South Carolina Prison Ministry

This year we were able to participate in a prison outreach in South Carolina for the first time! This one started two weekends after ReNew Hope ended. Our in-between plans to go west changed due to one of us getting sick, so we ended up going to North Carolina for the week. We were able to rest up at the camp we were staying at, and God even gave us some unexpected opportunities to sing, one at a Wednesday night church meeting and another at a cancer center.

fellowship at the camp

Gospel Express is the ministry that puts together this prison outreach. It’s actually really neat that the timing of it allows a lot of people who were at ReNew Hope to participate in this one. Between the two outreaches we had lots of fellowship!

The prison we were supposed to go into the first day was cancelled. The next day it still hadn’t opened up (a different family was scheduled to go in each day), so the volunteers made it a matter of prayer. The third morning the word came…the team could come in!

daily morning worship time

On the second day, which was the first prison we actually made it into, we had an amazing time. There were a couple inmates who had guitars and they told us, “We want to sing a song for you while you set up.” Then when we had gotten all set up there was some time to spare, so we were visiting with an inmate and found out he is a choir member in the prison’s church. He called a few other singers over and they sang “10,000 Reasons” for us, and then they did another song and taught us a part to sing with them, and then we sang a couple more together. It was really special.

fellow laborers

The third day we went to a prison where the volunteers who went in every day felt like it was a dark place. But there was definitely life in there in the midst of that. We could see men who were engaging with the messages of songs, and people responded during the invitation. Prison ministry isn’t all “the special moments” that are exciting to share with others. Sometimes the things that are special are somewhat overlooked but what are most important–God’s word going forth and Him working in people’s hearts.

and more fellow laborers!

In the last prison we were really hoping to hear the choir sing after other people told us about them. And we did…but not in the way we were thinking. When we got to the chorus of “He Knows My Name,” the men joined in like we had never heard inmates sing that song before. Surprise! A whole bunch of them knew it. Then when we got to “Chain Breaker,” they just belted it out. We’ve kind of learned that when you sing that song in prison you have to repeat the chorus again because none of us are ready to be done with it.

source: Pixabay

Prison ministry. Tough places? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

time to head home

“To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 NKJV

ReNew Hope

With much anticipation in mid-January we packed up and headed for Alabama…time again for the ReNew Hope prison outreach with We Care. This has now been our fourth year, and every time we are so blessed to be a part of it.

On our way down we stopped to stay with some friends. The encouraging conversations and immense fun we had with them was so, well…encouraging and fun! We didn’t have the camera out during the action, but before we left we had some laughs while we did pictures “together…”

“First, all the girls.”

“…Okay, now let’s do all the boys.”

“We should get one of the parents!”

We arrived in Alabama Saturday night before things really got started…

…and had a good time with friends.

Sunday is the day when all the hundreds of people involved in ReNew Hope come together for worship and orientation. There were some challenging and encouraging messages about how God will give us what we need to do His work, and how we have a treasure in our earthen vessels to share with others. One of the most powerful moments of the day was when a former inmate was giving his testimony, and towards the end he took a step back and said, “Look at me. I am an answer to your prayers.” He told us not to stop praying…God does answer prayer.It’s easy to think of people in groups and not so much about the value of each individual. But when someone is changed or impacted, think about how much it means to that one person. And each of us is that “one person” as well. Where would we be if someone didn’t reach out to us?

We went into one women’s and three men’s prisons. It was amazing to watch their response when we sang about our Savior being a chain breaker. They so were excited to hear that song! Many of them knew it and sang along with us, lots of them standing to their feet. They may be inside prison walls still, but so many of them are free on the inside. They know Jesus is a chain breaker.

prayer before the service.     Photo by We Care. Used by permission.

One of the nights our evangelist was a man who had been in prison before…he had turned himself in after he became a Christian. His story is such an amazing reminder that no one is too far gone for God to redeem.

Photo by We Care. Used by permission.

While we sing we get to see people’s faces as they take in the messages of the songs. During the invitation we get to watch people respond. It’s hard to describe. It’s so beautiful what God does. A roomful of men, half or more of them standing with their arms raised, flooding the aisles, not enough room for them all at the front…they want to become trees of righteousness. People kneeling before the Lord and giving whatever they need to to Him. It’s humbling to see.

Every morning the volunteers and music groups who were stationed in the area gathered for a time of worship and teaching before heading out for the day. One of the messages exhorted us that in this ministry of reconciliation God has given to His children, we can’t be counting a person’s sins against them.We are already looking forward to next year, Lord-willing! Thank you to everyone who prayed for us.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 NKJV

Pickle Lake

Our annual January trip! And thus our annual picture of the snowy Ontario road leading north…It was time again for community outreach meetings in Pickle Lake. There was no winter road conference before the outreach this year, so the trip was shorter than usual. Our missionary friends the Rassmussens have such a heart for the community there. The outreach included four gospel meetings over the weekend and an addictions workshop on Saturday.

Mr. Rassmussen preached two meetings

Dad preached the other two

we sang three nights

love that smile!

two of the Sweats

Sunday morning special music

family practice in between things

Every year we are blessed by our “family” in Pickle Lake, both in the fellowship we have and also working together to reach out to the community. We may not see immediate results, but the gospel went out and it is God who gives the increase. Pray for the believers there who are laboring in the gospel.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV