SAN ANTONIO — Three local veterans have made it their mission to help inmates by sharing a message of acceptance through their faith. 

Manuelita Lopez and her husband, Alfonso Lopez Jr., are Marine Corps veterans, who formed Shepherdsown Ministry, a non profit Christian organization that’s focused on helping prisoners. Their friend, retired Navy captain Tony Botello, joins them to minister to inmates. 

“I was a career counselor for the Navy. I was used to advising people in the career. I always felt that that was what I was called to do but as soon as I walked in that prison? It was like everything got brighter and God said, 'this is what I called you to do,'” Botello said.

The group held their first revival event at the Torres Unit in Hondo in March. Lopez is a volunteer chaplain assistant at that unit. More than 200 inmates sang and prayed together at the event. 

“I was the person that stole. I was the person that lied. So, when I go in there, I see myself,” said Lopez in tears. “You don't know their circumstances.“

Botello shared how her support has made a meaningful impact in the inmates' lives.

“I've talked to them and when Lita is not around, those men? I'll tell you, I've worn the nation's uniform for 21 years and those men would defend her, before they would defend the flag. That’s how much they love her,” said Botello. 

The group hopes that through their ministry, lives will change and ultimately, the community will too.

“It eventually catches on. It will affect your city. It’s going to affect the state. It’s going to affect the nation. Don’t just forget about them. They’re going to come out,” Lopez said.

“Why not set them up for success and let God decide? It's not our place. Our place is to do our best. If you do have it, share it,” said Lopez Jr. 

Shepherdsown Ministry is having another revival at the John B. Connolly unit in Kennedy Texas on August 31st. The veterans pay out of pocket for the expenses. If you would like to help, donations can be made to Shepherdsown Ministry PO Box 761882 San Antonio, Texas 78245.

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