PIRT, the “Prisoner Inquiry Response Team” ended the year 2018 on an extra positive note and we would like to share our news with fellow readers. PIRT was formed by a small group of volunteers in the United States to disseminate The Urantia Book to our planet’s darkest corners, the nation’s many prisons. All of the original PIRTeam members continue to serve in some capacity after 15 years! Currently there are six United States volunteers actively answering inmate inquiries, or helping in other ways, and a few more good people have served and moved on. We rejoice and give thanks for all the hungry souls who have found the soul saving truths in The Urantia Book. I am humbled by the dedication of our volunteers who make it all happen; we are excited to celebrate fifteen wonderful years of Urantia Book placements that PIRT members have delivered. It is thrilling to see the seeds of the revelation grow and come to fruition.
In case you haven’t read our occasional articles in previous Tidings, the first PIRT article tells the story of how, about thirty-plus years ago, one reader’s efforts to seed the many United States’ prison libraries turned out to be the catalyst for PIRT, the longest running group of volunteers in Urantia Association International. Sometime after her seeding efforts, the Foundation began receiving letters from inmates asking about The Urantia Book. When it became overwhelming, PIRT was formed to relieve Urantia Foundation’s Reader Services staff from the duty of replying to them, thus freeing Foundation staff to focus on other equally important business. To this day inmate letters continue to arrive at Diversey Parkway which are then forwarded on to PIRT for our handling.
Since the formation of PIRT in 2004, more than 4,500 inmate letters have been answered and over 2,100 Urantia Books have been disseminated to inmates. We have since discovered that the book also makes its way to the inmate’s family, friends, prison officials and chaplains.
Three years ago PIRT went international, adding Chris Gravel, Canada’s PIRT chair, to the team. Chris had read one of our PIRT articles and was moved to join the team as a result. He has been able to seed Canada’s forty-three federal prisons, over eighteen months, and has a team of fellow volunteers ready to answer inmate letters. Apparently seeds take time to sprout and there were no letters from inmates immediately. It’s now three years later and Chris has just received his first two book requests! In God’s time, eh?
Last year we provided our policies and procedures, as well as access to our internal documents, to the new PIRT Chapter that Risto Mäntyen of the Finnish Urantia Association started in Finland. Their team of four volunteers seeded all twenty-six prisons in their country with Urantia Books. Without a doubt the letters will begin to flow in, in God’s time.
For the past few years PIRT has taken on an annual group project. One year we adapted the Association’s study group guide for use in the prisons. Since then we’ve had more than a dozen study groups sprout up at different institutions and we send this study group guide as support. Another year David Linthicum, the Association’s former Dissemination Chair, obtained two Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS) online study group course outlines for our use. When we are asked for more study material, we send them the UBIS courses. It is impossible to monitor the activities of each facility and we don’t always get immediate feedback but there have been signs that the courses are well received and that inmate study groups continue to develop and grow.
This year we have more PIRT projects germinating. One project is to foster outside study group leaders to help facilitate inmate study groups at the prisons in their area. Another is a video about what PIRT does for inmates, geared toward the family and friends of those who are incarcerated. My project, as PIRT Chair, is to focus greater attention on developing additional international groups who are willing to seed prisons in their native countries.
Often, we get very serious, in-depth questions about The Urantia Book. While PIRT does not typically offer “pen pal” type services, we do respond to thoughtful inquiries, often times with personal correspondence, at other times we send out the informational materials that we’ve gathered over time to help them out. The most gratifying experience—what keeps us all here year after year—are the moving words of gratitude and appreciation we receive from inmates for providing them the light of the Father, which comforts and guides their souls as they sit in material darkness.
If you would like additional information about PIRT’s programs, please feel free contact me. If you are so moved, please consider a donation to the Association’s PIRT fund. All our funds are used exclusively for the purchase/shipment of books; our volunteers provide all else at their own expense.
May we all plant many beautiful seeds throughout 2019. Most assuredly, they will sprout in time, in God’s time!