Newsletter Archives

This page contains the most recent months and the previous year of newsletter articles in descending order of their publication. Because so many of our past articles have lasting relevance, an Archive Vault has been created to retain published articles dating back to 2004 when this site was launched. You may also wish to check out the Testimonies which originally appeared in past newsletters.

Archive Vault:

2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004

 

Bob Veldman, Laborer

A tribute to Bob Veldman by Leon Alderman

Bob Veldman was a laborer in God's harvest. The word “laborer” probably has diminished in value in our 21st Century culture. Yet, in God's Kingdom, a laborer is the highest term God calls his saints. “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the Harvest, that he will send laborers forth into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38 (KJV). Bob was no ordinary Christian, he was a laborer!

Bob was one of Alpha's pioneer volunteers, bringing God's word into Riverside Correctional Facility along with Bob Whitehead and Marv Wood in the early 1980's. He continued into the 1990's and 2000's advancing Christ's gospel through weekly service at Carson City.

He served as a Board member for APM for many years. When he retired from active ministry a few years ago due to age, many inmates wrote to the office how they missed him, his concern, his service, and his gentle sense of humor.

We send our prayers to his loving wife of 68 years, Bernice. May she take comfort in the words Jesus surely said to her husband, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”

EDITOR'S NOTES:

Bob VeldmanHaving served with Bob on the Board for many years, I count it a privilege to add a few notes of my own to this tribute. Bob passed away on April 10, 2017 at age 90 and outlived many other APM friends, so we know the reunion in heaven had to be incredible.

To call Bob a friend is an understatement. Bob's children and many grandchildren spoke at his funeral. Several fond memories were shared, especially about his signature sense of humor.

But one highlight in my opinion came when a grandson said that if you wanted to see Bob light up, just mention his prison ministry. Bob was committed to APM. Although I never saw Bob display strong outward emotions, no one could doubt his passion for APM or his commitment to serve. He invested his life well and I'm glad I got to be a small part of it.

Taken from the Spring/Summer Newsletter, May 2017

 

I Was Never a Real Big Believer in God

I am writing you in regards to receiving a study Bible. I got your info from a fellow inmate. I have to be honest, I was never a real big believer in God. I just recently opened my heart and mind to him and started talking to him, asking him for his blessings and his guidance.

I believe he is starting to listen. I'm not sure how this works but I would like to learn some prayers and how to pray; and how do I go about reading the Bible? Do I just go from start to finish or are there certain parts I should start with?

I'm hoping you can help me with my questions and furthering my belief in God and bettering my life. By the way, my name is Alan, I'm 33 years old and I've been locked up for 3 years now. I hopefully have about 9 months left to do. I'm ready for a change in my life and I think God is the way to go.

Alan

Taken from the Spring/Summer Newsletter, May 2017

 

Open Response to Alan's Letter

Knowing that our newsletters are received by inmates and often get passed around, it seems fitting to publish an open response to Alan's inmate letter and questions. This could help many others in similar situations.

First of all, I would congratulate anyone in Alan's situation. Not the locked up part, but seeking God. God is very responsive to those who seek him. He's ready and waiting for you to ask. The Bible is full of promises about that but perhaps one of the most comforting would be found in John 6:37 where Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

Let's start with the question about praying. The answer: be yourself. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions, don't seek a formula, just begin right where you're at. God's not the least bit offended by your honesty. He wants your relationship with him to be “real” and nothing you say is going to surprise him in any way. Truth be told, there's no requirement to even bow your head and close your eyes. It does help remove to distractions but prayers can be as quick and short as “help” when you're facing a situation.

Over time, you'll learn important principles of prayer from the Bible itself. There are many prayers recorded in the Bible. The best one is what we call the Lord's Prayer where Jesus gives us a prayer and a pattern for praying. The Apostle Paul recorded some great prayers, as did other Bible authors.

