Giddings, March 15, 2008

The Lord truly blessed our day of evangelism at the TYC facility in Giddings, Texas (between Houston and Austin)

The largest number of volunteers (102) in our seven year history came from all parts of the state to spend a day sharing their faith with youth in lock-up. Many of the dedicated volunteers got up at 3am to begin their journey to the facility, many leaving at 4:30am

The youth greatly appreciated the dedication of the volunteers. Nearly 65% were new volunteers overcoming personal anxiety and fears to obey the biblical mandate to "visit the prisoners".

The performers showed unusual talent and energy. Alan Dee mesmerized the youth with his skillful illusions and created good natured laughter with his humor. Hip Hop artist John Moore (RBS) brought loud applause and excitement with his energized beat and lyrics and an extremely moving story of his years of childhood abuse and confinement. Don Smarto shared his testimony in an all new PowerPoint version.

The youth could only come to the programs voluntarily. Staff was not sure how many would choose to attend the two programs. Of the 375 youth in the facility, 374 came to the program. The one boy who did not come, a Wiccan and Satanist, was willing to talk to a volunteer counselor in his dorm.

The volunteers (some choked with emotion and tears) shared at the end of the day how greatly they were blessed. Some youth made a decision to trust Christ, many re-dedicated their lives, and seeds were definitely planted. The chaplain implored the ministry to return in several months. An administrator wanted the ministry back every year. The Lord surely blessed our day in the large youth facility.


We plan to go into three facilities in Oklahoma in June. Prepare now for an exciting weekend sharing your faith with boys and girls in multiple facilities. Confirm your attendance by fax 972 572 8335.

Some of the great volunteers at Mart in February
Don Appointed Chairman
Don was recently appointed Chairman of the Operation Starting Line Outreach Committee. The committee will recommend evangelism strategies for reaching juveniles, women inmates, minority offenders, and families. Composed of prison ministry leaders from across the country, the committee meets by phone conference each month. OSL is a collaboration of over 20 national ministries including Prison Fellowship, Navigators, International Bible Society, The Billy Graham Organization, and Campus Crusade. Youth Direct is a proud member of Operation Starting Line. For more information about OSL go to the Prison Fellowship web site. The recent photo was taken at the Washington DC meeting in October with Mark Early (President of PF) presiding. Don is in the second row (fourth from the left).


Don Smarto, Youth Direct President received a call from the White House inviting him to be a speaker at a White House Conference on Prisoner Reentry. Don was chosen as a "front line expert" and a person who has assembled a model juvenile program in America. Don said "I am humbled by this honor and privileged to have an opportunity to address faith-based solutions." The 1500 hundred attendees on November 27th include social scientists, policy-makers, legislators, corrections, and parole professionals from across the country. Don is a nationally recognized authority on delinquency and aftercare models. His books are used by hundreds of prison ministries and at several colleges and universities.

Doctor Sessums

Youth Direct board member Tommy Sessums was awarded his earned Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Christian Counseling from Cornerstone University in November 2007. Tommy has been active in prison ministry for many years and is a Youth Direct board member. Dr. Sessums has multiple certifications in areas including Substance Abuse, Family Therapy, and Adolescent Therapy. He also is a member of several professional associations. We are proud to be associated with such an educated and professional individual. But most important, Tommy has compassion and a heart for prisoners!


Sign up now for the well received training on CULTS. Learn what to look for. Many inmates and youth are deceived. Cults are not just extremes like David Koresch, but include Kabala, Scientology, The Mormons, and the Freemasons. You will not want to miss this important training opportunity!

9 am, JULY 21st, SATURDAY (Youth Direct Headquarters)

Call 972 572-8336 to register or send an email to


52 volunteers shared their faith with the 54 boys in this Dallas facility on April 28th. Many boys accepted Christ for the first time. Others, made a rededication to Jesus as Lord. A drummer, an artist, and an illusionist captured their attention and set the stage for one on one faith sharing.

