Founder — Dr. Elton Trueblood
YPM grew out of a ”movement” started by Dr. Elton Trueblood (1900-1994). Trueblood, an author, speaker, and theologian, believed small covenant groups committed to self-discipline were a way to spiritual renewal, much needed after the war.
In May 1949, after meditating on Matthew 11:25-30, he found a name for his “movement,” Yokefellows. Being a Yokefellow was synonymous with being yoked with Christ and heeding the call to help others.
In 1955, Trueblood gave an address in Washington, DC to a group of chaplains from the federal prisons. He emphasized the power of the small disciplined spiritual group to affect a change for the better in the lives of participants. Two chaplains, one at Tacoma, Washington, and the other from Lewisburg, PA saw the possibilities and soon, working independently of each other, established Yokefellow groups in their penitentiaries.
Regarding incarceration, Trueblood stated,
“The primary purpose is the improvement of persons.
Separation from the world for a while is justified if new life emerges.
But Yokefellows know that new life does not emerge of itself.
It comes only if there is consistent and loving effort to give embodiment
to the divine potential in each person made in God’s image.
That is why we work; we are trying to combine the warm heart and the clear head.
We are well aware of the possibility of failure, but we never give up,
because the prize is one of real magnitude.
If one person is truly changed, all of the effort expended is worthwhile.”
According to a January 1993 article in the Lewisburg Journal, Dr. Larry Baulch, a former inmate who was under the guidance of Trueblood, brought Yokefellows to the Susquehanna Valley.
Also during this period, Trueblood contacted Newman Gaugler from New Jersey to head the National Yokefellow Prison Ministry. Newman established his office in Sunbury, PA. As documented in Trueblood’s book, While It Is Day, by 1974, Newman Gaugler, who was instrumental in starting both efforts and who served as president of the national organization, had successfully started “ more than 500 such fellowships in various kinds of prisons across the country.” Several of our Area Councils today were among those initial fellowships.
1968 through 2011
In 1968 The Yokefellowship of Pennsylvania was incorporated in Pennsylvania. with Rev. John Mosteller as Executive Director.
In 1969, The Yokefellowship Prison Ministry was incorporated in Pennsylvania.
In April 1972, The Yokefellowship Prison Ministry was renamed the National Yokefellow Prison Ministry.
In 1986 the two entities merged to form our present organization, Yokefellowship Prison Ministry. See YPM’s Organizational History
Rev. Mostoller then led the merged group until 1990. Since then the following executive directors have led YPM:
- Rev. John Mostoller (1986-1990)
- Rev. Don Ripple (1990-1994),
- Wayne Benjamin (1994-2000),
- John Rush (2001-2011),
- Larry L. Coleman (2011-2013), and
- David Bowen (2013 – Present).
In 2011 there was a major change in the organizational structure of YPM with the introduction of geographical regions and Regional Advisory Councils. This change was made to empower local volunteer leaders to strengthen and expand local ministries. Parttime Regional Directors were hired to support this new emphasis.
The fact that YPM is still a strong and vital ministry today attests to the caliber of leadership — both staff and the governing board — and to God’s favor.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times,
having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
— 2 Corinthians 9:8
“The Story of Yokefellowship” appears in Chapter VI of the autobiography of Dr. Elton Trueblood, While It is Day, Harper & Row, 1974.
Visit our Lehigh Valley Area Council’s website to read A Brief History of the Yokefellowship Prison Ministry written by Donald L. Ripple, Exec Dir Emeritus of Yokefellowship Prison Ministry.