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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We want to wish everybody a blessed Easter.

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In the previous newsletter, we finished with the program in Oswego, Kansas. After that we traveled to Joplin, to see our friend Neil, and from there we took the time to travel through Oklahoma. We visited several places like Okemah, the birthplace of Woody Guthrie,

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Woody Guthrie statue

The Seminole Nation Museum in Wewoka and Duncan, hometown of Hoyt Axton.

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Hoyt Axton mural

Eventually we made it to Texas, where we did the first program again on the 14th of October.

Friday Oct. 14th – Colorado City, Texas

In the morning we took the time to visit our friend Kay, who is 92. He and his wife Sue did voluntary work in the local prisons for many years.

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Kate, Kay and A.G.

We had a wonderful visit. At 5pm we arrived at the prison. There are actually two prisons, right next door to each other, the Wallace and the Ware Unit. Several years ago, the community built a chapel, in between the two units, called The Webb Center, and the men are brought there, from both units (obviously not at the same time). Tonight we were going to get the men from the Wallace Unit, and their chaplain is Chaplain Riley. Chaplain Riley has been very supportive of our work through the years and is always very well organized. We were allowed to drive up to the Webb Center to unload all our gear on the two carts he had brought and then AG parked the car in the car park. The men came early, when we were still sound checking. After we still had to tune, but it took some time before they were all there, and chaplain Riley told them to be quiet while we were getting ready, and they were. We were ready by the time they had to do the count and after that, by 6.40pm, chaplain Riley introduced us. Not all the chairs were taken, and afterwards we found out that a whole section had not been brought. That’s a real shame. The men responded very well and were very excited, sang loud and listened well for most part. We had plenty of time so we were able to do all the songs and share some extra stories with them. After we were through, around 8:15pm, it took some time for them to be escorted back to the units, so we were able to talk to several men and sign autographs. One of the men told us that his grandmother’s favorite hymn was ‘The Great Speckled Bird,’ and others asked about the dulcimers and the autoharp. It was a very blessed night. After all the men were gone, we just took our guitars, the rest could stay for the following day.

Saturday Oct. 15th – Colorado City

At 12:30pm we were back at the prison, and Chaplain Hardesty was already at the Webb Center. He’s the chaplain at the Ware Unit. The first men came early again, but then it took a long time before they were all there. Had another great program. After all the men had left, chaplain Riley appeared. We had agreed to play at the Volunteer Banquet that evening and needed to stay until they had set up, to see if we needed to alter the setting of the PA. They set up tables and chairs in one half, partly closed the sliding doors and then set up 60 or so chairs in concert form in the other half (where we were already set up). After they had set up ‘our’ part, we did a sound check, as they had closed the sliding doors and that had changed the sound some. We went out, had something to eat in our room and at 5:45pm we were back at the prison. Chaplain Riley’s wife Karen, was waiting at the door and we chatted for a while. Neither she nor we knew a lot of the volunteers who were there. One of the volunteer chaplains we had worked with at another unit, chaplain Nolan, came over with his wife and we had a chat with him. At 6pm they started eating and afterwards chaplain Hardesty and the Regional Chaplain held a short talk. After that chaplain Riley invited everybody to come over to ‘our’ side of the room, and most people did. It took a little bit of time to ‘warm them up’ but overall it went fine. Chaplain Riley had put a plate on the table for donations, but not many people came prepared for that. Chaplain Nolan and his wife offered us the use of their mission house in Snyder, if we ever needed a place to stay, and others asked for our address, so they could mail a check. By 9pm everything was packed again and chaplain Riley gave us the offering with the words: “May be you can have two meals tomorrow!” They also gave us two plates of food, as we hadn’t eaten before the program, which we took to the motel with us.

On Sunday we were supposed to have done a program at the Federal Prison in Big Spring, but that was cancelled. We travelled to Snyder.