Some of the great volunteers at Mart in February

Pennsylvania Speaking Tour 2007

Don will be speaking and preaching over twenty times from March 9th - March 20th in Eastern Pennsylvania through the good graces of Wayne Benjamin and Yokefellows Prison Ministry.

This is Don's 6th consecutive year of evangelism in Pennsylvania and promises to be his best yet. Speaking opportunities include County, State, and Federal jails and prisons, juvenile facilities, drug programs, aftercare facilities, alternative schools, churches, and youth rallies.

In addition to preaching, Don will conduct several Mentoring Workshops, Parenting Seminars, Writing Seminars, and Overcomer Sessions.

Cities he will visit include Allentown, Bethlehem, Lord's Valley, Reading, Frackville, Easton, Mowry, Lavelle, Pottstown, Wescosville, Macungie, Rehresburg, and Harleysville. In addition, Don will meet with correctional officials in Philadelphia, and New York City.

Don will travel over 1680 miles, and speaking over 40 times in 11 days.


This new 70 minute CD is from the radio program Parenting Today’s Youth. For only $5 plus shipping and handling ($2) we will rush a copy to you. Don explores:

  • Why Youth Lose Their Faith
  • Common Mistakes of Youth Pastors
  • Relationships vs. Star Power

Keeping Our Word

In 2006, Youth Direct has been in a Texas facility every month. The number of volunteers continues to grow. Nearly 900 have been trained since the ministry began in 2001. Although the budget is tight, we look to God and good friends to support this faith-based work. The ministry takes no government money so it is free to preach the gospel. No events have been cancelled because of those who help and support us. Please consider a tax deductible gift to Youth Direct so we can reach more troubled youth.


Don Smarto has accepted an appointment to the Advisory Board of the Institute for Prison Ministries at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois. "I am honored to be working with Dr. Karen Swanson (the IPM Director)" Don said. "This is an important program and Dr. Swanson is a true professional". Don was the founding director and served from 1984 - 1997.


A new and brilliant performer, magician Allen Dee has been in 5 juvenile facilities with Youth Direct in 2006. "Allen does more than magic" says Don Smarto, "he is a skilled communicator and very effectively combines the art of illusion with gospel commentary. He is one of the best I have seen". Allen is also a businessman in Plano and overcame a difficult relationship with his father when he was a youth. His strong personal faith is evident to all who know him. Youth Direct is pleased to be associated with Allen.


Youth Direct has just released two new CDs

New Spanish Comic

Our much praised full color comic, "Where are you headed?" is now available in Spanish.

Contact us to order


AFTERCARE is a 70 minute companion to Don's popular book Keeping Ex-Offenders Free.


Is a 70 minute CD that give practical advice about raising difficult children.

Each CD is $10 and benefits the work of Youth Direct

Don Writes Florida Mentoring Manual

Don, after meeting with members of the Florida Governor's staff was chosen to be the author of the Florida Juvenile Justice Mentoring Manual in August 2005.

Completed this Fall, the comprehensive manual will be used statewide to train mentors. The manual is 178 pages and contains practical applications.

Don said "it is a priviledge to be a consultant to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and to use my background in mentoring to write this manual".

Moody Radio Broadcast

Don Smarto joined Prison Fellowship's President, Mark Earley in a lively debate over the recent Supreme Court decision to eliminate the death penalty option for minors.

Don said, "the decision moves the age of execution from 16 to 18 years of age." This change prevents the states from executing those who committed crimes when teenagers.

"We may have a difference of opinion about the Supreme Court, but we solidly agree on the need for faith-based programs in prisons," Smarto commented, "I really respect Mark's leadership."

The United States was one of the countries in the World to eliminate juvenile executions. The remaining countries are China and the Republic of the Congo.

Youth Direct
closely partners with Operating Starting Line collaborator, Prison Fellowship.

click here to listen

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