Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ministry Messenger

The following is an article posted in The December 2010 Ministry Messenger, a newsletter for the Classis Central Plains Churches from the Classis Pella Diaconal and Home Mission Committees.

 
New Prison Ministry 
to be Launched
God is opening the way for New Life Prison Church


A new prison ministry will be launched early next year
led by Rick Admiraal, a recent seminary graduate.  Rick and his family plan to move to Pella between Christmas and New Year’s from his home in Zeeland, Michigan, having accepted a call from Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Pella to be the planting pastor for New Life Prison Church. 


Rick, Rose, John (age 15), and Annaliese (age 9) Admiraal

“We plan to
begin this ministry
with Bible studies and
prayer groups with
the goal of creating
a new church,” said
Rick. 







“This is about establishing a new congregation of believers behind the walls.” The career path to becoming a pastor at a prison church has been a winding one for Rick. He initially was a math teacher, and then worked at a land survey firm as a CAD draftsman. While he was working, he volunteered his time in a prison ministry, and it was while doing that work that he discovered his true vocation.

In 2006, he began his studies at Calvin Theological
Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After he graduated
this past spring, he prayed for God’s direction. “I was open to
God’s call,” Rick said. “I found a couple of smaller churches
that were outreach-minded that interested me. But deep
down, I knew that prison ministry is where I fit the best. It
is my passion, and it fits my personality.”
Rick comes to his new calling with experience. He
and his wife, Rose, who is gifted at music, both have
been volunteering at a Michigan prison. In addition, Rick
completed a 10-week internship in the summer of 2009 with
the Cornerstone Prison Church at the South Dakota State
Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. 

“A prison ministry is about reaching out to people who
are typically forgotten,” said Rick. These are the types of
people whom Jesus reached out to when he was on earth,
and I want to reach out to them too.” 

Rick and Rose, and their two children, John, who is 15
years old, and Annaliese, who is 9 years old. The children
plan to enroll in the Pella Christian schools.
Rick will have office space in his calling church, Calvary
Christian Reformed in Pella. Initially, he will be working to
identify church leaders, people within the prison who have
good leadership skills. 

“We will have to build a church, not
with bricks and mortar, but with people, Rick said. 

Initially, he hopes to start with a Tuesday afternoon prayer group and a Thursday evening Bible study. Lord willing, the church will begin weekly worship services within a year.
In the meantime, Rick will be looking for people willing
to be trained as volunteers to help with his new ministry.
This work will involve spreading good will, fellowship, and
meeting in small-group Bible studies or prayer groups. 


Good listening skills are especially important for
volunteers to have, he said. Anyone willing to volunteer
can contact Rick.
Financial support also
will continue to be important.

The ministry has been supported by the Classis Central Plains, by Home Missions, by the Vermeer Charitable Foundation, and by individual churches. “These groups have been so generous, and I am very thankful to have their support. I am also grateful for the support I’ve received from Pastor Art Van Wolde and the others at Calvary CRC,” Rick said. In addition to volunteers and financial support, Rick is asking for prayer. “Many new ministries fail, so I want to be sure to get this one off on the right foot. There will be plenty of obstacles. It will be critical for me to build trust with the prisoners and the prison staff. I ask for continued support through your prayers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Meet Glenda

My name is Glenda Vander Leest and I am a member of the New Life Prison Church launch team.  I would like to introduce myself by giving you a little bit of my history.  I grew up on a farm near Pella, Iowa, attended the First Christian Reformed Church of Pella and graduated from Pella Christian Grade and High Schools.  When I married, I moved to Sully, Iowa, where my husband, Dwight, owned a business.  Dwight and I have been members of the Sully Christian Reformed Church all of our married lives, during which we brought four children into our family and church home.  


Today, our grown children, who graduated from Sully Christian Elementary School and Pella Christian High School before going on to college, have blessed us with twelve grandchildren.



I have always enjoyed being active in the Sully church, and am currently the church secretary, in addition to working part time at Vermeer Corporation in Pella, where my husband is also employed.




Christian Reformed Home Missions 

 
For several years, I have been a member of the Evangelism Committee in Sully, and a year ago I was selected to be a member of the Classical Home Missions Committee of Central Plains, which is how I became acquainted with Rick Admiraal.





