Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

It's that time of year once again.  The sun is setting on 2013 and it's time for me to review the year as I look back nostalgically into the rear view mirror.  What big things happened each month at New Life Prison Community?  I'll do my best in summing up the year and you make sure to let me know what you think...

  • January - On the first Wednesday of the month (January 2) we gave away greeting cards in the prison chapel.  Each inmate receives 2 free greeting cards.  This month they're beginning to stock up on Valentine's Day cards.
  • February - Groundhog Day (February 2) was huge for New Life prison community.  We welcomed Christian Rock band Piercing the Darkness.  Over 160 guys packed the prison gym to hear outstanding music with a Message.  The Message - The Good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  Later that same month (February 10) we hosted an open house celebrating two years of ministry.  It was a great excuse to eat cake!  Many guests enjoyed the food & fellowship, including Cliff & Amy who drove all the way from Burlington, Iowa.
  • March - Easter came early this year.  So we celebrated Easter on Maundy Thursday.  One man was baptized and 3 others professed their faith in Jesus Christ.
  • April - On April 10 I visited an inmate on his deathbed.  I made a special trip to Iowa City to visit Larry in hospice.  Larry used to sing guitar solos at our worship services.  He sang songs like "Mary did you know" and "I can only Imagine."  Personally I can only imagine what Larry is experiencing right now - his faith has become sight!
  • May - The four day Brothers-in-Blue was the highlight of this month for sure.  Over 40 inmates and over 20 volunteers experienced this four day spiritual retreat.  Unexpectedly one of the inmates lost his mother in a tragic car accident during the weekend.  But he kept attending and felt the consolation & prayers of fellow brothers in the Lord.
  • June - I rode the Rockies with 5 friends from Central Iowa.  This 500 mile bike ride was an item to check off my bucket list.  It was fun to ride bicycle across Colorado but we also raised funds for New Life prison community.  Good stuff!  Soon after I got back from the Rocky Mountain adventure we hosted a Thursday night baptism service.  At this service we reaped the fruit of May's Brothers-in-Blue weekend.  10 men were baptized and 1 man professed his faith at this worship service in the prison gym.
  • July - On July 11 we hosted Mary Mortenson, director of Prison Congregations of America.  She and her husband Jack came all the way from South Dakota to lead a writer's workshop for the Lenten Devotional Booklet.  This year's theme is "Blessed are You."  The men at the prison loved it!
  • August - At the August worship service we were blessed by having Vital Men's Ministry lead our worship.  Mike Sereg gave an inspirational message to the men behind prison fences.  Christian rock band "Now Serving 7" brought inspirational music that was a huge blessing.  Also in August - Miles came from the Quad Cities to take a weekend visit to Pella.  He spoke & sang at the Lake Red Rock outdoor worship.  Miles also spoke & performed a solo at Calvary Christian Reformed Church.  Little did we know that this visit would lead to even greater things.  In the fall, Miles would move to Pella and gain employment at Vermeer Corp.  God is good.
  • September - This month marked the return of Piercing the Darkness.  This popular Christian band raised the roof of the prison gym.  This time the show was even bigger.  Piercing the Darkness invited Pastor Rick's friend - Jim Dreyer - to give an inspirational speech during the concert intermission.  Jim traveled from Michigan to Iowa in order to inspire the men to never give up in overcoming obstacles in their lives.  Jim knows a thing or two about challenges.  He is a marathon swimmer who swims great lakes.  His latest challenge was swimming across Lake St. Clair while towing a ton of bricks.  He proved it could be done while raising crucial funding for Habitat for Humanity.
  • October - This was a month for catching your breath after a big September.  It was also a month for Pastor Rick to chase his son all over the place with club soccer and college visits.  Still Pastor Rick carved out the time to make two Sunday visits to two supporting churches: Sully CRC and Leighton CRC.  We thank God for all of our supporting congregations!
  • November - After a four session class, four men were ready to become baptized.  At the Thanksgiving service, baptism was a big part of the worship service.  Angels in Heaven were rejoicing over lost sheep coming into the fold - and we were also saturated with JOY!  Another highlight was having Pastor Rick's son drum for the praise team - his first opportunity after recently turning 18.
  • December - During Christmas break, Pastor Rick and his family went to Michigan.  While in Michigan they visited 3rd CRC, Pastor Rick's sending church and one of New Life's supporting churches.  Great visit!  When Pastor Rick and Rose returned to the office, they found numerous letters & gifts in response to the end-of-the-year fund drive.  The overflow of generosity was overwhelming.  Thank you!  We thank God for your prayers and financial support.  New Life Prison Community looks to be in great shape for 2014!  Can't wait for the New Year!
- submitted by Pastor Rick Admiraal on December 31, 2013.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Give Gifts to New Life


