listen to some of the stories you have accumulated over the years. God Bless and hope to see you again real soon. Dale Willmeth, Ex-inmate at Norton, KS
The next three days we played in churches in Smith Center, Kansas, Superior, Nebraska and Jewell, Kansas, all organized by Dale. Especially the church in Jewell was very generous. They also hosted a large lunch in honor of us, after the morning service we did there. Our friend Leo and his wife Eda, from Iowa, travelled down to Superior to see us. They stayed overnight and joined us again in the morning service in Jewell. Leo spent 15 years in a West Virginia prison and was released earlier this year. It was wonderful to see him ‘on the outside’ and to meet his wife Eda. Leo wrote this for the newsletter:
I looked forward to your visits every year and later every other year and was happy when that day came. You were my only visits and you both became my surrogate family and I will always consider you a big part of my family. When I saw you in St Marys last year, I didn’t think I would see you again. I was so happy to hear that you would be in Superior, Nebraska this year. I had told you, that if you would come to Nebraska, depending on where I would be, I would come and see you. I know you didn’t really expect me to come, but I had told you that I would be there if possible. You were my only visitors because all of my family was in the Midwest and were unable to come and see me. Your letters were among the few letters I got and I looked forward to all of them as well. It was so good to be able to see you and to hear you, not once but twice and to hear of your life, since in prison we were not allowed to chat with you. I always had so many questions I wanted to ask each time I saw you, while I was in prison but couldn’t. I want to thank you both for a great weekend. It meant the world to me to be able to see you both again, this time on the outside where I could spend quality time with the both of you and be relaxed and visit with you. It was also nice to be able to introduce you to my loving wife Eda. May the rest of your trip go well, take care and God bless. You are in my daily prayers. In God’s love, Leo and Eda
From Jewell we travelled to Norton for the next two programs.
Tuesday Sept. 27th – Norton
At 4:45pm we were at the Norton prison. We walked in, signed in, and then a lady arrived with two carts for us. AG went to get the car and parked closer to the door and by then the chaplain had arrived and helped us load up the carts and roll them back in. We had to wait for an officer to come and check everything, and he soon arrived and was very easy going looking through everything. When we were out on the yard, a couple of chapel helpers were waiting to take over the carts and push them all the way to the chapel. One of the men said: “We’re so looking forward to this, they told me it’s going to be the concert of the century.” Wow, something to live up to! We quickly set up and were able to start at 6pm. We had until 7:10pm and were
able to get most of the songs in. The men sang along really well, clapped along quite a bit and at the end we received a standing ovation. A really blessed time. Several men came by for autographs and some just to shake hands and thank us. One of the men told Kate that he had seen us a couple of times in the Lansing Max and remembered the good times we had there. A shame we have not been able to go back there the last two times we have been in Kansas, because ‘they couldn’t fit us in.’ Really?!?!
A.G. and Kate
All praise and glory to God and thanks to you. You guys broke up the monotony here and for the time your wonderful music took me away from here. You both are truly blessed musicians and I will always remember you. I felt so lifted in spirit during and after your visit. Thank you so much. I was in tears. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I am so lucky to call you my brother and sister in Christ. Jason, Norton, Kansas
Dear A.G. and Kate,
I am Richey and I saw you two yesterday here at Norton. You guys are great, I really enjoyed listening to you two. Little about me. I am 53 years old and the oldest of 7 kids, and I am a grandpa now. I never knew who my real father was, as I was raised by the father of my 4 younger siblings. He was a drunk and very abusive and mum and us children very often went without food, because he had spent it all on drink and other women. I was also abused as a child. I spent 17 years in the U.S. Army, serving in the Gulf in 1990 and 1991. I had two sons and one is still alive today, and he has the two children. My other son was still born. I am a homeless veteran and will remain one when I leave here. I have made some poor decisions in my life but the time in here has helped me stay off drugs and given me a better relationship with my son, and I was recently re-baptized. I loved your music and want to wish you safe travels. Once again, thanks for coming, I will pray for you. Your brother in Christ, Ricky, Norton, Kansas
P.S.: I never get any mail
(He died after we wrote him!)
On Wednesday we had a really good time at the United Methodist Church in Norton, another date that had been set up by our friend Dale from Jewell. And again the people here were very generous with their giving. From Norton we travelled to Larned for the next two programs.
Friday Sept. 30th – Larned
At 5:30pm we arrived at the minimum security camp at Larned. Like before, nobody was there to open up. A prisoner walked up to the car. He recognized us from Ellsworth and went to tell an officer that we were waiting. This officer arrived some time later and told us he didn’t have the key. The person who did have the key, was collecting the men from the dining hall, across the road. We waited until 6pm, when someone came along with a key and opened up. A couple of men helped us bring in the gear and set up the chairs, while we set up the equipment. We sound checked and tuned and it was only then that chaplain Steve arrived. He had been waiting in the parking lot across the road, looking for our car, which he called ‘The White Stallion,’ and one way or another had missed us coming in. Just before 7pm men started coming in and we had a very good turnout. Steve introduced us and we had a great night. The men were very responsive. One of the men had seen us in Norton and asked whether they had already taken care of putting curtains in front of the window behind the altar. I told him they had, but that they were too thin. Just then I remembered that at Norton they had mentioned ‘Oliver’ who used to work in the chapel there, and who had been moved to Oswego. Well, obviously he had been moved here, to Larned instead, because this was Oliver. One of the men asked Kate about ‘You and Me’ and asked whether we had recorded it, so he could get a CD when he got out. Another one checked to see if we had a web site. Once we had everything packed in the car, Steve mentioned he’d like to take us out to dinner after the program tomorrow. Good deal! We said goodbye and drove back to the motel.