I am very eager to begin the launch of a new prison church. Rick exudes enthusiasm that is very contagious and it is exciting to see what God is already accomplishing through Rick's work.   How the Lord's plan will unfold through this ministry in the coming year is unknown to us, but what a thrill it is to be part of this adventure!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Little Help From My Friends

This past week marked the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death.  In honor of Lennon & the Beatles, I've attached a link to one of their greatest hits -

The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison & Ringo Starr

The Beatles were right.  We could all use a little help from our friends.















The New Life Prison Church has received help from its friends.  Here are two good examples.


Marv Visser of Holland Special Delivery has offered to move all our stuff from Zeeland, Michigan to Pella, Iowa.  We're packing up the Semi-trailer on December 28.  Then Marv is driving the truck out to Iowa on December 29.  He's only charging us for gas and mileage.  That will save the new ministry lots of $$.





Vermeer Charitable Foundation said yes to my grant proposal.  Vermeer has given a lot of money to various charities, demonstrating a generous spirit.  Vermeer already sent us the check to be used by the new prison congregation.  The money will be used for Bibles, Bible study materials and website development.

Vermeer Charitable Foundation  


The key verse cited on the Vermeer Charitable Foundation web site is II Corinthians 8:7 ~ "But since you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you - see that you also excel in 
this grace of giving."

I know that New Life Prison Church will make good use of these gracious gifts.  Praise God for the generosity of my friends.  And praise God for the Christian Community, which is united by our faith in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Capital L for Life


In Christ, we have Life with a Capital L.  A giant L describes the Life with God.  It is New Life, Eternal Life, a Life of Fullness in Christ.  And for my Spanish readers (if I have any), it is Vida with a Capital V - Nueva Vida en Christo!

This week Sunday morning, our pastor read the following passage from the Gospel of John: 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1:1-5)

The Life in Christ shines like a spotlight into the darkness.

Sunday evening, I preached at Lamont Christian Reformed Church.  Lamont is a small town near the Grand River near Allendale, Michigan.  The sermon text was II Corinthians 5:14-21.  

II Corinthians 5:14-21 

Hear this key verse from that passage of Scripture. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!  (II Corinth. 5:17)

God initiated the action.   God is at work, making us new in Christ.  Praise God!

Pray that God will bring Newness and Life with a Capital L to the inside members of New Life Prison Church.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Encouragement from East Palmyra

East Palmyra Christian Reformed Church.  At this church, I professed my faith in Jesus Christ.  My parents are members of EPCRC and my friend Nick is their pastor.


Recently I received some encouragement from East Palmyra, New York.  My mom sent me a clipping from the East Palmyra Christian Reformed Church bulletin.  

Listed under the heading Our Praises and Prayers were printed these powerful words:  

Rejoice with Rick Admiraal as Calvary Christian Reformed Church of Pella, IA has called him as the new prison pastor.  Pray that Rick will be a faithful minister of the gospel among the prisoners and that God's kingdom will grow as many respond to God's call with repentance and faith.  

After a little bit of research, I found that Rev. Nick Monsma wrote the announcement.  Nick & I used to be carpool buddies at Calvin Seminary.  He & I both lived in the Holland/Zeeland area and commuted to the seminary in Grand Rapids together.  I give thanks to God for Nick's kind words.

I turned over the clipping from the bulletin and found this Word from the New Testament:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  
Philippians 4:13

Needless to say, I was greatly encouraged by both the announcement and the Bible verse.  Praise God!

Tulip Time Towns

Windmill on the Pella Town Square
While reciting the places I've been (see post below), I came to the realization that I'm connected with no fewer than Three Tulip Time Towns.














Currently, we live in Zeeland, Michigan.  Zeeland is right next door to Holland, which hosts its annual Tulip Time Festival from May 7 to 14, 2011. 


De Zwaan Mill on Windmill Island in Holland, MI

The windmill above is called De Zwaan.  It's located on Windmill Island.  My running buddies and I used to run over that old bridge and past the windmill.  I think it's about a mile from downtown Holland.

Orange City Windmill (Vogel?)


Way back in 1966, I was born in Orange City, Iowa.  I don't remember much about that town since my parents moved back to New York in 1970.  However, I did preach at Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Orange City on August 9, 2009.  It was meaningful to me because this was the church where I was baptized as an infant.  Orange City hosts its annual tulip festival on May 19-21, 2011.




