Archive for April, 2010

And the Angels Rejoice

Every week Straight Ahead volunteers email updates on their respective ministries behind bars. This update comes from Karen, who has been ministering to the girls in her facility for the past 3 years:

Once again, this week’s study brought more answers to prayer. Knowing Courtney was still confused about salvation we went in to study John 1 with the girls. We poured over the LIVING WORD and the LAMB OF GOD and how we receive HIM. There’s no doubt in my mind now that Courtney has already done this and just needed assurance after the fact. (Just as it is with receiving forgiveness, we sometimes feel that we need to do it again, but the truth is so simple: believe and receive the gift and it is done, right?)

My Bible study partner, Elizabeth, and I were rejoicing to find Courtney clutching her new Bible and exulting in the things she was finding. She eagerly took my highlighter and started highlighting everything in sight! She was reading verses to the group and laughing into the pages. “Don’t get me started or I’ll cry,” she said. “I LOVE THE WORD OF GOD!”  We were amazed at the Proverbs she found to answer the other girls’ questions and right before our eyes she was illustrating the way Andrew and Philip found others and impacted them.

It so happens that Stephenie came for the first time to this week’s study and it was also for her salvation, to the praise of God’s amazing grace. She talked about having her sister burn a Bible right in front of her and other relatives keeping her from church for years. After the other girls left, she stayed to pray with us and receive Christ as Savior. Tears flowed as she prayed to Him and found the One who has been seeking her for 18 hard years.

Thank you for your prayers for this turn-around ministry. We literally get to see God making the crooked places straight in Straight Ahead.


April 29, 2010 at 12:02 pm 1 comment

More Ready4Life Reflections…

Six of us made up the team that led the Ready4Life training. Serge, who lives in NH, submits this account of his experience with the inmates:

As I reflect back on the Ready4Life training training that I was blessed to be a part of last weekend, I would like to share some of what I witnessed. I think one of the best questions from these young men was, “How do I know that I am a man?” When this discussion came about, there was complete focus and I could notice that there was complete attention being given to others as they answered what they thought were the qualities of a man. I guess this is a good question for all of us to think about…. At times during the training there was some side-bar conversations going on, but when the training provided scripture examples all eyes and attention were fixed on him and the side-bar talking subsided. They were truly interested in learning about Him. It was easy to see that He was transforming the lives of these young men. I witnessed a transformation of love for others during the training.

As I looked around during the second day of lunch break, there were many people playing hoop without incident, people break dancing, rap music for Christ and fellowship throughout the gym. What was even more amazing was that we looked around at all the activity and there were no prison guards to be seen. It remained this way throughout the training.

This Wednesday morning (we left Sunday afternoon) I received a letter from one of the inmates and I would like to share a very small portion of this letter. “…I don’t know how these words are coming out, maybe it’s God or just all in my mind. I hope that it’s God because I feel so good about this letter and if it wasn’t God then I don’t think that I would have wrote to you this fast or at all but the words are just flowing out. I can’t express the love I have for you; see it surprised me to know that the feeling I felt was love Serge…” I was so excited to see how God has moved into this young man’s life.

I was speaking to my wife about my drive home from CT to NH. I told her I had a peace about myself that I did not know how to explain. Monday morning I just opened up my bible to read and it opened to Malachi. Mal 3:10 says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blassing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” I said, “THAT’S IT!” God had poured out such blessings at this training that I did not have enough room to receive it all. I was at a peace I had never known before and I truly believe that He poured out so much blessing that I did not even know how to describe the peace that I felt. All the glory to Him!

I am thankful to Straight Ahead Ministry to allow me to be part of this training and be a witness to the incredible work that they are doing all over this country to see Jesus Christ transform the lives of Juvenile Offenders. Amen!