            by Rose Admiraal

As Christmas approaches and the year comes to an end, we give thanks for God's faithfulness to us and to New Life Prison Community!  Recently, Pastor Rick preached about how we need to "walk in the light of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:5).  Would you be willing to be a light for New Life by sending a year end gift to help us continue our work within the prison walls?  Our work inside the Newton Prison is God's light of life to these men.  Help us continue to be God's light by giving to New Life.  If you're inspired to give, please fill out the form below and send your donation today!

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:2)

Sneak Peek

In Pella, we have a hometown newspaper called the Pella Chronicle.  Twice a year I write an article for the religion section.  Here's a Sneak Peek of that article for you to see.  How do you like it?

UnHappy Holidays

 During the month of December, we often say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" instead of the standard fare, such as "Hey!" or "How ya doin?" or "Hello."  But for some among us the holidays aren't so happy.  In fact, you need to know that not everybody revels in the Christmas spirit; instead, some experience an unhappy holiday season.  It may be a real struggle for them to get through the holidays after experiencing the death of a loved one or a divorce during the past year.  Another challenge people face is having a family member serving overseas in the armed forces; for whatever reason, they can't make it all the way back home for Christmas. Without that special someone in their familiar spot around the family table, it's just not going to be the same this Christmas.  The absence creates a void that leaves you feeling incomplete, depressed, dejected.

 Men and women in prison also experience emotional pain at a higher level of intensity during the holiday season.  It's apparent that the period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is far and away the most difficult time of year for our incarcerated brothers and sisters.  One of our inmate-leaders at New Life, Bill reminds us to pray for all the inmates & their families during the unhappy holidays.  In Bill's words, "It's hard to be in prison during this time of year."  It might be helpful for us to imagine out loud - What would it be like to spend a Christmas in prison?  No Christmas tree.  No big family gathering on Christmas day.  No Christmas dinner with all the fixings.  Maybe a Christmas card or two to treasure but certainly no pile of presents to unwrap.  It'd be tough.

 God's Word calls us to "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."  This type of remembering is so much more than cognitive.  Instead of a rather mild form of passive pondering, Biblical remembering is always active.  The Bible pulls on your heart to remember men and women in prison by taking action.  The first thing you can do for prisoners is to remember them in prayer.  Pray that they will receive God's comfort and peace throughout their current wilderness experience.  Pray that they will trust God to provide Living Water to quench their deep thirst.  In Bible times, outsiders needed to visit prisoners in order to provide bread for their stomachs and bandages for their wounds.  Modern prisons in the United States provide for the physical needs of the imprisoned.  However, emotional needs remain unmet.  Certainly if you know someone in prison or jail, set aside time to visit them during the holiday season.  It will mean so much to them! 

New Life Prison Community knows the value of visiting the men at the Newton Prison.  Following the Spirit's call, our faithful volunteers help supply comfort and peace to carry men through the emotionally challenging month of December.  Recently Matt was baptized at the Thanksgiving service in the prison gym.  Before he was baptized, he wrote these words in a greeting card of thanks: "I had this card made for you to show you how thankful all of us are for what you do.  You are our visitors every week and you have become our family.  We love you with all our hearts.  Thank you for sharing the Word of God with us.  God bless you."  May God bless each one of you reading this brief article.  And don't forget to remember the prisoner!