The Vermeer Mill in Pella

Of course, now we're heading to Pella, Iowa.  Pella hosts its annual tulip festival on May 5-7, 2011. 
We've found a home to rent on Main, just north of the downtown square.  Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Pella will become the calling church.  My children will be attending Pella Christian Schools.  



It's about a 23 mile commute from Pella to the prison in Newton.  Pray that God will establish his church - The New Life Prison Church. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Places I've Been


You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!

Dr. Seuss
Oh, The Places You'll Go!

I'm off to Iowa with my family of four.  It's not just me.  My wife Rose & I have two children: John & Annaliese.




It won't be the first time I've lived in Iowa.  I was born in Orange City in Sioux County, Iowa to Peter & Lois Admiraal.  In fact, it says so on my birth certificate along with this D.O.B. ~ November 10, 1966.  



In 1970, my parents moved to Western New York (and took me along).  Our house was located out in the country near Marion, NY.  My brother Dave was also born in Iowa but my two sisters, Suzanne & Kristen, were born in New York.  We attended East Palmyra Christian Reformed Church.  I also was a student at East Palmyra Christian School through 8th grade.  Then it was on to Newark High School where I competed in track & cross-country for the Newark Reds. 


In 1984, I graduated from Newark High School.  That fall, I was off to Michigan where I attended Calvin College.  I ran track and cross-country for the Calvin Knights.  My parents and many of my aunts & uncles found their spouse at Calvin College.  That didn't happen with me.





My first real job was in New Mexico.  I taught math at Rehoboth Christian High School.  I also coached track and did a whole lot of running myself.  In 1989, a beautiful young teacher named Rose moved to Rehoboth to teach fourth grade.  It didn't take long before we were dating.  Not long after that, I gave Rose a diamond ring.   June 29, 1991 was our wedding day!



In 1993, we moved to Zeeland, Michigan.  We wanted to be closer to family, especially as we began thinking about having kids of our own.  Rose's parents live in Grand Haven, Michigan which is only a half-hour drive north from Zeeland.  God gave us two children.  John was born in 1995 and Annaliese in 2001.  I first worked as a math teacher at Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, Michigan.  Then I worked at two civil engineering companies in Holland, Michigan as a Computer-Aided-Designer (CAD).  At the same time, I volunteered in prison ministry and absolutely loved it.  The Spirit began to work on my heart.  A change was in order.  In the fall of 2006, I began studying for ministry at Calvin Seminary.  After four challenging years, I graduated from seminary this spring.


God has provided a calling.  At the end of December, we'll move to Pella, Iowa.  With God's help, the prison church will be planted in January of 2011.  The dream of New Life Prison Church is becoming a reality.   Praise God for this new opportunity in a New Place.  God has been with me as I've moved to different places in the continental United States.  And I have no doubt that God will continue to be with us in future days and years.  Jesus said, "Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."  (Matthew 28:20)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks

On this Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful to God for his goodness to us.  It reminds me of graduation from Calvin Seminary this past May.  My wife Rose & I were making decisions about the cake.  There were decisions to be made.  How big?  What type of frosting?  Pudding filling or cream?  Then finally, what should we write on the top?  It didn't seem enough to just spell out Happy Graduation! or Congratulations, Graduate!  Instead, this Word from the Psalms captured our gratitude to God and was spelled out in cursive on the cake.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever. 
(Psalm 107:1)


Today I could spell out a million and one things that I'm thankful for.  And maybe I'll still do that eventually.  But today I'll just share this song with you.  I couldn't get it out of my head when I rode my bike yesterday.








 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Green Light Go!

The new prison church in Newton, Iowa was given a huge Green Light this past week.  On Monday, November 8, Calvary Christian Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa had their annual congregational meeting.  At the meeting, Calvary voted in convincing fashion to call me as the new prison pastor.  

Praise God!  

After a few days of prayerful consideration, I penned the acceptance letter below. 


Dear Friends of Calvary CRC,

With great joy, I received the letter of call from Calvary this past week.

I graciously accept.

Your willing response to become my calling church is affirming; it confirms my internal call from the Holy Spirit.  Praise God for his goodness!  And I praise God for Calvary's willingness to play a key role as we reach out to those in prison.

Although planting the New Life Prison Church will present a challenge, the grace of Jesus Christ will sustain us.  It is also a great comfort to know that this community of faith is ready to walk alongside.  Please pray for my family in this time of transition.  Lord willing, we hope to arrive in Pella the week after Christmas.  Continue to pray that God will bless the new prison church.  May this dream become a reality by the power of His Spirit.  In eager anticipation, we wait to see what God will do next.