How to study the Bible is subject to many different opinions but I can offer what I consider a great guideline. One of my volunteer activities is praying with people who either just became a new believer or came back to God after straying away. I get this question often.

The most important point is to have a Bible translation that is easy to understand. The New International Version (NIV) is a good choice.

My personal advice is definitely start with the New Testament. I favor starting with the book of Romans and read through to the end of the Bible. After completing Revelation, go back to Matthew at the beginning of the New Testament and read through the entire New Testament.

Eventually, you'll be ready to read the Old Testament but I advise getting well grounded in the New Testament first. You'll discover a lot of surprises when you read the Bible on your own. Don't worry about understanding every bit of it. God is very skilled at giving you what you need when you need it. Be patient, you are in for a process that will last you the rest of your life. Enjoy the journey.

Taken from the Spring/Summer Newsletter, May 2017

 

The Rose

An inmate poem by Brian McDonald

It's only a tiny rosebud…
A flower of God's design;
But I cannot unfold the petals
With these clumsy hands of mine.
The secret of unfolding flowers
Is not known to such as I…
The flower God opens so sweetly,
In my hands would fade and die.

If I cannot unfold a rosebud,
This flower of God's design,
Then how can I think I have wisdom
To unfold this life of mine?

So I'll trust in him for his leading
Each moment of every day,
And I'll look to him for his guidance
Each step of the pilgrim way.
For the pathway lies before me,
My heavenly Father knows…
I'll trust him to unfold the moments,
Just as he unfolds the rose.

Taken from the Spring/Summer Newsletter, May 2017

 

God Finds Atheist Drug Addict

A year ago I was 100% atheist and proud of it, then God found me. I was a drug addict and at rock bottom. I lost everything but my life. I had no friends or family that knew how to help me. I felt completely helpless and alone in this world. My girlfriend sent me a quote that said it best:

“I believe the more desperate we become for God, the more he can reveal himself to us.”

A friend at the time who was a Christian told me I would be going away, that I had some choices to make, I would get to know God and be part of a program, and my girlfriend would follow weeks behind me. At the time I had no clue what he was talking about.

Then a week later I got caught with components for manufacturing Meth so I got arrested for manufacturing and delivery. Two weeks later, my girlfriend got arrested for ID theft. While at the county jail, I started going to church service for social hour and so my girlfriend and I could pass notes to each other.

While at church I couldn't help but to start listening and it seemed like those church services were made just for me. I was shocked the service moved me, my eyes were finally open. I felt it where it mattered most—my heart. This was what I've been missing my whole life, it was God.

Suddenly I didn't feel so alone. I read the Bible cover to cover. I chose not to fight my case, God would put me where I needed to be. I was sent to prison to hopefully get some help that the county jail could not offer. I was put into the Chance for Life program.

Now hindsight is 20/20, I see how it was God speaking to me through my friend. It all happened. I have no doubt in my mind now it was God. He put me here so I could get help, get healthy, and most of all get to know him. Being on the outside this would never have happened.

I've devoted a lot of time to becoming a mature Christian, a stronger Christian. Since the beginning of my incarceration there have been hundreds of small miracles. It's not by chance these things happen to me, it's all part of his plan. I believe Grand Rapids is part of that plan. This is just the beginning of my story.

-Unsigned Alpha House resident testimony

Taken from the Spring Newsletter, March 2017

 

Happy for Alpha Prison Ministries

Well as you can see I have a few things for you today. First, the letters from Will and Ray. I have to tell you, these two guys are truly fun to work with. They are in the Alpha class and in the group I was asked to lead. We really have such a lot of fun.

It really is such a joy to see God work in guys lives, and the joy he has given me to be able to sit and watch. It is truly awesome. I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am that Alpha Ministries is at this prison.

Next, as you can see, there are more necklaces in here. I would like to ask if you would give them to Lori and Elmer. They can give them to Mary and Carl. They do so much for us in here through TUMI. I could never thank them enough. God has given me the gift of being able to do these necklaces, and it is just a small gift of appreciation for them.