  Rick Admiraal is the pastor of New Life Prison Community, a prison congregation in Newton, Iowa.  New Life is quickly approaching its third anniversary of ministry to the imprisoned.  It's been an incredible year for New Life, including baptism services, worship, Bible studies and Christian fellowship.  New Life has been blessed with a great group of dedicated volunteers, many of whom live in Pella.  Rick & his family also live in Pella.  

Card of Appreciation

Matt is very grateful to all of the New Life volunteers.  They've helped him to find meaning in life as he's grown closer to God.  Recently Matt was one of four men who were baptized at our Thanksgiving service.  

He offers us this card of thanks for all that New Life & its volunteers have done for him.  Once again God has used his people to make a big impact on a man's life through the Holy Spirit.  There's no doubt that it's the Spirit who works within our lives & empowers our ministry at the prison.

In addition to the card Matt also wrote these heartfelt words of thanks inside.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Congratulations Graduates

This past Thursday was the graduation ceremony for GED and adult HS graduates at the Newton Prison.  We're so proud of all the graduates.  It's great to see the guys finish what they've started in order to accomplish something special.  One of the graduates is Matt.  He's been faithfully attending our group meetings, growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Lord.  I'm so proud of Matt.  He was one of four men who were baptized (by me) at the Thanksgiving service.  So happy for Matt and all the others.  For Matt, 2013 has been a great year even though he's been locked up. God has preserved his life and also saved his life.  God has given Matt many opportunities to be strengthened in the faith: Brothers-in-Blue, Piercing the Darkness concerts, Christian music CD's, Bible studies, prayer groups, worship services, etc.  And through it all, Matt has been shining his light for other inmates to see.  He's been sharing his testimony and praying with/for other men.  I'm proud of Matt's accomplishments not only academically abut also spiritually.

- Pastor Rick

Monday, November 4, 2013

Give Thanks

It's November.  The leaves are falling and it's a great time to think of the 1,001 things that we can be thankful for.  God has blessed us and the New Life Prison Community.  I want to thank Him for everything under the sun.  Of course it would take years to list everything but I'll take a few moments to write a few things down.

I'm thankful for:

  • God's Word
  • His Spirit 
  • Enthusiastic Volunteers
  • The cooperation of prison officials
  • Regular attenders at Bible studies and prayer groups
  • New guys who show up on a regular basis
  • Baptism class
  • A third baptism worship service in 2013 (scheduled for Nov. 21)
  • The first Brothers-in-Blue at Newton in years.
  • A brand new mentoring program
  • Greeting card ministry 
  • Bibles to give away to new arrivals at the prison
  • A Vibrant music ministry
  • Bands like Piercing the Darkness and Now Serving 7 who share their musical talent in the prison gym.
  • Inspirational speakers like Joe Brummel, Mike Sereg and Jim Dreyer
  • The power of prayer
  • Answered prayers
  • A dedicated prayer team that remembers members of New Life weekly in prayer.
  • Our families
  • Fall bike rides
  • The beauty of wildlife along the bike trail - deer, turkey, eagles, pelican, etc.
  • The fall colors
  • The opportunity to visit supporting churches
  • The annual harvest of corn and beans in the state of Iowa
  • The drive from Pella to Newton and back
  • Christian music in a variety of styles
  • Conversations with men at the prison about life, faith, and families.
  • The sacrament of the Lord's Supper inside and outside of prison walls
  • New believers
  • Christians growing in their walk through discipleship training
  • New Life Board members
  • New Life supporters
  • Inmates who provide special music, give their testimony or read a poem during worship services.
  • Materials for Bible study like "Not a Fan" and the "Peacemaking Church."
  • The joy of visiting the Lord Jesus in prison (Matthew 25:40)
  • The mission of proclaiming the Good News to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • The love of our Lord God.
  • The grace and peace of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.

New Life - new video

New Life - Fall 2013 from Rick Admiraal on Vimeo.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Praise Team sings at Lake Red Rock

New Life brother Miles visited Pella on Sunday, August 25 and sang with the praise team.  This was part of the worship service at the summer outdoor services by the North Overlook Pavilion near the Lake Red Rock dam.  Other New Life volunteers are Sue Theune, Phil Goodyk and Rose Admiraal!  To God be the glory.

