Northern Lighthouse Shines for Prison Inmates

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“I met Lee for the very first time in a middle school cafeteria,” said Sam Keyzer, pastor of Northern Lighthouse Christian Reformed Church in Lincoln, Neb., a congregation that ministers intentionally to inmates and to those released from prison.

That meeting with Lee McKane was the start of a friendship that would bring tremendous growth and blessings for Northern Lighthouse as well as for the community.

When they initially met, Keyzer said, McKane did not have much to say. But he kept coming to events put on by Northern Lighthouse. Slowly he opened up to the other members. One day he asked Keyzer to write a letter on behalf of one of his friends in the Community Corrections Center of Lincoln so that he could come and worship at Northern Lighthouse. That simple request was the beginning of a ministry for Northern Lighthouse.

Not only did Lee’s friend come to worship, but other friends came as well. Keyzer said, “Lee took a one-hour sponsorship class and was able to sponsor residents to worship services. Soon Lee recruited a few others to become sponsors.”

As a result of Lee’s friendship with and encouragement of inmates, Northern Lighthouse has grown tremendously. Keyzer noted, “About 25 former inmates have stayed with us after their release.” These men have been able to find their calling and purpose within the ministry. Besides Sunday worship, inmates work alongside Northern Lighthouse in helping the community and receive help transitioning to life outside the prison.

Jeff Heerspink, also a pastor at Northern Lighthouse, runs a reintegration program that focuses on skills such as relationships, employment, budgeting, home living, and spirituality.

McKane died of a heart attack in his home, but his spirit lives on in the ministry.

When asked what God has shown about the ministry of McKane, Heesprink responded, “God uses all people to build his kingdom. It is not the perfect, the clean-cut, the one with the most knowledge, or even the nicest people that God uses. It is really those who have been transformed by his grace and are passionate about serving him.”

About the Author

Kyle Hoogendoorn is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. He lives in Rock Valley, Iowa.

See comments (1)


Prison programs are great programs for local churches, and individuals within local churches, to become involved in.  The match between giver and receiver can't be a lot better.

Would that the folks at our denomination level stop telling the government what it should do and talk more about what local churches and individuals can do, in simple ways like this that can be so powerful.  Often, people that end up incarcerated never had a church community in their life, or once did but left it a million years earlier and so ended up in prison, or released from prison, with no caring community to support them (with $'s perhaps but as or more importantly with other things).  For all kinds of reasons government simply can't provide the support people can, especially those people who know and understand the love of Jesus Christ.