Monday Oct. 17th – Snyder, Texas

At 4:30pm we arrived at the prison, and Kate went in and pushed the button on the wall. An officer answered and she told him who she was. He said he would send someone with a cart and let the chaplain know we were there. A porter arrived a little bit later, with a fairly big cart and the chaplain arrived soon after. A friendly man (he’s only been here for about 6 months). When we had most of our things loaded on the cart, an officer came out and when Kate asked him if he was going to look through everything, he said he would do this inside the gate house. Ok, we loaded other things on it and had to carry a couple of things as well. Then I moved the car, and Kate heard the officer say to the chaplain: “You’ve got this, right?” Chaplain said yes and the officer left. When we arrived in the chapel, several men helped us set up and made coffee for us. At 6:30 the men had arrived (it was supposed to start at 6pm) and they were enthusiastic but also a bit wild. One of the men had explained that this group was from Medium Custody and that they were not allowed outside their cell, apart from these special programs. He was expecting a large crowd, but it wasn’t that big, as part of that unit was in a lock down, and not allowed to attend. The chaplain did a short introduction and then we got going. They clapped a lot and sometimes it was hard to keep our rhythm, as their rhythm wasn’t exactly like ours

But they had a good time and were able to blow off some steam. They listened well to the stories and more than likely a lot of them had never attended a program like this before. One of them came up afterwards and told us his father had a large church in Dallas was sure he’d like for us to go there. Another men told Kate he had seen a documentary on the Frederick, Texas, dulcimer factory. But he had never seen the instrument for real and definitely had never heard it being played. Another men told us he was from Eastern Kentucky, and knew Stringbean. He also knew about Jean Ritchie and told me this was the music he grew up with. Yet another men told AG he was from Winston Salem, North Carolina. Later he told Kate he actually was from Walkertown and she told him we had played there. He also asked her if we’d ever played at Central Prison in Raleigh. We haven’t. He told Kate that the man who murdered his mother is in there. One the chapel helpers told us he hoped to go home before long. He had done 21 years of the 25 and hoped to be able to go on parole soon. If not, he has three more years to serve out. Just after we had talked to several men, there was a phone call and the chaplain told the men to hang lose, as count time had started, and they weren’t able to leave until they were through with that. We sat in the chaplain’s office and talked to him for about 30 minutes. Once the men had left, we took the guitars (the rest could stay for the following day) and went back to the motel.

AG and Kate,
Yesterday was the first time I met you, and I’m gonna say it plain and simple...it was AWESOME. All of it, the instruments, music, storytelling, everything. The way you told us about the history, the places you have been, explained about the people who wrote the songs is nothing short of a gift. I am almost 43 years old and I had never heard these instruments played in front of me before. Thank you so much for coming to see your friends in Texas. You two are truly a blessing from God. Don’t worry about those people who didn’t show up, I made sure to rub it in and tell them what they missed 
Your friend, Ruben, Snyder, Texas
P.S. Wow now I have friends in Holland, none of my friends at home can say that. Only God can do something like that.

Tuesday Oct. 18th – Snyder

At 5pm we were back at the prison. There were three people with horses out there, no idea why. When we walked into the gate house with our guitars, there was nobody there. Kate pushed the button, like she had done yesterday, but nobody answered. Several people came out, looked like it was shift change. One of the officers who came out, made a phone call and she was told we could walk to the next building, which we did. We waited for the count to clear, then the chaplain arrived and took us to the chapel. Due to the late count clearance, everything (including our program) ran late. We had coffee, ran through some songs, talked to one of the men who worked in the chapel, and another chapel helper came and read a
piece of scripture to us, that the Lord had laid upon his heart to read for us, and he explained what a blessing we were to the men. Eventually it was 7pm before the men started coming in. The chaplain had checked with the lieutenant to see if we could go over 8pm, and he was told we could go to 8:45pm if we needed. The chaplain introduced us at 7:15 to a very large crowd, over 100. The concert was a blast. They sang along with great gusto and the clapping made it a little bit difficult sometimes but we managed and had a really good night. We received a large standing ovation and the chaplain thanked us. He told the men to hang loose, as the count had not yet cleared, and told us we could do another song. One of the man said: “Do the one about the father, you sound checked it earlier.” At first we had no idea which song he meant, but then Kate remembered
she sang ‘They don’t make ‘em like my daddy anymore,’ and we did that one and then closed out with the second half of ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken.’ Just as we finished, the count cleared and the men left. A couple of the men came by to thank us, and one of them asked if I knew about Lester Scruggs and Earl Flatt. While we were packing, the chapel helpers were called back to their units as well, so we were left by ourselves (with the chaplain) to put the gear on the carts and take them to the car. It was almost 10pm when we were back at the motel.

