Author Archives: Deborah

Prison Ministry in Alabama

After Pickle Lake we were home for three nights and then hit the road again, but this time headed for warmer climate.

The first part of our trip was for prison ministry with We Care’s ReNew Hope crusade in Alabama. We love being able to be a part of this outreach which covers about 25 prisons in the state! This was our third year (wow, already?) and each time we have been so blessed.

hundreds of volunteers come together to make this happen

ReNew Hope is a 5-day event which kicks off with a full Sunday of worship, orientation, and fellowship before everyone is deployed to their respective cities for prison ministry.

the Chitans delivered some powerful songs

the We Care staff works so hard to pull this all together

friends!

It’s hard to believe how many prisons there are.  We stayed in Birmingham for the week and there are six prisons within driving distance in just that one area. Prison ministry has really made us aware of these places as we are traveling throughout the country. They are so needy for the gospel.

city of Birmingham…people need the Lord

Instead of sharing “prison moments” like I did regarding the Florida prisons, there are some stories to tell that clearly reflect God’s hand.

On Sunday at the orientation, one of the group leaders for a women’s prison (which we had been to the first year) came to us and told us about an inmate we’ll call Katie. Katie had seen us two years ago in a prison in Montgomery, and she remembered Jonathan singing “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before” and apparently it was special to her. Sharon, the group leader, had been praying that our family would be able to come to that prison again so that Katie could see us. Then the schedule came out, and our family would be singing only in the Birmingham area prisons this year. But God had plans…and about a week before the ReNew Hope crusade, Katie was transferred to a prison in Birmingham which we were singing at! We were at this prison last year, and it was our only “repeat prison” ever…out of all the prisons we could have gone to, God had us go to this one. Since Sharon had described Katie to us, we kept an eye out and there she was, sitting on the front row. And without actually telling her this, we sang that song just for her.

One of our most memorable places to minister was at a women’s residential treatment and recovery center.  This was a Christian facility and so many of the ladies came with Bibles.  We’re guessing there were about 200 who came out to the mandatory event.  The message was on the simple truth that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  At the end, some chose to humble themselves before the Lord.  We noticed some tears left behind where someone had been kneeling.  A broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise.

The last day we were supposed to go into a minimum security prison, but we noticed on the schedule that it said “19+” which means that only people nineteen years and older can go in.  This was a bit odd since our whole family had been able to enter a maximum security facility. This was a HUGE dilemma for us, since the two people in our family that would not qualify are irreplaceable band members. We made inquiry about an exception, and one of the chaplains began to pursue it. We were told it wasn’t likely.  The day before we were to go in, another family with minors was not allowed to bring them in.  The morning we were to depart for the prison, it looked like it was a closed door and began to accept the fact the boys were going to have to stay behind.  However, the chaplain continued making phone calls, and then there appeared to be a glimmer of hope. We were encouraged to all head to prison.  Then, on the way there Dad got a phone call saying that we could bring the boys in.  Praise God! It was a longer check-in process at that prison, and we were watching the clock run down, knowing that our set-up time was slipping away and our gear hadn’t been looked through yet. Finally, everyone had cleared to go in.  After a very speedy setup, we were ready to go on time. It was a good service…and we even ended up singing a song for a guard on our way out of the prison.

We could tell more stories… it was amazing to see and hear so many answers to prayer throughout the week. Hearts were being touched each day in the prisons. We serve a God who is not limited by anyone.

Maybe you are interested in ministering in the Alabama prisons. If so,  We Care offers different opportunities to serve. Prisons are dark places that need Jesus just like every other place in the world. He was the one who said,  I was in prison and you came to Me. …Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:36, 40)

 

Canada 2017

Early January for us has come to mean packing up and heading north to Pickle Lake, Ontario. Many of you are familiar with our annual trip there to sing at the Winter Road Conference and then the community outreach. We always look forward so much to going there. And yes, this is where the plane crash happened last April.