Saturday Oct. 1st – Larned
Had some bread and cheese before we went back to the prison, to the Mental Health section this time. We walked in and waited in the foyer for Steve. He told us we could drive to the back, to the Sally port (like we did last time) and Steve walked back to the gym, where the program was to be held. When we drove in, they checked in and under the car, then an officer escorted us to the gym, we unloaded our gear, drove the car back out, parked at the back gate, walked back in. We had to clear the metal detector, and when A.G. sat down to take his boots off, he sat in birdpoo. Guess not many people come in through the back, so they don’t bother to clear the bench in there. After that we were escorted to the gym. Set up, sound checked, Steve introduced us to a big crowd. We were going to play for an hour, but they were so attentive, that we kept going
for almost an hour and a half. Afterwards several men came by to thank us. One mentioned that it was his birthday and A.G. sang ‘Happy Birthday to You’ for him. Another man told A.G. that he once played on an old Martin guitar and he asked if he could touch mine. Of course. He played a little bit on it and when he left he said: “Now I have played an old Martin and a new Martin and that made the happiest day of my life.” A younger man came by and mentioned that it had been a very special afternoon and gave A.G. a big hug. Another man had come up before we started and talked about Martin guitars. He was from New York and he had owned a Martin a long time ago. Steve told us that one man had asked him if he could walk out, if he didn’t like it. Steve had told him that was ok, but he had stayed the whole time and smiled a lot. Gave Steve a kick. The officer who escorted us out to get the car, told us he had visited Holland and had cycled quite a distance there. He had studied in London for 8 months and travelled other countries in Europe while he was there. He had been a correctional officer at the Robertson Unit in Abilene, before he came here. That unit is next door to the Middleton Unit where we have played several times. We shared that with him and he was amazed we had been there. He had come back to Kansas, when there was an opening here. After we had loaded up, we travelled back to the motel and Steve said he’d see us there later. At 4.30pm he pulled up with his wife Brenda. They took us out to dinner at Applebees in Great Bend, where we had a good meal and wonderful fellowship. After that they took us to where they live, Pawnee Rock, and showed us the Rock and we read the history of the place on the little plaques along the path. Steve said it had been a great 2 days together, and we felt the same.
After Larned, we travelled to Parsons, the nearest town to the Oswego prison, where they have motels.
Tuesday Oct. 4th – Oswego
Arrived at the prison around 10:45am. There were a couple of officers standing outside talking. Kate walked up and asked if they were going back in, and if they did, could they tell the chaplain we were there. No problem. A little bit later chaplain Herbie came out with two carts and we loaded all our stuff on them. Inside, an officer scanned everything and looked through everything as well. He was then going to escort us to the dining hall, but they were still cleaning up in there. Chaplain Herbie found out that the alternative, holding it in the chapel, was not an option, as they had decided to hold a class in there. He was not happy with that (and neither were we) but wasn’t able to alter it, so we waited for the dining hall to become available. It was 11:45am before we could start setting up and the set up was not good. Tables with attached chairs and not very good acoustics. They put those tables towards the back and set chairs in the front, which made it somewhat better. We set up, soundchecked and tuned. The sound was not very good, but we’ve had worse. When the men were in, Kate thought it was actually quite good and the men in the room said so too. Almost all the men had seen us before (here or in other prisons in Kansas). One of those men, John, has seen us the last 15 years, in Lansing and here. He sat in the front row. The men responded great and a lot of them came by to shake our hands and thank us for coming and several wanted autographs as well. John showed us a birthday card, signed by a lot of men, he had received in July, for his 77th birthday and he also showed us the card Kate had sent him, with a picture of us on it. He also told Kate that he had lost a sister and a brother-in-law in the last couple of months. Another man came by to tell us he surely hoped we would come back again in two years’ time. We’ll wait and see. Before we left, Herbie told us it made him sad to think this was the last time we’d met. We travelled back to Parons, where we first went to the post office and then picked up a Chinese meal, which we took to our room and enjoyed.
Hi, A.G. and Kate, I really enjoyed your show and was really surprised that no more came, hope you had a safe trip home. God bless you, Dallas, Oswego, Kansas
The following day we travelled to Joplin, Missouri, where we had a wonderful visit with our friend Neil. From there we travelled through Oklahoma to West Texas, where we started the next series of prison programs in Colorado City. We’ll pick it up from there in the next newsletter.
This first part of the tour we managed to keep going, but after we left Kansas, it has become very hard to keep going financially. So far it’s been a struggle.