A Journey Of Faith

gregan2017This is a testimony account of our transistion into prison ministry that I wrote sometime in 2004. I recently found it on a previous website that we used to publish: Living Arts Ministries 

In June 2004 I began to sense God was bringing a change to Living Arts Ministries. I shared this with Caroline and together we began seeking the Lord for wisdom and direction. What we did not know then was that God had already been directing us, gently conforming us to His will and preparing us for some major changes. The first change would come in August, when we relocated to Haverhill, Massachusetts. Every circumstance leading to this move made it abundantly clear God wanted us in Haverhill and was asking us to make a dramatic lifestyle change.
 
A day after we moved in, we knew God must have blinded us to things our flesh would not have been able to overcome. That week we discovered that we were now living smack dab in the middle of the worst neighborhood in town.
We looked around us and knew God had brought us here for a purpose. However, we were still waiting for Him to reveal that purpose to us.

Over the past year, God has been drawing us into prison ministry. We've shared some of those ministry experiences on the site. During the summer, while I was covering for the Chaplain, the Lord told me that I was to make a permanent commitment to the prison ministry as an assistant to the Chaplain. There had been a hope that funding for an assistant might become available, and then I would supplement that income with other part-time work. However, God spoke to us both that first week in Haverhill. He said I was not to wait for funding and that we were to trust Him to provide our needs. Well, we had no idea how big a step of faith we were actually taking. You see, our move had wiped us out financially. By October, our savings was gone. Unemployment was gone. Anything we could cash-in was cashed-in. My job-hunting had gotten me a lot of closed doors, and making a commitment to assist the Chaplin meant half my week was taken. Few employers are willing to work around your volunteer commitments.

In October, we started feeling the heat. There were days I really didn't know how I'd even have gas to get to prison. Yet, God kept showing Himself to be our Source, our Provider. A check in the mail. An unexpected side job. An offering from the Body of Christ. A gift certificate. A pile of books and clothes to sell on eBay. An word of encouragement. It was not easy for any of us. I think we all (Caroline, my Mother-in-Law, and I) had our days when we were ready to give up and call it quits, but then something new would happen. A scripture. A letter from an inmate to "Pastor Doug." An offer to repair our truck. Yet, there was a mounting stress in the house, because we still did not know why we were here. Doug's part-time volunteering at prison could not be the only reason God brought us to this little apartment in a big city.

In November, there was a change. The three of us began praying together each day. We became a little more surrendered to the call to live by faith, day to day trusting God to provide. However, that was only the first week! The second week, we were challenged. I knew the rent was going to be late, but had made arrangemments to that end. Then, our car was broken into and Hannah announces that her retainer has broken. "OK, Lord. We'll still trust you." Then, a letter showed up in our mailbox. It was from the landlord, rightfully demanding his rent. The late bills were mounting. "What now, Lord?" Well, not what we expected!

On November 13th, I told Caroline about an aspect of the prison ministry Chaplain Ray had recently shared with me. I told her it was something I'd be interested in doing, but more ministry commitments were the last thing on her mind that weekend. We had literally come to a place where things were as bad as they had ever been, and it was hard to not blame ourselves. We should have tithed more faithfully. We should have saved more. We should have worked harder. For her, the list of "should haves" was even longer. By Monday, the enemy had found his place to attack and Caroline was his chosen victim. The devil planted the devastationg lie that our present circumstances were a result of our failure to please Christ and that our eminent demise was God's judgement. Soon, a sadness settled over Caroline that was palatable. She was greiving for failures that didn't exist under the Blood, but the enemy had turned them into a documentary called, "Caroline: God's Reject." When a person who is normally the voice of hope and encouragement to her family falls into such a pit of despair, the only cause is satan and the only answer is prayer. So, that's what I did.

On Tuesday, November 16th, her grief continued. I was ministering in the prison so Caroline drove Hannah to her homeschool group. As she sat in the car, waiting for Hannah, the Spirit of God broke through the cloud of lies the enemy had created around her mind. In an instant, she thought about the ministry I had shared with her that weekend and in a moment knew this was what we were supposed to do. In that instant, not only was she delivered from the burdens and lies satan had heaped upon her, but she saw so clearly how and why God had brought us to this place in our lives. For her, the matter was settled. There was no going back. And, that was all I needed to hear.

On November 16th, 2004, the vision for New Brothers Fellowship that God had first birthed in Chaplain Perez was born anew in us. So, what exactly is New Brothers Fellowship? New Brothers Fellowship is a ministry to New Brothers in Christ who have been recently released from local correctional facilities. It's purpose is to bridge the gap between the chapel environment inside the facilities and the local church outside. Mature men in Christ come to fellowship and worship with New Brothers, builidng relationships through the Holy Spirit that can transcend culture and other hinderances that make it difficult for men to become established in local church bodies. This is a ministry that is timely and necessary. Too many Chirstian men are lost to the enemies hands because they cannot get planted safely and securely into the Body of Christ. New Brothers Fellowship is a multi-faceted ministry that will include ministry to wives and families, bringing the whole family into fellowship with the Body of Christ.

The decision to lead New Brothers has brought many changes to our lives. The largest of which is becoming home missionaries devoted to prison ministry. There are many prayer needs and if you would like to know more about them and would like to join us in prayer, please contact us using the link in our Toolbox.
As for Living Arts Ministries, we thank God for how He is refining it. I believe it will become a major support mechanism for New Brothers and other ministries, providing print and web resources to those that need it. The web ministry will continue to expand, particularly in the area of Articles and Links. I also am praying about creating a section for free Christian photo media. In addition, access to the LAMPSongs songbook, "Unto You, Oh Lord" continues to grow. We regularly have requests for songbooks and CDs, but unfortunately we have not had the finances to send the books and make the CDs. We are seeking God for a solution. Our commitment is to provide our resources freely. We encourage compliance with the law by registering with CCLI, but copies of lead sheets and the music are free and churches may freely use the songs for congregational worship. Yet, people in very needy areas who cannot download the music or lead sheets are being denied access, because we cannot afford to produce and ship the materials. So, this is a need we are praying about and waiting on the Lord to supply.
 
Thank you for taking the time to read this testimony of what God is doing in our lives. December is not over, yet, so I cannot fully report on what God is going to do. We are still sitting on a pile of bills, but our anxiety over them is greatly reduced. We don't find ourselves worrying quite as much anymore about money, but instead we are busier than ever with God's business and trusting out business to Him. We have been incredibly blessed by Brothers and Sisters in Christ who have given so generously and so creatively: Checks slipped in our bulletin, annonymous twenty dollar bills dropped off at the door, and Christmas gifts that have meant Christmas for our daughter. We are overwhelmed by God's goodness towards us and His love shown through the Body of Christ. It is a humbling experience to receive what was first given to the Lord. Words cannot describe how different our life is now, and how different we are, too.
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