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