I truly am more glad today with the walk I am able to share with God than I was before. I was really lost when all of this stuff happened. And to be honest, until just a month or so ago, I still was. God has been bringing me back out of this state of depression I was in; and it has been by serving others.

I do believe I am here to help draw some other men out of their darkness Satan has them in. And in return God is filling me with joy seeing it. He has allowed me to be a part of this very important mission.

I know I always thank you but believe me when I say I cannot do it enough. Have a blessed day my friend. See you, Happy Leon.

From,
Happy Jack

Taken from the Spring Newsletter, March 2017

 

God Has a Wonderful Plan!

God has a plan for us all. My main concern lately has become salvation for other inmates and my family. I have had the chance to witness to my cousin, her boyfriend, and their two kids…they asked me what convinced me to accept Christ. I replied, “When I heard that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that he would never leave me nor forsake me, I gave my heart to him.”

Here I stood on the phone talking to my cousin for the first time in 23 years, I explained to her that she too could receive this “free gift” and that God's grace is greater than any sin she had ever committed! She accepted Jesus Christ into her life.

She later sent me a letter to tell me her boyfriend also accepted Jesus Christ. God's wonderful plan for my life is unfolding today, moment by moment, and in ways I least expect! God loves you; I love you; and that's just the way it is!

Your friend,
Will

PS: Now she is interested in following along in the one-on-one discipleship Bible study! God is GREAT!

Taken from the Spring Newsletter, March 2017

 

Committed to Learning and Growing

My last letter through Jack detailed my spiritual journey and growth. Again, I am committed to learning and growing and sharing with my fellow Christians. I attend Alpha Ministries Bible studies every week with Al and Bob who are volunteers who run the class.

I am also participating in a group called 33 Series Men's Fraternity, run and sponsored by Turning Point. Plus, a group called Character First, run by Ron and Nancy, and Jack and Kathy. I believe their church is Ridgepoint. They are here in the Muskegon area anyhow.

Basically, I am doing all I can to keep my daily activities filled with positive and godly people. So far, I am thriving and I look forward to my classes and what I can learn and share for that day.

I wish I could write more often! I'll try to send you a letter once a month to keep in touch and to keep you updated. I hope all is well and to hear from you as well. God bless you in all you do.

Sincerely,
Raymond

Taken from the Spring Newsletter, March 2017

 

Happy (Blessed) 2017

Being a supporter of prison ministry, you're probably far more knowledgeable about Bible facts than the average Christian. You might already be aware that the words blessed and happy can be used interchangeably. Some translations of the Bible use happy instead of blessed. So to wish you a Blessed New Year is biblical.

And blessed you are! Some of you are inmates making literally only a few dollars a month, yet you invest into APM to make an eternal difference. Others are “wealthy” and can make generous contributions. Most of our supporters are in between but all of you share the common bond of being both blessed and a blessing.

For all of you who included us in your year end giving, thank you. We also receive generous support at the beginning of the year. Of course, those who give throughout the year are a vital part of this ministry, and to all we give our thanks and extend our blessing.

As we reflect back on 2016 and look forward to 2017, it's the perfect time to extend our thanks and remind our supporters that you are making a huge difference. You are providing a safe living environment to men who have nowhere else to go or need a place where they can successfully transition back into society.

The study materials we use for in prison Bible study now cost $12 each, but that investment is transforming men and their families. Most of these men are from broken homes and have never been equipped to break the cycle of desperation they grew up with.

Every $12 you give is not just $12. It changes the life of an inmate and pays dividends to his family and the generations after him. If you've ever been tempted to think that a small donation isn't going to make that much difference, remember the generational blessing that $12 can help create.

Among other ways we use your donations, inmates who request a Bible get one. In the past, we've shared responses from inmates who have received a Bible. Getting men into the Bible is a vital aspect of what we do so we can get the Bible into men. If your gift to APM helps purchase a Bible, only in heaven will you be able to know the full extent of the difference you've made.

