Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tough Call

Last Thursday, I made the tough call of canceling the Thursday evening Bible study at the prison.  It's called New Life in the Word.  By the power of God, we have a good thing going.  In week #1, 15 guys showed up.  In week #2, the numbers doubled to 30 and our classroom was quite full.  In week #3, I canceled due to weather.  I wrestled with this decision because we had a lot of good momentum. Here are a few things that factored into the decision.  First off, there was a winter storm warning.  Secondly, Pella Christian HS postponed their winter music concert from Thursday to Friday.  Thirdly, the principal and Bible teacher were in a serious car accident the day before.  Fortunately, God protected them and their lives were spared.  But that crash was still fresh in my memory.  And the crash happened on the same road (T-14 ) North of Pella that we (volunteers) take to go to Newton.  Here is a link to the article about that crash >>Accident North of Pella

Overall, I feel good about the decision.  We hope to minister at Newton Prison for months and years and decades.  This was one day.  As the leader of this new ministry, I must be prepared to make tough decisions for the safety of our volunteers.  May God continue to bless New Life Prison Church for the long haul.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One more photo

Here's one more slide from ordination.  

Great stuff!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Starting at the Prison

Last week was GO time at the Newton Prison.  After basking in the glow of ordination for one full day, I was ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work.  So Tuesday morning, I drove from Pella to the south side of Newton.  After checking through security, I went with the prison chaplain to the prison chapel.  For over two hours, I met with the men during open chapel hours.  

I found out about the wonderful greeting card ministry and got to know some of the guys.  I also extended numerous invitations to attend Bible study and prayer group.

On Tuesday afternoon, the first volunteers arrived for New Life of Prayer group.  My wife Rose was one of four volunteers to join me. Pastor Art, Ken, and Steve were there too.  At first, there were only a few men in attendance but by the end of the group meeting there were nine men joining us in prayer.  We studied the gospel of Luke, discussed our prayer life, prayed, and sang a few songs.  Fellowship was a big part of that first meeting.  God gave us a good start.

Thursday morning I was back at the prison talking with the chaplain, the chaplain's assistant, and many of the incarcerated men.  There were multiple opportunities to pray and talk about God's Word.

Thursday evening was the time for New Life in the Word at the Newton Prison.  Once again, Rose was in attendance with these volunteers: Pastor Sheldon, Dwight, Glenda, Marv, and Fran.  Great group of volunteers to get us started.  They were good listeners - prayerful people of God.  We began with the end, talking about how Christ makes all things NEW (Revelation 21).  It was incredible!  Sixteen men signed the attendance sheet.  But it was much more than numbers.  We were impacting individuals in the name of Jesus Christ.  The men were truly glad that we were there and cared about them.  They displayed a deep thirst for the Word and made numerous life applications.  Overall, the initial impact was great.  Credit the Spirit of God for that.

Watch Ordination

Find the Ordination Celebration 
   on Calvary's webpage.  

Click this link to view: Calvary Videos

Ordination was in the evening ~ 6:00pm, 2-6-2011 Worship

Also view the 2-6-2011 morning worship service to hear 
Prof. Mariano Avila's sermon 
   based on Ephesians 2:1-10 ~ You are God's Poem.

Ordination Pictures

Ordination Sunday was February 6th at Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.  It was a great day.  We called it - The Ordination Celebration.  Below are a few pictures from the big day.

Pastor Art Van Wolde welcomed us to worship

Greetings from our sister prison church in Michigan

Greetings from our sister prison church in South Dakota
Uncle Henry - God's Word is not chained!

I couldn't sing this song because the words were so meaningful.

John did a great job on the drums.

Rose sang with all her heart & gave a powerful testimony.

Prof. Mariano Avila read the forms for ordination.

Many came forward to lay hands on us.
Prof. Jeff Sajdak of 1st Pella CRC: Do you promise to pray for him?

More meaningful lyrics

Go in Peace
I will proclaim the cross of Christ inside & outside prison.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ten Good Reasons

Sunday is my Ordination Celebration at Calvary CRC in Pella.  
(6 pm on the 6th for those of you in the neighborhood)  
It's going to be great.  I'll give you ten good reasons why:

#10 The Songs: Revelation Song, Hear the Call of the Kingdom, I am Free, etc.  The music will inspire.

#9 The Message: The Unchained Gospel

#8 The Word: "But God's Word is not chained." (2 Timothy 2:9)

#7 The Preacher: My Uncle Henry

#6 My Family on the Praise Team: Rose will sing and John will play the drums.

#5 My Family from Afar: My parents made the trek from NY, Rose's parents are up from FL and my brother Dave & family traveled here from Lincoln, NE.

#4 Friends from Prison Churches: Fellow servants from Church of the Damascus Road (Iowa), Cornerstone (SD) and Celebration Fellowship (MI) will be present.

#3 The Birth of a Church: In the power of God, New Life Prison Church will start Bible studies and prayer groups next week.  May the inmates be lifted up by the good news of Jesus Christ.

#2 A New Minister:  After the ordination celebration, I'll become a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Christian Reformed Church.  Pastor Rick - the new prison pastor!

#1 The Blessing: With arms raised high, I'll bless God's people before they depart to serve Him.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I'm Reading

There are three books on my office desk that I'm reading.  The first one is Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor.    I'm thinking ahead to Sunday's Ordination Celebration wondering what it really means to become a Minister of the Word.  Peterson remarks that the contemplative pastor is called to be subversive, undermining the kingdom of self and establishing the Kingdom of God.

Peterson's Pastor is a Prophet

I'm also a big fan of Henri Nouwen.  On my office desk at Calvary's Youth Building is Nouwen's Bread for the Journey.  Nouwen reminded me today of the joy of being present with another in compassion.  Nouwen reflects that there is "a solidarity in weakness, in brokenness, in woundedness, but it leads us to the center of joy, which is sharing our humanity with others.
Nouwen knows what it means to be a Christ-follower

Finally, I'm reading a little book by Lennie Spitale.  Lennie is a former inmate who is now a prison chaplain and author (imagine that!).  He wrote Help! My Loved One is in Jail.  What do I do now?  You won't be able to find this book on but you can find it on the webpage for Wheaton College's Institute for Prison Ministries.  I'm reading through Spitale's 63 page booklet with my prison church launch team so that we can imagine what it would be like to be a prisoner or a family member of someone in prison.  In this way, we can strive to be an empathic presence for the people we serve.

Here I am in my office, holding Spitale's little booklet