In Christ,

Rick Admiraal

Jesus said, "I have come that they may have Life, and have it to the full."  (John 10:10)


The President of the council at Calvary CRC, Mr. Roger Jansen read the acceptance letter at both morning services.  Rose & I had the privilege of watching this online.  She said it gave her goose bumps.
You can watch it too if you want.  Endure the 30 second commercial then fast forward to 2:07 of the video feed.



Thank you so much for praying for us (see previous prayer post below).  And please continue to pray for our family in this time of transition.

New Life Prison Church

New Life Prison Church is a church plant that will start up in January of 2011.  Presently it is a gospel seed buried in fertile ground but soon it will begin to grow.  

God will make it grow.

Sunlight will warm the soil thanks to our Creator.  The Water of Life will make the soil wet with grace.  The Spirit will breathe renewing breath of Life.  By the power of God, this church plant will grow in an unlikely place: a prison!

Why the name New Life Prison Church?  My hope is that the new church plant will be a community where we can celebrate new life in Jesus Christ.  It also will be green with growth.  Christ will transform the hearts of men so that they will grow in his grace.

Below are some key stopping points in the Word.

NEW: He who was seated on the throne said, I am making everything new!  Then he said, Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.  Revelation 21:5

LIFE: Jesus said, "I have come that they may have Life and have it to the full.  John 10:10

PRISON: Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.  Hebrews 13:3

CHURCH: The Son of God "is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."  Colossians 1:18

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pray Always

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 
(Luke 18:1)









Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  
(I Thes. 5:16-18)











Please pray as November 8 draws closer.  On Monday, the congregation of Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa gathers for their annual congregational meeting.  At this meeting, they will decide whether to call me as the new prison pastor for the New Life Prison Church.  Pray for discernment as they seek God's will.  Thank you for all your prayers.
 
Rick & Rose Admiraal & Family

By Faith ~ Imagine a New Prison Church

On Sunday, I preached at Faith Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.  Pastor Ryan Faber asked me to preach at the community-wide Reformation Day celebration.  This was an honor and I'm glad I said yes to his invitation.

Here is the sermon audio:  


Below are the final few paragraphs from the final part of the sermon entitled 


Faith in our Day - Right Here, Right Now:
 
           Instead of peace, violence seizes the day.  Society responds by putting violent offenders in prison.  Answering the question of crime, we incarcerate many.  In the United States, there are nearly 2.5 million individuals in prison or jail.  In the great state of Iowa, there are nearly 9,000 prisoners.  That number is far too high: Iowa prisons are overcrowded; they are 23% over capacity according to the Iowa D.O.C. web page.
            Prison focuses its efforts on punishing the violent offender.  But total rehabilitation is necessary so that the man of violence becomes safe.  Unless the inmate meets Christ in prison nothing will change.  Change must come from within.  For true transformation occurs only through faith in Christ.  In Christ, lives can be changed by the power of God through the Gospel of Peace.
            That's where the prison church comes into view.  In Christ, the prison church has the power to transform inmates.  The key values of the prison church, community and discipleship, promote peace in Christ.  Through its steady presence, the prison church aims to fortify the faith of inmates so that they can grow in their knowledge and love of the Lord.
            Despite obstacles & despite opposition, the church marches forward in faith.  To counter violence in our society, the church of Christ proclaims the Gospel of Peace.  In faith, we march forward trusting in a completely trustworthy God.  The effort of planting a new prison church requires faith because it tests our imagination.  The Spirit compels us to imagine a future that is unlike the present.  A future in which the dream of New Life Prison Church becomes a reality.  A future in which lives of inmates are shaped into the image of Christ.  And the Spirit strengthens our faith by providing us with hope.  In the power of the Spirit, we recognize that our future is held firmly by the faithful hands of our good God.  People of God:  As we move into the future with hope, empowered by the Spirit, we will live by Faith.
 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

By Faith at Faith


We are off to Pella, Iowa once again.  I was asked by Rev. Ryan Faber to preach at the Reformation Day Service to be held at Faith Christian Reformed Church in Pella.  The sermon is entitled Faith for the Long Haul.  Does it seem ironic to you that I'm preaching about faith at Faith?


