Twenty men at the Newton (Iowa) Correctional facility were baptized in May following an annual spiritual retreat weekend called Brothers in Blue. The retreat is part of the ministry of New Life Prison Community Church, a congregation of the Christian Reformed Church.
Rick Admiraal, pastor of the congregation, said the retreat is essentially an intensive primer on Christianity. The weekend also serves as an opportunity to allow the men who attend to experience God’s love in an intimate new way. Admiraal, his wife, Rose, and a group of 23 volunteers took almost 70 men through the course at the most recent event.
Admiraal noted that of the men who started the program on the Thursday, every one of them completed the session, which is a big deal in a place where finishing what you start can be a challenge. Twelve participants decided to be baptized in May, along with eight others who attend New Life’s weekly ministries.
The ministry was started in the correctional facility more than five years ago. Admiraal has been its pastor from the start, shortly after graduating from Calvin Theological Seminary. “I was very excited about starting a new church. It gave me a lot of joy,” he said.
The ministry is supported by Classis Central Plains (the regional group of churches). Admiraal said that from the beinning, life has been the theme of the ministry. “In John 10:10, Jesus says, ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.’ Death is always a temptation in the prison. The devil whispers in their ears to end it all, and that life isn’t worth living, and that they’re a failure. The men can feel discouraged and despairing, but we try to be a voice of encouragement and hope in a place of darkness. It’s been a tremendous blessing to be in that facility.”
New Life has a wide repertoire of ministry activities available to the men at the prison, including weekly Bible studies, prayer groups, and worship services.
New Life also has an inside council called the Equipped for Service Team, a group of seven mature believers who know the Bible, take it seriously, and want to evangelize others, encourage their fellow prisoners in the faith, pray for them, listen to them, and show Christian love within the prison on a day-to-day basis.
“There are amazing opportunities,” Admiraal said. “We’re looking into possibly starting a Stephen Ministry and a Malachi Dad’s Ministry to further deepen and expand our service at Newton. I’m so excited about what we’re doing. God has used so many people to accomplish his purposes for this ministry. I want to give God the glory for the great things he’s done.”