Serge Jn3:16

April 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

In the Belly of a Whale

For several months Straight Ahead had planned on leading Ready4Life, a leadership development program, in Connecticut at the largest juvenile prison in New England. (This is the same program we ran last year with the Bloods and Crips in a prison near Boston). As we prepared for another amazing weekend it became abundantly clear that the enemy was also preparing. Early last week we learned of a prison riot that left one young inmate dead. As a result, the prison was unsure whether they wanted to risk the possibility of more violence during Ready4Life. We waited all week for a decision and the day before we were planning to start, they gave the green light.

In the beginning of the first day there were lots of guards on hand, as it is seldom that so many rival gang members gather at one time, in one place. I don’t have to tell you how surprised we were that before the end of the first day there were no guards left! In spite of this, at no point during the weekend was there ever any threat of violence.

Jonathan was one of the participants and shared a little of his story. He told us that he believes God was calling him to be a minister and like the prophet Jonah, he ran from it. “Now I am in the belly of the whale, but just like Jonah, this is where God is meeting me. I’ve been praying for Him to use me here and to help me prepare for what He has when I return. This weekend was a big answer to my prayers.”

Thank you to those who were praying on our behalf. Forty-two young men attended the 3-day event and God moved in powerful ways. Please pray for the 8-week follow-up that will launch this week, and for God to work in each life as these young men strive to follow up on the commitments each of them made.

April 19, 2010 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

Irrepressible Faith

John Kinsley has served with Straight Ahead for nearly 20 years. He is our New England and International Director. Since the late ’90s, John has ministered to juvenile offenders in Ukraine and has trained people to work with them. John is actually serving in Ukraine as I write. John sent this post about Lydia from Ukraine…

At 85 years old, Lydia Petrovna Solomka still lives in Ukraine in the house where she was raised.  It was there that her parents started a home church.  It was there that she became a Christian even though Stalin was in power and violently repressing Christianity.  But from the beginning, Lydia’s faith was irrepressible.

When she became a Christian, Lydia promised God that she would tell one person the good news of the Gospel every day for the rest of her life.  As a young woman she was trained as a nurse in the Soviet Union and shared her faith with everyone in the hospital where she worked – even after she was ordered to stop and threatened with arrest.  When she retired from nursing in 1990, Lydia wondered where she should minister next.  Communism was waning, and some brothers from her church were allowed to visit the juvenile prison colony.  Lydia decided to join them.  They lasted a few months.  Lydia has been there for over twenty years.

Lydia leads a Bible study in the colony every week, and visits with the boys 2-3 times a week.  Lydia often buys food or clothing for the boys even though she lives on a very small pension, and when we give her the money that we raise to support her work she always asks us to give it to someone in need.

Over the years, Lydia has helped many young men as they leave the prison colony.  Her home is filled with photos of those boys, now men, and their families.  Notes and letters from the boys are addressed to Babushka: grandmother.   At 85-years-old Lydia and her faith are still irrepressible.  And she is still sharing the Gospel every day!

April 12, 2010 at 11:35 am Leave a comment

A Decade of Service

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I’m celebrating my 10th year with Straight Ahead Ministries in 2010.  The above verse reminds me of how plainly God made clear that He intended for me to become a part of this work.  Please let me explain.

It was 2000 when Carol and I returned from Michigan to New England.  Both of our mothers and our two sons all lived here. I had been on staff at a church in Michigan for 2 ½ years after 28 years in manufacturing management.  I did not have a job but I was open continuing in ministry or returning to manufacturing management.

On a Friday in May, Carol and I were praying about my job search in our small apartment in South Portland, ME.  I had expected to hear the previous Monday from a printer in Rhode Island about a plant manager’s position.  I was one of two still in the running.  While praying, I had prayed “Lord, please direct me by opening and closing doors in my job search.”  Shortly after I prayed this, the phone rang.  It was the vice-president of human resources of the Rhode Island company informing me that the job had been offered to the other candidate on Monday.  He had asked for more time to consider it and called back and accepted the position that day.  The VP wished me well in my job search.