This visit may bring back the memories.  I was last inside Faith CRC when my brother David married a Pella girl: Alicia Nugteren.  
I was one of the groomsmen along with Alicia's brothers.  Interestingly, our family will be staying with one of the brothers (Randy Nugteren) this weekend.  Randy and his wife Brenda have hosted us once before at their house West of town.  They are members of Calvary CRC, which is my potential calling congregation.  At the Admiraal-Nugteren wedding, I remember reading the Adam & Eve text from the tail end of Genesis 2. 


This time, the texts will be from the minor prophets and the Pauline epistles.  First we'll go to the prophet Habakkuk who wrote: "the righteous will live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4).  Next we'll reference the Apostle Paul who wrote: "the righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:17).  Then it's off to Martin Luther who proclaimed that a person is justified by faith alone (sola fide).  Finally we arrive in 21st century Pella where a community is living by faith by initiating an ambitious church plant in a non-traditional setting.  The Pella-area churches are supporting the New Life in the prison setting.  The Holy Spirit is moving in the churches.  What a leap of faith!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christ Changed Dan's Life - by Pastor Art

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a Prison 
Congregations in America conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  
The conference was wonderful but what was outstanding was to hear 
the story of a prisoner named Dan while worshipping in prison.  Dan 
had grown up in a Wiccan home and by an early age was in trouble 
with the law and subsequently made his way into prison.  While in 
prison Dan tried to escape and the reward for his escape attempt 
was to be put in the "hole," solitary confinement, for many years.  
While in solitary confinement a man by the name of Harlan would 
often come by Dan's cell to see if he wanted to talk.  Dan would 
cuss out Harlan and tell him where to go and how to get there. 
Harlan however kept going back to talk to Dan to be an 
encouragement to him and to try talking about Jesus Christ.  One 
day Dan decided to get Harlan off his back so he began to engage 
Harlan in conversation hoping to get rid of him.  Dan objected to 
Harlan's teachings about Jesus but Harlan, in love, would answer 
the objections and continue to love and treat Dan with respect.  
Soon Harlan had Dan's respect and the conversations about Christ 
continued.  Eventually Dan gave his life to Jesus Christ and today 
is a leader in the prison congregation.  What I saw before me was
man transformed by the grace of God - a living miracle! I thank God 
for prison congregations that reach out to help the despised of 
society.  I thank God for men like Harlan who have the patience of 
Job and deep love for Jesus Christ.  It is because of men like 
Harlan and prison congregations that Dan and many others now know 
Jesus Christ's love and grace.  All I could say as I left prison 
that night was, "To God be the glory!"

by Pastor Art Van Wolde of Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa

Friend of the Prisoner

                                                                    

Dr. John Robson (Left) is a friend of the prisoner.  He is the professor of Christian Ministry at the Angola Extension of the New Orleans Baptist Seminary.  In other words, he teaches the Bible to inmates so that they can do God's good work of ministry behind bars.  

Dr. John did me a huge favor because he helped put words on my experience in Louisiana.  Even though I've been behind the walls in Michigan, South Dakota and Iowa, the experience at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola was quite unique.  In fact, it was like entering a foreign country.  The prison itself is massive - 5000+ prisoners are housed on a "campus" the size of Manhattan.  On the grounds, you can see fields where produce is grown and pasture-land where cattle are grazing.  The prison has unique features, such as its own prison rodeo and craft show.  Inmates also produce a news magazine called the Angolite.  The prison even has two guest houses because so many visitors come from great distances to witness what is happening at Angola.

The place overwhelmed me because it didn't fit neatly within my categories.  To quote Prof. Nydam:  the experience "blew my socks off."  But when Dr. John spoke to our group from Calvin Theological Seminary, he put words to my experience.  He spoke to us about his work at the Bible College in the main prison camp.  His words struck a chord.  With a borrowed pen, I started taking notes on a brown paper towel!  

Here is what Dr. John told us:  Why am I here at Angola?  Well, there are not too many places where you can find God.  I wanted to find God.  And I was delighted to find God here at Angola.  I wanted to be in the presence of God.  What does God want to do with all this?  If men behind bars can change then the world can change. I believe that the Next Great Awakening will come out of prison.   God invites you to join in his work.  When you find him at work, you jump on board the train.  But we must remember this: it's God who is driving the train.