But this year, we went to Winnipeg first. Since we used to live there we have lots of friends, and in a way it still feels like home when we visit.  We stayed with the Ungers, who live just down the street from our old house. How can I describe our time with them anything short of “a blast”? Games, fellowship, singing, laughter…it is so good to have the body of Christ wherever we go!

Danton and Daniel sang us a song

Sunday morning we were grateful to remember Jesus through breaking bread with our church family there. Sunday evening was testimony night at church, and we were invited to sing a few songs during the meeting.  One of our favorites went wonderfully along with the theme of the evening.  The message of the song is: No matter your background, whether it was rough or you were raised in a Christian home, as brothers and sisters in Christ we can all say, “You can’t imagine what the Lord has done for me!”

Yes, our church family in Winnipeg truly is family. We are always so blessed when we visit.

Then it was off into the Ontario wilderness…the long, beautiful road to Pickle Lake!Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday was the Winter Road conference which our friends the Rasmussens host at Friendship Baptist Church. Basically, this is a time to encourage the believers in the north through song and messages from God’s Word. Since we’ve been coming to Pickle Lake for so long we know quite a few people and it’s always nice to see everybody again.

Mom and Linda, two of the very hard-working cooks of the week

Friday through Sunday was the gospel outreach at the community center. This year especially there seemed to be a lot of spiritual opposition…several things happened that just reminded us we are in a battle. But God is still in charge and the meetings went really well.

many people came

Since this is the town where the plane crash happened, and in such a small community everybody knows about it, it was advertised that the family who had been in the plane crash was going to sing. Actually, it was really amazing…many of the main characters of the story were there—our family, Dan Hatfield (the pilot), the Brennemans whom Dad had been staying with in Round Lake during that time, Gary and Chris Quequish, the Rassmussens (Mrs. Rassmussen, the Brennemans and Dad had formed “The Maryland Trio and Cindy,”), and even one of the EMT’s who checked us out at the scene.

Dad and the Brennemans

One night of the outreach Mr. Hatfield shared the airplane story from his perspective, and one night our family shared from our perspective and showed pictures on a screen. We’ve told that story in so many places to so many people, but to share it in Pickle Lake where it happened, I think there was a different kind of connection between us and those who came out that night.

Dan Hatfield

Gary Quequish preached this year again. We never tire of hearing him share his testimony, the gospel, and whatever else God has put on his heart.

Gary Quequish

Also one night a young couple from Pickle Lake shared their testimonies. It was such an amazing story, one that really stirs you.  To hear of the life before Christ and now what a difference He has made… There is hope in Jesus!

to God be the glory!

We were able to see God working in people’s hearts during these meetings. Pray for those whom He touched and those who have yet to respond to Him.

we always enjoy hearing the Sweat family sing

“the Maryland Trio and Cindy” regrouped and sang for one of the meetings

Mr. Rassmussen, Dad, Mr. Sweat, Mr. Quequish

One afternoon at the community center we did a children’s program, featuring songs, games, a Bible memory verse, and a reenactment of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Thanks to the Rassmussens for all their help again this year!

Bible verse with actions

marching for “The Gospel Train” song

Sara narrated the Bible story when we didn’t have lines to say (and yes, the frog umbrella was the “golden image” in the story…)

“Look! Three people are not bowing!”

“O king, we will not bow.”

a rousing game of musical chairs to finish off the hour

In between all the different church and outreach meetings and activities, there was plenty to be done.

work

school…with a little bit of company?

food prep

and our annual game of Canadian bowling!

It was such a blessed week of ministry, fellowship, and great conversations with believers and non-believers alike.

On our way out of Pickle Lake we stopped by the EMS office to say goodbye and get our picture taken with “our EMT.”God is so good!

And we have yet more travel reports coming soon!

From the rising of the sun to its going down the LORD’s name is to be praised. Psalm 113:3

North Carolina and Florida

Part two of our November/December trip: North Carolina and Florida.