A.G. and Kate,
I witnessed you play for us today and it made time
stop. I forgot I was locked up. The music was
lovely, Kate your type of voice is rarely hear
these days. Thank you for being original. Kate that Mountaintop thing (I was the man who came and asked the name and now that I am writing I don’t remember it) what is it called again? How are Jessi and Amber doing? Thanks again for your time and I hope to hear from you soon. With much love and care, John, Snyder, Texas

Another big gap between programs. We had left some dates open to visit the Heart Of Texas Music Museum in Brady, Texas, and to visit several friends in and around Austin. Had a wonderful time there. Our friend Steve chauffeured us around and we went to several music events, and met up with friends from Victoria, who came to Austin to see us. On the 26th of October we were supposed to do a program at one of the prisons in Gatesville, but we were called several days before, with the message that they had been in a lockdown for three weeks and there was no sign of yet of when they were going to ‘open’ and programs could continue. So, more free days. We stopped in Corsicana and visited the Pioneer Village. In it was the Country Music Museum, with a lot of info about Lefty Frizzell.

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Eventually we made it to Seagoville, near Dallas, for the next two programs.

Sunday Oct. 30th – Seagoville

Arrived at the main Federal Prison around noon. Kate went in and AG parked in the parking lot. We filled in the paperwork, and Kate went back in. It was visits time as well, and the officer in charge was trying to get people in. When Kate went back in, he called the chaplain who arrived a little bit later with a cart. Kate told him we needed two of those, and while AG pulled up the car and we started putting things on the first cart, the chaplain went in to get a second cart. The officer inside ran everything through the scanner, we cleared the metal detector and after that we were good to go. No help, so the chaplain and AG pushed the two carts and Kate brought the amp along with another bag that didn’t fit on the carts. It’s always hard to get the sound right in the large auditorium and we also had trouble tuning the autoharp, but we managed. Chaplain Greg, who is always very enthusiastic, introduced us to a smaller crowd than usual here. The men were very enthusiastic as well, sang along with great gusto and afterwards one of the men walked up to us and said: “This was so good, so very, very good, your musicianship, man you are good. Do you realize how good you are?” Others told us that had seen us 2, 3 and 4 times before. When the men were all gone, we packed up. We said goodbye to Greg (who was a bit shocked to hear we might not be back), went to the motel for a bite and then to the Camp where we arrived at4:40pm. Our friend Billy Abraham came along as well and arrived soon after we did. We didn’t have a large group but those who came were very attentive and participated greatly. After we did ‘O Let Me Commend My Saviour To You’ (one of the Charles Wesley Hymns) we invited Billy to come up and he gave a short testimony. The chaplain asked him to come in for a service some time. A new adventure for Billy. After he was done, we picked it up again and at the end they gave us a standing ovation. Afterwards several men came up to Billy to ask if he would come again and do some teaching and.... he’s even considering it. All the men came by to shake hands and they were ever so grateful again. Billy is always so supportive and enthusiastic about our music and ministry. ‘Never underestimate the impact you have on these men,’ he said. Back to the motel, where we sat down and talked for another hour or more. It’s always a blessing to share with him.

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Billy and AG at the motel in Seagoville.

It was years since I saw and heard Kate and A. G. in action. And then I got to hear them in Seagoville Prison here in Texas where I have lived and worked for over thirty years close by in Dallas. What an evening! The musical skill was astonishing on a range of instruments. I watched one man behind me who simply sat there totally mesmerized. He was intoxicated with joy and curiosity. It was the same for me. Of course, coming from Ireland I Iove their kind of music; but Kate and A.G. take it to a whole new level. And the sharing of the Gospel without false piety or nonsense was equally powerful. It brought back wonderful memories of our tour together in Arkansas those many years ago (1989). It equally sent me home full of thanksgiving for this inimitable ministry. What a wonderful evening, crowned with coffee and the sharing of our lives again afterwards.
Professor William J. Abraham, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Tx.