Dr. John is working in cooperation with Warden Cain who supports the work of the Bible College.  Warden Cain speaks of moral rehabilitation of criminals.  In agreement with Dr. Robson, Warden Cain also believes that revival for America will arise out of prison.

Dr. John often wags his finger at his students and says: "Get over yourself."  It's not about us, it's about what HE is doing.  HE owns our ministry.  We're not to take the credit because it is God who deserves all the credit.  So let's get off the tracks, and hop aboard a box car on God's train.  God's train is coming and it has a whole lot of momentum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Three Hurdles


Lolo Jones is an Olympic hurdler who grew up in Des Moines, Iowa.  She comes back to Iowa almost every year to compete in the Drake Relays in front of her hometown fans.  Lolo specializes in the 100m hurdles and has to clear 10 hurdles at a full sprint before she reaches the finish line - in an incredible 12.43 seconds.  So what does this have to do with the new prison church in Newton, Iowa?  Not much.  But it can be used as a segue of sorts.  Transition coming....


The new prison church faces three major hurdles.
Two of the hurdles have been cleared already.
First hurdle: Home Missions approval.  Check.
Second hurdle: Central Plains Classis approval.  Check in flying colors.  The delegates passed the prison church proposal unanimously.
Only one hurdle remains:  On November 8, Calvary Christian Reformed Church hosts its annual congregational meeting.  At this meeting, members of Calvary will decide whether to extend a call for me to be the new prison pastor of the New Life Prison Church.  If they do, Calvary will be my home base outside of the prison even though the new ministry will be supported by other churches too.  Please pray that this third and final hurdle will be cleared cleanly.  May God be praised.

Thanksgiving in Prison

This sign at the Angola Prison made me stop and think.  I asked Prof. Ron Nydam to take this picture - it seemed significant.  The sign is posted above the metal gate to the educational wing of the Main Prison Camp in the Angola State Prison.  Behind me in the photo are classrooms, offices and the theological library of the Bible college within the prison.  The sign refers to Psalm 100: Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him, bless his name. (Ps. 100:4)  The original intent of the writer of this Psalm was the entry through the gates of the Temple.  Into God's House of Prayer.  But it seems to fit in this context too.  These are His gates into His classroom where His children study His Word. 
     I wondered how inmates could carry thanksgiving while they were incarcerated.  It reminded me of my oral comprehensive exams at Calvin Theological Seminary.  I was completely stressed out and carried a tremendous amount of anxiety prior to the exam.  When I talked about this with some friends at church, one of them asked me: "How is that working out for you?"  I replied: "Not very good."  That conversation drove me to God's Word, where I read: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." (Phil. 4:4)  I thought to myself ~ Can I carry JOY in all circumstances? And amazingly, it was possible - God's Spirit enabled me to carry Joy and Peace into the stressful experience of oral exams.
   Meanwhile back at the prison, I believe thanksgiving is a real possibility for inmates who pass through those metal gates.  They can give thanks to God in spite of their situation.  They can also give thanks to God in their incarceration by making good use of their time in the Bible College.  In this way, they can learn God's Word and prepare to serve other inmates, giving them purpose in the present.  Finally, they can give thanks to God for their imprisonment because it is an instrument to promote change.  Numerous inmates I've met have also been able to thank God since the great interruption of prison stopped them in their tracks.  When God pulled them off the streets, it saved their life.  Literally.

Angola Prison Visitors


This is the Group from Calvin Seminary that visited Angola Prison from 10/12 to 10/15
Back Row (L to R) - Stephen Jackson, Andy Hanson, 
Prof. Ron Nydam, Prof. John Rottman, Jessica Driesenga. 
Middle Row (L to R) - David Brander, John Eigege, Rich Visser.  
Front Row - Me (Rick Admiraal)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Prison Poem

Our group from Calvin Seminary returned from Louisiana on Friday night.  We spent the week at Angola State Penitentiary ("The Farm") near Baton Rouge, LA.  We had an incredible trip to say the least.  Angola is a maximum security facility on a large plot of land, housing over 5000 inmates.  One sad fact that we learned was that 85% of the population of Angola St. Pen. will die in prison.  Certainly, a unique feature of Angola is their prison news magazine - called The Angolite.  One of the inmates we encountered was a writer for the magazine and he supplied us with four separate copies of The Angolite.  The following poem is from the January/February 2010 issue of The Angolite.