Central US Home Missions

Recently I received a newsletter from the Central United States Home Missions.  There is an article about New Life Prison Community at the top of page 2.

This newsletter contains a nice summary of New Life's ministry at the prison.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Serenity Prayer

One of the guys at the prison gave me a copy of the Serenity Prayer the other day.  The Serenity Prayer has been very helpful for men in prison, especially those who struggle with addictions.  To be honest, this prayer can be helpful for each one of us as we learn to accept reality by differentiating what we can and cannot control.  May God give us His gift of wisdom - to know the difference.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Notes on a Napkin

I was eating a sub sandwich for lunch at PJ's Deli in Newton, Iowa yesterday.  They had a copy of the Des Moines Register on the table where I was sitting.  I happened to notice two sentences that caught my eye.  I think they resonated with me because of my experiences at the prison on Tuesday morning.  So I wrote the notes down on a napkin.

The first note is printed above - it was from a Dear Abby article.  "Please remember that regret is the cancer of life.  You can't change the past and you mustn't allow it to cloud your future."  This seemed so relevant to prison ministry.  The past of the prisoner often brings a bulky burden of guilt and shame.  It weighs a man down.  I believe that moving forward requires forgiveness for our past mistakes and a hope-filled perspective regarding the future.

The second note is on the back of the napkin.  Sometimes out of curiosity I look at my horoscope even though I don't really believe in that stuff.  By the way, I'm a Scorpio and if you want to send a birthday card remember me on November the 10th.  Anyway, here's what the Scorpio horoscope read in the DSM Register yesterday: "Triggers from the past may still be influencing your reaction to the present."  It reminded me of Tommy whose hometown is not far from Pella.  We were talking in the prison chapel about how he deals with his anger issues when we stumbled onto the topic of hopes & dreams.  The word dream was a HUGE trigger from his past and he told me that his dad crushed any dream he ever had.  He squashed Tommy's hopes of becoming a soldier or truck driver or junkyard owner/operator.  Instead Tommy embraced illegal drugs and the criminal lifestyle.  How sad.  I believe Jesus Christ can redeem his past and provide hope for the future.  Please keep Tommy and other prisoners in your prayers.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Visit from Sully CRC Intern

At our July worship service in prison, we had a visitor: Evan Steensma, a student at Calvin Theological Seminary who is serving a summer internship at Sully Christian Reformed Church.  Here is a letter he wrote me giving his impressions of the New Life Prison Community worship service.

>Hi Pastor Rick,

Yeah, I wanted to thank you for letting me be part of that service. I am not sure exactly what to write, but I will give a few of my impressions.

First, I thought it was neat to hear many of the prisoners participate in the worship, sharing their experiences, and showing the way in which their faith is changing their lives. Also, I enjoyed sharing with them in communion, and knowing that as I was participating with them in the Lord's Supper, these were the type of people Jesus himself often associated with. I think the prison is a place with needs God's grace, God's love, and people who are willing to help be the means by which God brings them.

I have just under a month now left in my internship, and so far it has been a very good experience.



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pedal for Prisoners

Pedal for Prisoners has gone extremely well so far.  We are over halfway to our fundraising goal of $20,000.  And next week four riders tackle RAGBRAI - Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.  Pastor Rick won't be doing RAGBRAI this year - he rode his bike across Colorado in June.  The New Life riders this year are Bill, Corrine, Julie and Lisa.  They can enjoy a ride through central Iowa towns of Des Moines, Knoxville, Pella and Oskaloosa.  A true home course advantage!  

New Life bike riders / fundraisers!

Here are a few thoughts written by Julie...

In a few days I will be heading out on my 7th RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) however this is the first one that is dedicated to making an eternal difference in the lives of many!! I am excited to be participating in the “Pedal for Prisoners” fundraising effort for the New Life Ministry at the Newton Prison. I have been blessed by seeing and feeling firsthand the revival that is taking place within the prison walls and it is amazing!!

