Wednesday, December 12, 2012

8 Questions for Rev. Mark Porter

God Sets the Prisoner FreeSpotlight on Rev. Mark Porter

Rev. Mark Porter came to the New Life Worship service on October 18th.  Mark is the pastor of the Friends Church in Lynnville, Iowa.  On that Thursday night worship service, Lynnville Friends was well-represented as 21 visitors provided music and fellowship.

1. Tell us about yourself & your family.
            I am married to wife Lindsey.  We have two boys, Julian age 7 and Waylen 8 months. We live in Lynnville, Iowa. We enjoy fishing, playing games, rodeos and God.
Rev. Mark & Lindsey Porter of Lynnville, Iowa

2. How have things changed dramatically for you in the last few years?
            After being released from prison on March 30, 2010, I have experienced blessing after blessing as I have followed hard after the Lord  (Psalm 63:8 KJV). I have graduated from Crown College with a B.S. in Christian Ministries; I have been licensed as a Pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance Denomination, working toward ordination; We've had Waylen; I became Pastor of Lynnville Friends Church in October 2012.

3. Why do you feel inspired to help men in prison?
            I feel called to give back where I was so touched while I served in prison. I believe the Lord blesses us to be a blessing, and coming to visit and spur on the men in prison is something the Lord laid on my heart even before I left prison. Hebrews 13:3 in the NKJV says “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them”, and this is something I take to heart.

4. What was it like for you to share your testimony & preach at our October worship service?
            It was a highlight of mine to come back and share with the saints at the Newton Prison. I felt the Lord’s presence there and many, many emotions flooded my heart and soul as I stepped foot back behind the walls.

5. Describe how it felt for you to return to prison in a totally different capacity.
            It's funny because as the men came into the gym, I really still saw myself as one of them. I think I will always have a special bond there with the men. I hoped to give them a message of hope, trying to show them that the promises of God are true. That when the Word says “He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him”, we need only say yes and amen.

6. The Lynnville Friends praise team did a great job.  Talk about their ministry of music...
            The praise team was deeply touched by coming to New Life worship and continue to speak of the time when we were able to worship our Lord there. They love meeting with the guys, and love seeing the passion in which the men joined them in worship.

7. What positives do you see at New Life Prison Community?
            I really felt the love of Christ coming from Rick and Rose, and all the volunteers with New Life Prison community. The men had many and only good things to say about the ministry. I love that life is being brought and taught at the Newton Prison, and the life being shared is eternal life in Jesus Christ.

8. From your perspective, why is it so crucial for New Life and other ministries to reach out to men in prison?
            It is crucial to continue to reach the men behind the walls because the Lord is very active and alive there. The Spirit of God cannot be contained, and He is hard at work at the Newton Prison and the other prisons in Iowa and all over the United States. The harvest is indeed plentiful, and the workers must continue to reap for the Lord.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Beautiful Things!

Rose & the New Life praise team dedicated this song to the four men who were baptized at the Thanksgiving worship service.  Pray for Angelo, Shean, Bob and Robert!

Beautiful Things  (Michael & Lisa Gungor)

"All this pain.  I wonder if I'll ever find my way; I wonder if my life could really change at all.  All this earth.  Could all that is lost ever be found;  could a garden come up from this ground at all?  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust.  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us."

"All around hope is springing up from this old ground.  Out of chaos, life is being found in You.  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust.  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us."

"You make me new, You are making me new.  You make me new, You are making me new.  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust.  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us."  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lighthouse of Hope for the Prisoner

John B. made this drawing of a lighthouse on the back of his prayer request.  Here is what he wrote on the back - "A prayer of thanks and blessings to all the volunteers who choose to follow the Lord's direction in their lives by sharing the Light of Jesus with us in this dark place.

"The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." 
(John 1:5)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

10,000 Reasons!

This is an incredible worship song.  Can you think of 10,000 reasons for your heart to sing?  I can think of at least one - Jesus Christ's impact on my life!

Friday, November 9, 2012

November is Huge!

November is HUGE for New Life Prison Community.  I could point out a dozen things but today I'll merely focus on one thing: Baptism!  On November 15, Lord willing, four men will be baptized during our New Life worship service in the prison gym.  Please pray for these men.  Pray that they will experience renewal, peace, and hope.  Pray that God by his Holy Spirit will strengthen them so that they will be able to withstand the attacks from the evil one.  Amen.

A Great Read!

I just finished reading Timothy Keller's book about idolatry in modern society.  It's called Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope that Matters.  I've read books by Keller before - The Reason for God & The Prodigal God come to mind. I enjoy Keller's writing style and his insights.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed with this book.  It's certainly a great read!