I AM A PRISON

I am a prison - I am damp and I am cold
I hold people who are young and old
I am surrounded by fences and gates that have locks
And my walls are all made of concrete blocks

I am a prison - I am feared by all
I'll give you a chill when you hear me call
Your name becomes a number - your face becomes just another
I'll show you no pity - I'm not your mother

I am a prison - designed to be rough
I am where society houses its tough
Nobody has beat me - though many have tried
But mostly they all still remain inside
I have no answers so don't ask me why
I put those tears in your children's eyes

I am a prison - where nobody wants to be
I confine people who were once free
I control their pace - I slow down their pride
Like animals that you might put in a cage
I contain these people and watch them age

I am prison - I am full of despair
I can be a person's worst nightmare
I've been here many years and will be many more
You'll recognize me by my slamming doors

I am a prison - a place you don't want to live
I've so much to take but nothing to give
But there is one who does - and he hears all of your pleas
So pray to the Lord Jesus for only he has the keys

by Dale Lechuga #519366

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Louisiana Prison Trip

Another trip is coming up fast.  Next week (Oct. 12-15),  I'll be traveling to Louisiana to visit "The Farm."  I was invited to join a group from Calvin Seminary led by Prof. Ron Nydam and Prof. John Rottman.  The Farm is one of these notorious prisons in America.  A lot of interesting things happen at the Farm, including an annual rodeo in which community members are invited to attend.  They also host a giant craft sale, in which arts & crafts produced by the inmates are on sale to the general public.  The Farm is HUGE - it is 17 miles around the entire perimeter and one side borders on the Mighty Mississippi River (I had to look up that spelling!).  The prison has this official name: The Angola State Penitentiary.  However, it's also called the Farm because they grow all their own produce and raise all their own meat for the prison population on the premises.  Obviously, everyone has a job to do if they can manage to stay out of trouble & solitary confinement.  Part of the reason for the trip south is the fact that the New Orleans Baptist Seminary hosts a seminary on the prison grounds.  Inmates graduating from this program may become missionaries to other prisons or work at the hospice on site.  Prof. Nydam will teach a seminar on pastoral care and Prof. Rottman will teach a short course on the 4 page method of Biblical preaching.  In addition, we'll sit in on the existing classes at the prison seminary and tour the grounds of the prison.  Also on the schedule is a lunch with Warden Burl Cain.  He's a larger than life figure with deep spiritual convictions.  Rose & I met him when he gave a talk at the Calvin College January Series in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  See the link below:

 

Warden Cain at Calvin's January Series


Wouldn't it be great if Calvin Theological Seminary became more involved at Celebration Fellowship prison congregation in the Ionia (Michigan) correctional facility?  We'll see what doors God opens in the future. 

 

Joy at Classis Central Plains by Pastor Jeff Sajdak


            I have the privilege of being the Chair of the Classis Central Plains Home Missions Committee, and had the honor of serving as the Chair of the September 2010 meeting of Classis where the proposal to pursue a new prison congregation was presented.  It was a joy to watch people recognize God’s hand at work and respond with joyful enthusiasm.
            Nearly two years ago, I contacted Mary Mortenson of Prison Congregations of America, and we enquired with prison staff about a church plant, but the prison wasn’t open to us.  Still, we knew that there was a tremendous opportunity for a church plant, if God would open the doors.
In the last few months, God has been opening doors, and His people have been ready to step through.  As Home Missions Chair, I had the privilege of being at the meeting with the staff of the prison to inquire about doing a church plant, and was overwhelmed when the staff asked us when we could start.  Seeing a solid calling church step up to the plate, having Christian Reformed Home Missions commit to support, and meeting Rick (and now Rose) Admiraal, it was clear to me that God was bringing all the pieces together.  And at the meeting of Classis, the delegates could see Rick’s passion and how God had opened the doors.  With joy, Classis voted unanimously to begin the ministry and provide support for it.
God has brought all the pieces together.  It will be a joy to see the mighty works He has in store for New Life Prison ChurchPraise be to His holy name!

By Pastor Jeff Sajdak - First Christian Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blessed by a Prisoner - by Becky Bandstra

Becky Bandstra is a member of Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.  I asked Becky & her husband Bryan to attend the Come & See Event in Sioux Falls, SD.  I'm so glad they said "Yes!"  On Thursday night, she attended worship services at the St. Dysmas prison church.  St. Dysmas is the name the early church gave to the thief on the cross who was welcomed to Paradise by Christ.  St. Dysmas is a Lutheran church that meets every Thursday night and ends each service with the Lord's Supper.