Kate and A.G.
Hello, I am an inmate of Seagoville, Texas, I got here about 6 weeks ago now. I really loved your show and for a little while, it made me forget I was in prison. I have been locked up now for 8 years and so far I have been blessed because I have not been in very bad places and I have had good cellmates. I hope you bring everyone as much joy as you did me. I do have a request, please pray for me. My case is coming up for review and I have high hopes of being released in the Spring of 2017.
God bless, John, Seagoville, Texas

Dear A.G. and Kate,
I want to thank you both very much for coming to Seagoville. It was truly a blessing. The entire time I was watching you, it reminded me of what an awesome God we serve. That two people, not even from this country, would travel and minister to those less fortunate. The verse crossed my mind about being entertained by strangers who might be angels. I see you both as just that. God is using you both to bring smiles to many. I’m going to put your card in my bible and you will not be forgotten. I hope to be able to one day contribute to your mission. God bless and protect you both as you travel. William, Seagoville, Texas

Tuesday Nov. 1st – Arkadelphia – Malvern

Arrived at the motel in Malvern, early afternoon, and around 5pm we were at the prison Malvern. When Kate walked up to the gate house, a female officer came out and told her to park real close to the door. Then the chaplain arrived with a cart, a porter went in to get another cart, and we loaded everything on the two carts and went in. An officer looked through everything, we were searched as well, and at 5:45 we were in the chapel. The program was supposed to start at 7pm. They gave us cups for coffee and water, with our names on them. Cute!

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We did a long sound check, as the acoustics in the chapel are pretty terrible. It was 7:40 before the men had all arrived, but the chaplain had told us to go an hour from the time we started, which we did. (Even though the female officer in the gate house had told us to be back there by 8:20 at the latest.) We had about 100 men and they listened well, but they didn’t participate as well as they did in Texas. It looked as if a large number of the men were unable to read, as they never looked at the words on the card. When we were through, the chaplain thanked us, and then made a deal with the men to be out in 5 minutes, as there was a count coming up and they all needed to be back in their barracks. They did. One of the men asked if we’d heard of Harold Hensley, who played on the Opry. We had, he smiled, Harold was his uncle. A young man asked to see the autoharp and the dulcimer and Kate let him lift up the banjo. He’d never held one before. An officer came by to compliment Kate on playing the banjo and told AG: “you’re ok too!” We took the guitars and left the rest for the next program, the following day.

Dear A.G. and Kate,
I want to thank you both very much for coming to Seagoville. It was truly a blessing. The entire time I was watching you, it reminded me of what an awesome God we serve. That two people, not even from this country, would travel and minister to those less fortunate. The verse crossed my mind about being entertained by strangers who might be angels. I see you both as just that. God is using you both to bring smiles to many. I’m going to put your card in my bible and you will not be forgotten. I hope to be able to one day contribute to your mission. God bless and protect you both as you travel. William, Seagoville, Texas

Wednesday Nov. 2nd – Malvern

Financially we’re not doing well. The sponsorship is way behind. We borrowed from our UK account, as we are pretty broke over here. We’ve already borrowed close to $3000 from home, to be able to continue. At 5:30pm we were back at the prison. The same female officer was present and she moaned about us coming in at this time. It wasn’t busy at all, even though there would be a shift change at 6pm. AG had trouble clearing the metal detector, don’t know why. They thought it might be my rings. They let me in though and we waited for the chaplain to come and get us. It didn’t take long for the first men to arrive, but then it took a long, long time for the others to arrive. Again it was almost 7:30pm before we started. The turnout was low, due to the World Series. Part of the men who were here this evening, were from the Mental Health unit. One of the men came up to Kate and said: “I remember you, you do the Boogeledodo song.” Indeed!! They were ever so grateful we came. After we were through, we packed up in a hurry and with the help of the porter, we were out by 9pm.

A.G. and Kate,
First of all I want to thank you both for coming to this unit and blessing us all with your time and beautiful music. I never come to church on this unit, this was the first time, and I must say, I enjoyed it very much. I never come to church, but I do pray, and I will pray for you all, for safe travels. May God go with you along your way. Josh, Malvern, Arkansas

Thursday Nov. 3rd – Malvern – Pine Bluff

Drove to Pine Bluff, checked into the motel, and at 5pm we arrived at the Ester Unit, in Pine Bluff (which used to be the Diagnostic Unit, but is now a re-entre unit, where men serve the last part of their sentence). David Shockey is now the chaplain here. He used to be a prisoner in the Pine Bluff Unit, when we first came there, now 17 years ago (he thinks). After his release he married Tony and they are now both chaplains in different units. The Ester Unit is minimum security, but they still went through all our things as if it was Medium Security. The staff was friendly though and two porters took care of taking the cart in. The men came early and we had an hour and a half for the program. Again, lots of smiles and very thankful men. After we had everything packed, we went to have a bite to eat, with David, and then said goodbye. David wouldn’t hear of us not coming back again. We’ll see.