The book points out how modern people deceive themselves by thinking that idolatry is only a problem of ancient cultures who crafted gods out of wood and stone.  Instead, Keller points out that modernity is literally littered with idols of every kind imaginable.  In Keller's own words: "Though we think we live in a secular world, idols, the glittering gods of our age, hold title to the functional trust of our hearts."(p.xxvi)  In the pages between the front and back cover, Keller examines in detail various idols having to do with sex, wealth, success and power.  Even religious people are plagued by hidden idolatry such as valuing doctrine over relationship, moral and theological superiority, and the elevation of spiritual gifts.  Overall, we need to be aware of our propensity toward idolatry.  The deceiver tends to use the good things of God and twist them to his advantage.  I think it boils down to priorities and perspective.  Keller finds his conclusion in focusing on Jesus Christ.  Worship.  It's a matter of "setting your heart on Christ as your peace and your life."  This formulates "the road to freedom from the counterfeit gods that control us."  (p.177)
See also Fixing our Eyes on Jesus

Answering the Call

Karen Swanson is a skilled instructor.
On Tuesday, October 30th, New Life hosted an evangelism training seminar at the Newton Prison.  Needless to say it was a big hit!  26 men showed up to attend the training seminar at 1pm that afternoon.  We met for two hours in the prison chapel then took a break for the evening meal.  At 6pm we resumed for another two hours.  The men appreciated the opportunity to learn about evangelism and sharing their faith in a positive manner.  It's a bit tricky in the prison environment since prison rules establish boundaries for religious practice.  It's not appropriate to be heavy-handed or to belittle other faith traditions.  In fact, proselytizing is not permitted.  Instead, evangelism is most effective within correctional institution when men share their personal story, highlighting how God has transformed their life in Christ Jesus.

Will you answer the call & share your faith with others?
Karen Swanson did a great job leading the seminar.  She traveled all the way from Wheaton, Illinois to be with us that day.  Karen is the director of the Institute of Prison Ministries at the Billy Graham Center of Wheaton College.  Click this link if you want to find out more: The Institute for Prison Ministries.  We appreciate Karen's time, energy and expertise.  It was certainly a great day.  We're confident that God will empower the men in attendance to promote positive change among the men at Newton Prison.  Thank you to Karen and all the volunteers who helped make this event happen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

On February 2, 2013 the band Piercing the Darkness will appear LIVE at the prison gym in Newton.  They're ready to give a Christian rock concert to inspire, encourage and provide hope for incarcerated men.  Here is one of their edgier tunes.  It sounds like it's based on this verse:  "But we have the mind of Christ."  (1st Corinth. 2:16)

Rough Places

On Sunday, I visited the Pella United Methodist Church.  I had the opportunity to make a powerpoint presentation about New Life Prison Community.  In addition, I invited the congregation to participate in the volunteer ministry or the prayer ministry.  Later in the service I listened to Pastor Jason's message based on Matthew 10:16 ~ Jesus said, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."  Pastor Jason emphasized that our lives are so safe but God sends us out into the danger to spread the Good News.  Here are some things I wrote down.... "We have to bring the message to places that are pretty rough."  Also - "We need to bring Jesus Christ into it."  It's a message of grace for the city.  Cities he mentioned were inner-city Detroit, post-Katrina New Orleans, the prison in Newton, and Pella.  All those places are hungry and thirsty for the message of grace.  Pastor Jason noted that the message we bring is "life-giving, full of love and grace."  Amen.

Friday, October 5, 2012

October is Huge!

October is a huge month for New Life.  Let me take a few minutes to list off some of the events that will be happening at the prison.

1. On October 10, New Life will be starting Baptism & Profession of Faith Class.  For 4 Wednesday afternoons in the month of October we'll be working our way through Christianity 101.  We're laying the groundwork for a special Thanksgiving service on Thursday, November 15.  But I'm getting ahead of myself ... this blog entry is about October!

2. On October 18, New Life will have a worship service in the prison gym.  I'm excited about it because the Lynville Friends Church will be leading worship.  This nearby congregation was involved in the days of IFI and Prison Fellowship.  Now they're getting involved again.  Lord willing, their pastor (a former "resident" of Newton Prison) will preach to the men.

3. On October 21, New Life will lead a worship service at the Release Center.  Guitar music and a special guest speaker from Central College will highlight the day.  And don't forget the Lord's Supper to end the service at the Cross where we are forgiven.

4. On October 30, New Life will host an Evangelism Training Seminar at the prison chapel.  Leading this class will be Dr. Karen Swanson of the Institute of Prison Ministries and Wheaton College.  With Karen's expertise, we'll learn how to share our faith in a unique setting: prison!

As you can see, October will be HUGE!

Newsboys - Miracles!

Friday, September 21, 2012

By Faith (Getty's strong song)

Peace Poem & Prayer

Tanner, an inmate-member of New Life Prison Community wrote this poem and read it at the worship service last night. He also included this prayer. I thought he nailed the topic of Peace and he gave me a copy.

Peace Poem

Peace makes the world go round

It can be lost but always found

It can stop a fight

(and when it's dark)

It can give you Light.

Peace ... it can


your deepest pain


Peace is more than the absence of conflict;

Peace is the Presence of God.

Peace Prayer


Prince of Peace,

teach me to find you

in the Calming Power of your Presence.