When Carol asked about the phone call, I told her “It was a door closing.”  After our prayer time, I picked up my e-mails.  One was from Jim Van Yperen, chairman of Straight Ahead Ministries. He suggested that I call Scott Larson at Straight Ahead.  He felt that they could use someone with my skills.  I called Scott on Friday and left a message.

On Sunday, we attended Stroudwater Christian Church in Portland where a missionary named Dan Mercer spoke.  He thanked the congregation for their support of his work as a chaplain at Long Creek, the juvenile lock-up in South Portland.  When I asked where Long Creek was located, I discovered it was on Westbrook Street in South Portland – on the same street as our apartment.  When we got home, we realized that Long Creek’s buildings were visible from our front windows.

Scott Larson called back on Monday explaining that he was in New Jersey over the weekend performing a wedding for one of the guys that had lived in the ministry’s discipleship home.  I asked if the wedding took place at Valley View Chapel and if Brian was the groom.  Following a brief silence, he said, “Yes.”  I explained that I once managed a printing plant in Flanders, New Jersey, attended Valley View Chapel and was in a small group hosted by the parent’s of Brian’s bride.  Brian joined our group for prayer on his way home to Massachusetts from Wheaton College.  Brian had lived at the ministry’s discipleship home with Scott and his wife Hanne.  I told Scott that Brian and I also discovered that we had met years before when he accompanied Scott to Trinity Baptist in Nashua where Scott preached for our vacationing pastor.

Scott invited me to a ministry leadership meeting the following Wednesday.  While there, I shared that Dan Mercer had spoken at the church we attended on Sunday and we’d discovered that we lived next door to Long Creek.  Scott got a copy of the book A Way Out and pointed out that Dan Mercer co-wrote this book and Brian’s testimony was in the book.

Some would call these series of events coincidental.  I believe that God, through these same events, made clear that He “had plans for me” with Straight Ahead Ministries.  As a result, I joined Straight Ahead in the summer of 2000 as Director of Operations where I remained for three years.  Through a new series of events, God made it clear that He wanted me more directly involved in ministry.  So in the fall of 2003, we came to Maine in my new role of Coordinator of Ministries.

We love being a part of this ministry and look forward to the plans that God has in mind for us in the future.

-Dan Hatch

April 5, 2010 at 11:19 am 1 comment

He is Risen Indeed

Last summer my husband, Lance, and I made a visit to Portland, Maine.  We walked along the waterfront, browsed the shops, and enjoyed some fresh seafood.  It was an enjoyable and relaxing time.  When we returned to our car this sense of peace and contentment was interrupted when I noticed a parking ticket on our windshield.  “Ugh!” is the best way to describe my initial reaction.  Eager to get this regrettable incident behind us and enjoy the rest of our day, I said, “Let’s just pay it and drop it in the nearest mailbox.”  As Lance studied the ticket he said, “We don’t have to pay it.”  He handed it to me and I read, “The City of Portland values your visit. The city will automatically void the first code 1, D, or T violation notice….This requires no action on your part.” (We were a “Code 1”).   What a relief!  We were given a second chance!

As I looked at the ticket again later, I found an interesting statement that made me even more thankful, this time to the Lord.  It continued, “All other violations are not eligible for forgiveness and will require payment.” Wow!  Imagine that, not being “eligible for forgiveness” and having to pay for my “violations”!  I thought about how this was exactly the position I was in before I put my faith in Christ and received His payment – death on the cross for my “violations”, my sins.  Not even the most moral or wealthiest person on earth could pay such a price!  Only through Christ – “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9) are any of us “eligible for forgiveness.”   That is amazing grace!

As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave this Sunday, we are reminded again that He took our sins and we are forgiven once and for all. This is good news!

-Laura Williams, NH Coordinator

April 1, 2010 at 9:11 am Leave a comment

April 2010
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