New Life Prison Community is a Christian community growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. They are a prison congregation - they don't have a building of their own but worship as a body of believers in various locations within the prison: the gym, chapel, and classrooms. New Life has weekly Bible studies and prayer groups so that incarcerated men may grow in their faith. They are all about building community and discipling followers of Jesus Christ.

The money raised by “Pedal for Prisoners” will be used to support the ongoing work at the prison. It is used to buy Bibles and Christian books, purchase greeting cards, buy CD's DVD's and music supplies, and to pay the salary of the prison pastor.

If you would like to contribute to this effort you can mail a check to me (made payable to Lynnville Friends Church or New Life Prison Community) at 504 8th Ave Sully, IA 50251.

On behalf of Pastor Rick Admiraal myself, and the men at the Newton Prison, THANKS SO MUCH and God Bless!!!

* Julie Jones

Ride the Rockies Reflections

I checked an item off my bucket list this June.  I rode my bike through Colorado in the Ride the Rockies.  The bike ride had a twofold purpose: fun in the mountains and fundraising for New Life.  Many of you have supported this important fundraiser with your generous gifts.  Thanks so much!!!

Here are a few notes from the ride.

Day One: We started in Telluride.  A beautiful town (one of my favorites) in Southwest Colorado.  The start was tough - after only 3 miles on the flats we began to climb up Lizard Head Pass - Elevation 10,222'.  That wasn't easy!  But the rest of the ride was all downhill to Cortez.  We were flying and had an average pace of over 18mph, even with the big initial climb.

Day Two: The days route was a short one from Cortez to Durango. But it was HOT and had some wicked climbs.  We enjoyed the day, especially seeing a horse and foal  outside of Mancos.  The downhill into Durango was tricky with crosswinds in the canyons.

Day Three: We rode from Durango to Pagosa Springs.  It was another hot day.  The course passed within a few miles of the New Mexico border.  And it looked like New Mexico too - it was the high desert.  Rocks and low pine trees and very little shade.  One of the highlights was passing by Chimney Rock.  The reward of the day?  Pagosa Springs had a refreshing hot springs pool that revived our legs.  It also had a great Mexican Restaurant.  We ate on a deck right alongside the river.

Day Four: This day was a bear!  The queen stage.   We had 91 miles to cover from Pagosa to Alamosa.  The hardest part was going up Wolf Creek Pass.  It was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  It was an 8 mile grind and we hit the high point on the tour: 10,850 feet!

Day Five: I spent the night at the house of my friend from seminary days.  Needless to say, I was well-rested and ready to roll.  We found a good breakfast spot in Alamosa then it was 50 miles north on the straightest flattest road I've ever been on.  No hills and only 1 or 2 feet of elevation gain for miles.  Flat plain with the Sangre de Cristo mountains on our right.  But the road was bumpy - we called it the hemorrhoid highway! Poncha Pass was over 9,000 feet but not that steep.  Plus we had a tailwind.  Going down the other side was incredible - the curves were sweepers and I went 52 mph on my bike.  My fastest ever.  One negative: my bike mirror bounced off and broke on the way down!

Day Six: Salida was a fun town.  There was food, a live band and a river downtown.  There was so much to do.  A very enjoyable spot that was tough to leave.  We had a longer day than expected due to the Colorado wildfires.  The course was rerouted and went 90+ miles and another mountain pass.  It was a great day but it got very hot at the end.  We passed a huge supermax federal prison in Florence that houses some infamous criminals including one of the Oklahoma City bombers.

Day Seven: This day started in Canon City.  And ended in Canon City (for me).  It was a short day from Canon City to Colorado Springs.  Only 40 miles or so.  But I never reached the finish line.  I crashed my bike just a half mile into the ride.  I bumped a friend's bike and went down hard at an intersection.  I knocked my head on the pavement but the helmet absorbed the impact.  My right arm was in a lot of pain.  They took me to a local hospital - the x-rays revealed that my arm was not broken.  It could've been so much worse.  After a week or two my arm (right elbow) was feeling much better.  I'm back to riding.  Not finishing Ride the Rockies is actually a good thing - it gives me a good excuse to go back and do it again sometime!