Strengthen me


with your Peace

and grant me

the stability I need

in this turmoil-filled world.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Volunteer Spotlight - Jean Goemaat

Jean Goemaat outside her home in Monroe, Iowa
 Jean has been volunteering with New Life since May of 2011.  She lives in Monroe (only 10 miles from the prison) and attends Living Word Fellowship in Knoxville, Iowa.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I taught school for 32 years in the USA at the elementary level.  I'm a retired school teacher.  I taught an additional 14 years in Belize for a total of 46 years!  I started in 1st grade which was a blessing. When I went to Belize, I was able to teach reading.  I love to garden - I like to get out and really garden: corn, beans, tomatoes, zucchini and onions.  I plant it all.  I just love to be out in nature.  I love music; I was a music major at Drake University.  Actually I had a double major of education and music.  I had a lot of choirs and handball choirs at church.  I enjoy my family - I have two daughters and five grandchildren.  One daughter is a deputy sheriff in Kentucky.  Her husband works at Fort Knox.  My other daughter lives right here in Monroe and is a daycare provider.

2.  How did God help you to overcome some challenges with your health this year?
I had to deal with some broken bones and also pneumonia.  God helped me to overcome through prayer and through the Word.  He has so many promises in the Word and I cling to those.  Mark 11:18 - If you believe in your heart, then the mountain will be thrown into the sea.  By his stripes I was healed (Isaiah 53:5, I Peter 2:24)  I've been spending a lot of time in Ephesians lately.  That is rich!  (see especially Eph. 1:3-14)  I focus on Psalm 91 a great deal and I read it in the 1st person.  There are so many promises in that Psalm.  For example, "Surely he will deliver me from the snare of the fowler ... under his wings I will take refuge."   This is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible.  "He shall give his angels charge over me."  I pray this too and remind God of this reality.  I love the promises in verses 14, 15, 16.  There are many wonderful Psalms but I really like Psalm 91.  Psalm 103 is a good one too.  It's fun to talk about the Word.  I love the Word of God.

Her time in Belize was a huge highlight for Jean
 3. Sum up your background in prison ministry and your time in Belize.
I started in Prison Fellowship when I was still teaching.  It was in 1993.  I began to work with women at the prison in Mitchellville.  Then I went to Belize to visit a missionary friend.  I knew right away - I fell in love with the hunger that those men in prison had for the Word.  I started a school inside the prison in Belize.  At first we studied the Bible and also basic education like reading.  Later I got involved in IFI (Inner-change Freedom Initiative) at the Newton Prison.  I was a volunteer with IFI then later I started the IFI program in Belize.  There were many challenges but God had his hand on it the whole time. Even though I'm back here in Iowa, it's still going strong.  Belize is a third world country in Central America where poverty reigns.  They grow up on the streets and they sell drugs.   Drugs, poverty, and the lack of education are huge problems.  My time in Belize was probably the most rewarding time in my life.  We had a great recidivism rate.  I was a mama - they called me Mama Jeanna.  I still go down once a year.  I leave for Belize on September 26 and don't return until October 9.  The goal of this particular trip is to tweak the program, work on advice and give evaluations.  We need to update the criteria for graduation.

4. Why do you feel inspired to help people who are in prison
I get to see the change come over the men.  You can see growth and that gives you the motivation to keep going.  Jail is a different ballgame.  I'd rather do the prison ministry because you have them for a longer period of time. Their prayer life - they're not afraid to pray any more.  Pastor Rick has taught them how to pray.  This gives them the courage to pray.  Also their desire to get into the Word - they expound upon the Word.  Without the Word they couldn't make it because that's their key to their life.  That gives them hope for the very first time.

5. What do you enjoy most about your time volunteering with New Life Prison Community?
God has a purpose for every one of us.  He put it in my heart to serve in prison ministry.  That is God's purpose for me.  I learn as much as they do.  It has to do with fulfilling the ministry that God has for me.  That's why we're here: to be a tool for the Lord and spread the Good News.

6. What positives do you see at New Life Prison Community?
Jean loves volunteering for New Life!
The men are ready to accept responsibilities and help out at worship services by fulfilling various roles.  They want to share the Good News with their families.  They tell in small group how they're getting their wives into the Word.  It's a domino effect.  The ministry also helps to raise their self-esteem.  Their body language indicates that they begin to think more of themselves.  It has to do with an openness to the Word - they have the reception to change.

Piercing the Darkness

On February 2, 2013 we hope to bring this Christian rock band into the prison at Newton.  Please pray that this happens since I believe they could reach out to a big group of guys.  Plus it would be a lot of fun!

Here is their website: Piercing the Darkness

United States of America

At the end of July, the New Life riders (including Pastor Rick) rode across the great state of Iowa.

Over 200 donors supported this fundraising event to support New Life Prison Community.  The record number of donors came from fourteen different states.  In no particular order, here they are: 

 Iowa, New York, Michigan, California, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Florida, Washington, Wisconsin.

Wow!  Thank you for your generous giving!