Driving through the Smoky Mountains is a sight to behold, especially since we rarely get to do it! Last year we drove through North Carolina, but it had been a number of years since we stayed in North Carolina, so it was amazing to be able to be there for a number of days again.

The mountains were “smoky” because of wild fires

 

and where we live, Walmart looks a lot less interesting and certainly isn’t back-dropped by mountains

We apparently didn’t get many good pictures in NC that featured people. So you can just use your imagination if you’d like.

It was good to go back to a church in Cherokee that we had sang at before. We saw some old friends and made some new ones! One night we got to go with the church to the house of a man Dad recorded last time we stayed here. This man is not well physically, and the group came to encourage him with a meal and singing, but he was an encouragement and challenge to us! His faith is so strong and he is joyful. All the believers we fellowshipped with in North Carolina were a blessing to us.

Dad got to record the testimonies of a couple of people for The Storyteller radio program.

We were staying at a Christian camp and enjoyed spending time there with some new friends. Among other things we had fun playing football in the rain and extreme spoons.

yes, quite extreme

result of playing football in the rain

A beautiful place, wonderful people, encouraging times…then it was time to pack up and head for Florida.

the camp at Cherokee

We were really looking forward to Florida…not because of the amazing winter weather (although we certainly enjoyed that!), but because we were going to participate in a prison outreach. God worked it out for us to be able to be a part of the Gospel Express prison crusade this year, and we were excited!

Every prison we’ve been to is different, each experience is different, but at each one we see things that are precious. This time was no exception. We saw tears flowing. Hands raised in worship. Men singing along to songs they may have never heard before. We sang “Away in a Manger” with them—a roomful of men who have probably known that song since childhood, now in prison, lifting their voices in song about the One who came to save them. When it was time for the message one night, an inmate moved the pulpit to the stage. At the Sunday morning service a group of inmates gathered in the back of the room before we started…they joined hands and prayed. We could also hear them singing in a back room and were told it was the worship team practicing. We would have loved for them to sing in the service but we were told there wasn’t enough time. Over the four-day prison crusade, we saw people coming forward, unashamed, to receive Christ. We saw Christians coming to “un-kink their water hose” in response to the message that was preached about our relationship with God. On Sunday morning we sang hymns with the inmates, like “Victory in Jesus”…and they are not afraid to sing. Our family is so blessed to be able to be a part of ministering in prisons.

The prison services took place in the afternoon, so in the evenings all the volunteers and singers regrouped for worship, testimonies, singing, fellowship, games, and a jam session (not all those happened in one night). Here’s a few pictures of some of it.

the Gospel Express choir

our friends the Bechtolds

we shared a few songs

On the last night of fellowship as we were about to leave, our van decided it was time to give us some technical difficulties. Thankfully, we were in the right place with lots of willing hands and bus mechanics! Whatever the problem was, it was soon solved and we were good to go.With this prison crusade one evangelist traveled with us for all the services. It was so good getting to know Phil and his wife who have a heart for seeing the lost inmates saved and the believing inmates challenged and encouraged in their walk with God.

sharing a meal with the Stutzmans

Thanks to everyone who took pictures for us/shared pictures with us that we used in this post! As we look back on our week in Florida, it all falls under the category of, “Wow! What an amazing time.”

selfie!

And so we began our trek back to the north-land. Going from Florida to Minnesota in December means basically going from spring to winter. To add to that, when we left home it was beautifully warm autumn weather, but when we got home…let’s just say we had missed the first snow.

Running board-deep snow really isn’t a lot for us, but it is a lot when you have to plow through it uphill, without four-wheel drive, without snow tires, pulling a trailer. We took a running start and made it up the driveway to a good spot for unloading before we couldn’t go any farther.

time to shovel!

Thus ended our November/December trip. We were home for a few weeks before we hit the road again…next up is our January/February travels… including our first visit to Pickle Lake since the plane crash.

Thank you for praying for us!

Bless the LORD, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul! Psalm 103:22