Oct 28, 2013

Seven Months Ago....

It's amazing how fast things can change... Seven months ago I was a washed up former minister with no real direction or purpose. Okay, I'm being a little dramatic...  But I wasn't feeling to great about things. Well, it wasn't all bad. I have an amazing wife, a great family and a good job working with and for some good people.

And yet I knew there was more to life than what I was living. God creates us with a purpose. He puts giftings and callings inside of us that He wants to see us use to reach hurting and lost people with a message of hope.
So there I was, seven months ago in a meeting when Jim Duncan,the Chaplaincy Coordinator for Alaska made a call for volunteers to minister to the inmates at the newly opened Goose Creek Correctional Center. I had never been drawn to prison ministry before but sometimes in life you gotta try something new to know if it's your thing. Stepping out of your comfort zone is sometime the only way to step into all that you were meant to be.

In July I started my first Financial Peace University class at GCCC with 14 guys graduating. It was made possible by many of you who generously gave to buy workbooks for the inmates. After my first class graduated on October 4th, I started a new class on October 11th with 23 guys. I had enough finances leftover from your giving for the first class that I didn't need to beg for more money for the second class. (However, I'll launch my third class in just about 9 weeks. If you'd like to give towards that, you can get the details on how to do that here....)

In addition to kicking off another round of FPU, I also launched a class using the Bait of Satan curriculum from John Bevere. The 19 inmates in this class are learning how to get free of the bitterness & unforgiveness that comes from being offended. It's an excellent class that I think is going to produce some great results.

As great as all this is; none of this is my big news. In previous posts I've mentioned the God Behind Bars ministry. They use top quality audio & video equipment to show a pre-recorded video service from Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. The service is high energy and high impact and the guys seem to instantly connect to the message. But the ministry is more than just a service. They also offer a Celebrate Recovery, which is a biblical based 12 step program and a follow up program for inmates once they are released. Through their Church on the Inside website the inmate's families can also watch the same service at the same time from their homes. The ministry will soon be in over a dozen prisons stretching from Florida to Alaska, including Goose Creek here in the Valley, Highland Mountain in Eagle River, Spring Creek in Seward and in Ketchikan Correctional Center in Southeast Alaska.

And as of this weekend, I am now the Campus Leader for God Behind Bars at Goose Creek. Which essentially means I just became the pastor of a very exclusive church. To get in, you have to be ordered there by a judge...We only had about 50 guys at our first service, but that was with almost no PR to the General Population pods. The feedback we received from the guys was very positive and I'm expecting double the attendance at our next service.

As Campus Leader I'm responsible for coordinating the services and directing the inmate volunteers in their roles. That's the easy part. I'm also responsible for raising a team of at least a dozen volunteers from the outside. That's the scary part. I've never been that good at recruiting volunteers and that was when I was on staff at a local church. Now I'm in a spot with no real connections to a local church to draw from.

So I'm going to do this the same way I raised the money I needed for the workbooks for FPU. I'm going to turn to the power of the interwebs! If you are here in the MatSu Valley and want to get involved in a very rewarding ministry, I've got a place for you!

The services are on Friday nights, at Goose Creek Correctional Center which is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Wasilla. I'm looking to build a big enough team to have people rotate, so you wouldn't have to go out every week. This would also be a great ministry opportunity for a men's bible study, Promise Keeper's group or small group/cell group.

To get your volunteer card from DOC you have to fill out a form, pass a basic background check and attend an orientation class. These volunteer classes are held every month or so, based on demand. As it happens, there's two upcoming classes here in the Valley. One is this Thursday on the 31st in Palmer and the other is November 12th in Wasilla.

The primary roles of the volunteers will be to have a "ministry of presence". Just being out there talking with the guys and being available to pray with them is all we are looking for. Sometimes these guys feel like the world has thrown them in a hole and forgotten about them. And it's easy for them to feel like God has forgotten about them. You being there brings the love of God to them.

So... To sum up a very long post. God is good. I'm in over my head. I need help. Please help. Pretty please. It'll be more fun than puttin' socks on a rooster...

Oct 10, 2013

FPU @ GCCC: The End Means a New Beginning

Last week I wrapped up my first Financial Peace University at Goose Creek Correctional Center. I handed out 14 graduation certificates to the guys. Well, I wasn't able to hand out all 14. One of the guys got released a couple of weeks ago. Even though he missed the last two videos, he still got the heart of the Financial Peace message. So for me it is exciting to think there's already a guy out there who has the knowledge & tools he needs to win with money, and he got that information in prison.

I want to say again a HUGE thank you to all who gave towards buying workbooks for the class. You gave enough that I was able to order my next batch of workbooks for my new class that starts this Friday! The room we use for the class only holds about 20 people, so that is what we limited registration to. And I'm told the sign up sheet for the class filled up immediately.

In order to be a part of this class, guys give up their recreation time to be there. Some of them are giving up their work time to be there. They don't make much in their prison jobs, but it's all they have so for them to give up work hours to do the class means a lot.

As I said, I start my new class on Friday. But that's not all. I'm also doing a 12 week class on the Bait of Satan material from John Bevere. This course talks about dealing with bitterness, forgiveness and dealing with offenses. It's also a full class with 20 guys signed up.

There's three things you can help me in:
  1. Pray for me. I'm still adapting the class for the prison and I want it to be as effective as possible. And doing the Bait of Satan is brand new for me, so I'm a little nervous about that...
  2. If you are able to, and have the desire to, I'm collecting funds for the next class after this one I'm about to start. As long as I'm able to, I'm going to keep doing these classes back to back. The details on how to give are here....
  3. Wanna really get involved? If you live locally and have your Fridays free, come out and be a part. I can use help with the classes. And at the end of the month there'll be a new Friday night service starting that I'm going to help with and we can always use more people. To be involved in prison ministry you have to be able to pass a background check and go through a 2 hour orientation class. It looks like there'll be an orientation class coming up here in the Valley in November. If you are interested, let me know and I'll get you more details.
I really wanted to post a picture of my graduating class, but obviously the policies for Goose Creek do not allow that. So just close your eyes and picture a group of smiling guys in yellow prison jumpsuits holding their graduation certificates with big smiles on their faces...

Oh, I almost forgot! If you are looking to take the class yourself and don't want to go to prison to do it, Jonathan Hall will be holding one at King's Chapel here in Wasilla. You can see more info here....  If you live outside the Valley and want information on a class in your area, visit www.DaveRamsey.com/FPU.