Becky's words ~ I've had an interest in prison ministry since the first time I read about Prison Fellowship's work in prisons across the nation.  So, when my husband and I were invited to attend the Come & See Event, I was intrigued and interested to learn more about what was involved in planting a church inside a prison.  During these two days I was inspired by the prison church pastors and their wives and the love they pour out to the inmates.  I was amazed and blessed by the testimonies of the inmates on the prison council who take their leadership roles as elders very seriously and who talk about how being part of a church congregation is like finding a new family, making them feel like a human being again, someone with worth and value.  But what made the most impression on me was when I went up to receive communion and was served the wine by one of the inmate elders, a young man serving a life sentence.  I looked up into his face, and with his eyes shining and a smile on his face he said, "This is Christ's blood given for you." I couldn't help but think, "this is someone whom the world would look upon as 'the least of these' and someone with no future outside of prison to look forward to.  Yet, he has just blessed _me_ while fulfilling his leadership role in his church."  I was humbled and so thankful to see how God can use everyone to be vessels of his love, including inmates.  And it all started because of one prison congregation, who called a pastor to plant a church in this prison, who introduced this young man to Christ and loved and discipled him.

Prison Congregations

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rose's Thoughts

I asked my wife Rose to write out some of her thoughts too.  I feel great about her commitment to this project.  Many of the existing prison congregations function as a husband-wife team.  For example, Steve & Diane Moerman work together at the Cornerstone Prison Church in South Dakota.  It's our desire to work together too.

Rose's Thoughts ~ In case any one wonders, I (Rose) am 100% behind Rick and feel that we are both called to this ministry.  God has been so faithful to us and guided us through a decade of searching and praying for this ministry opportunity.  I am overwhelmed with the support and faithfulness God has shown to me and my family.  Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we try to sell our home, pack, and move to Pella, Iowa by the end of December.  GOD is FAITHFUL ALL the TIME!

Rose with our daughter Annaliese at Sioux Falls last summer

Saturday, October 2, 2010

South Dakota Trip

   We just returned from an incredible trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Rose & I are still feeling like zombies because we woke up at 4:00 a.m. to catch a 6:00 a.m. flight back to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The occasion was the annual Come & See Event hosted by Prison Congregations of America.  The event gave us many pointers on planting a prison congregation.  Presenters including 3 prison pastors and their spouses who minister in the prisons in Sioux Falls.  One of the prison pastors was Rev. Steve Moerman who was my mentor during a ten week internship last summer.  Other presenters included a re-entry specialist, three former inmates, and two prison officials.  Overall, the conference was incredible.  The highlight was a visit to prison where we worshiped with the Baptist Congregation - Lighthouse Prison Fellowship - on Thursday evening.  One of the inmates worshiping God at that prison church was a former Wiccan who had converted to Christianity after a persistent evangelist brought him to Christ gradually over time.  On Friday night, Rose and I returned to prison to worship at Cornerstone - the local Christian Reformed prison congregation.  It was incredible to say the least.  We knew many of the inmates as well as the volunteers from our internship last summer on "The Hill." The pic below is The Hill in Sioux Falls - the South Dakota State Penitentiary (SDSP) is a large, brick prison building on top of The Hill - it used to be a military outpost back in the 1800's but now it contains a beautiful chapel with stained glass windows inside.
SDSP on The Hill (pic taken from Falls Park)

   God is calling us to start a prison church too.  It will be called New Life Prison Church in Newton, Iowa.  Lord willing, the ministry will begin in January of 2011 with Bible study groups and prayer.  Hopefully we will build momentum over time and become a worshiping community.  We've felt the support of churches in Pella (Iowa) and the surrounding area.  There were SIX (!) individuals from Pella at the Come & See event in Sioux Falls: Pastor Jeff from 1st Christian Reformed Church (CRC), Pastor Art From Calvary CRC, and four members of Art's church - Bryan & Becky, Howard, and Nuper.  God had a good reason for bringing each of them to Sioux Falls.  Before they returned to Iowa, we circled up and prayed together.  It was an experience of Oneness in the Spirit.  I believe God is going to use this conference as a springboard to make a Big Splash in the prison.  I believe God will change hearts and lives as this prison church begins to grow.  Please pray.