The following day we left Arkansas and travelled to Tennessee, where we went to supporting churches in Murfreesboro and Hendersonville. On the 11th we travelled to Eddyville, Kentucky, for the next 4 programs at the Kentucky State Penitentiary.

Saturday Nov. 12th – Eddyville

At 11am we were at the Kentucky State Penitentiary and chaplain John was already waiting for us, as were several men (inmates) at the bottom of the stairs, to carry everything up. Two security officers looked through everything with a fine toothcomb.
They didn’t let us in, until they had searched everything and taken it to the chapel. Once we were searched, we were allowed in as well. Paul (one of the men of the General Population and whom we’ve know a long time) was already in the chapel, as was another inmate, who made us coffee. We set up and started at 12:30 for a small group of men from General Population. Several of the men we know by name, as we have seen them so many times over the many years we have been coming. We finished at 2pm and after the men had left, we just took the guitars with us, and chaplain John escorted us out. However, when we arrived at the gate, the officer asked where all the equipment was, as the memo didn’t say anything about leaving it in overnight. John looked worried but said he’d get it sorted out. We were allowed to leave and John was left to do the sorting out.

Sunday Nov. 13th – Eddyville

Returned to the prison at 8am, and arrived at the same time the volunteers arrived. It was a struggle to climb the many stairs with the guitar in hand. AG’s legs just don’t like climbing stairs any more. Guess it is age! There were 2 couples and one of the men, Terry, was in charge. We didn’t remember them, but they had escorted us once before. It took a while before we were processed in, and when we walked to the chapel, there was a long line of men who wanted to come in. We had about 25, which is more than we have ever had here. The men joined in very well. We had sheets printed with the words of a couple of Wesley Hymns and the Dutch translation of the first verse of ‘Amazing Grace.’ We finished this first of three services (for General Population) at 10.15am and a little bit of time to talk to the men. Robert (who has been here longer than most men) came up for a chat and so did Lloyd. He told Kate that he was supposed to have gone home this month, but due to something he had supposedly said in the yard, they gave him life! Really?!?! He has a court case coming up. AG talked to a man who had played in Branson and plays mandolin and guitar. The men from Death Row arrived just before 11am. It was great to see Greg, Randy, Victor, Samuel, Melvin and Roger. Greg apologized for not getting the birthday cards out this year and Ralph brought some of the hummingbirds and flowers he makes of paper. We picked the ones we liked and he is going to mail them to us.

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The flowers and hummingbirds made by Ralph.

Victor is now walking with a frame, because he needs a hip operation and has no idea when that will happen. (More than likely not any time soon.) He showed Kate a bunch of pictures, of his brothers, sisters, children and grand children. One of the volunteers opened with a good talk about the seasons of our lives, and how they are different for different people and come at different times in each life. After we picked up and the men sang along great and were very responsive. Soon after they left, the next group came in, 9 men from the Protective Custody Unit. We worked the same format, first the talk by the volunteer and we did the rest. We only had an hour, but managed to get a lot of songs in. When we were through all the men came by to thank us and after they were gone, Paul (from General Population) came back to help us. He told AG that he always helps with the praise band as well and learned a lot from that, and AG complimented him on the way he took down the things. Paul had to leave for the count and we waited with the volunteers. An officer appeared and left with the volunteers. A little bit later another officer returned, and said: “I’ve been told to come and help you carry out the stuff.” Kate said: “Carry? I don’t think so. We need a couple of carts.” He returned a little bit later and even arranged we could take everything out through the corridor, rather than having to go through the yard. Great!! At the gate, they decided to check everything again, when they were through we went to get the car and they arranged for some men to carry everything down the steps again. By the time we had everything in the car, it was 3:30, and we were rather tired.

From Eddyville we travelled back to ‘Humble Acres.’ Did one more program at Carmel Home in Owensboro, and after that it was time to start packing. On Saturday the 19th of November we travelled home, where we arrived on the 20th.

God bless

agandkate1

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