Those of you who have partnered with us for any length of time know we never beg for money. But it's prudent to let you know our needs and how much difference you are making when you give. A little really does go a long way with your support.

Taken from the Winter Newsletter, January 2017

 

A Hand Crafted Christmas Card Received

Hand crafted Christmas card

Each Christmas, Alpha receives an impressive number of Christmas cards from various sources which include inmates and former inmates, former Alpha House residents, etc.

Since the cover art is shiny silver on a black background, this newsletter reproduction does not accurately portray the effect and it was challenging to adequately capture the detail for publication. Even though this method of sharing it with you diminishes the actual card we received, it's still enough to demonstrate the labor of love it took to create it.

The hand signing and messages on the inside are from inmates who attend our in prison Bible study at Brooks Correctional Facility.

Taken from the Winter Newsletter, January 2017

 

“Key Man” at Carson City Moved

JeffCarson City Correctional Facility is down by at least one huge blessing. His name is Jeff. He is a great Christian role model and disciple maker who was transferred to Cooper Street Correctional Facility in December. Thank you Jeff for being a great example to so many!

Taken from the Winter Newsletter, January 2017

 

God Is Big On “Small”

For those of you who attended our annual banquet in September, it was great as usual. The primary purposes were accomplished. At the top of that list is to say “thank you” to our supporters and volunteers. Another purpose is to demonstrate the difference you are making when you support this ministry. And yes, we provide the opportunity for everyone to give, but those other purposes do take precedent.

One of the things we've learned to emphasize is that APM is not nearly as big of a ministry as we appear. We've had people make statements that they thought we must have thousands of supporters. That is simply not true but it may look that way because we have dedicated people providing a standard of excellence you don't typically see in a “small” ministry.

We represent and serve an extravagant God and he deserves no less than our best. What we accomplish on a small budget is very impressive and anyone attending our banquet for the first time, a significant number of attendees, would notice how small we are and be surprised.

Attendance this year was the lowest since I joined APM 12 years ago, but the giving did not reflect such low attendance. I attend a very large church where great things are accomplished in the Kingdom of God, but God is also a master of doing great things through small forces (think of Gideon among other examples).

With the demonstrations of God's blessing that evening, it's hard to center on only one highlight. But due to limited space and for showing how the seemingly small task of ministering to just one person explodes into several other lives being impacted, let me mention an Alpha House resident named Rob.

Rob is just now moving out of Alpha House and has purchased a home of his own with 5 bedrooms. Rob does not need that extra space, he wants to help others getting out of prison the way Alpha House helped him. How cool is that!?

Alpha Prison Ministries' 2016 annual banquet

Taken from the Fall/Winter Newsletter, November 2016

 

I Was Raised to Believe There Was No God

As a young child, I grew up in a house that was filled with hate and anger. I was raised to believe that there was no God—he did not exist and we'd better not mention God in the house. I was not allowed to attend church. My mom wanted to attend church but my dad would not allow it.

I became my dad. Drinking all the time, not going to church, not believing in God, not doing good things in life. As I got older and kept on having problems in life, I thought, something has to change. But what? So I joined the Army. That was not the answer to my problem.

After the Army my drinking and drug use accelerated. I was still not doing good; I was doing what felt good to me. I was hanging out with the wrong people and still doing wrong.

My life was so out of control that on March 13, 2006 I was arrested and sent to prison for 10 years. When I arrived and was put into a cell, I found a Bible in there. After a couple of weeks I started reading that Bible and it changed my life forever.

My very first Scripture I read was Matthew 13:47-52:

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

On May 5, 2006, I turned my life over to Christ and asked for his forgiveness. After that day my life has been so much better. God has blessed me with so much. I still stumble, but God is in control.

He always was, I just did not let him have control of my life. With what I know, I will always keep God in my life forever. Giving my life to God was the best thing I have ever done in life.

Bob

Taken from the Fall/Winter Newsletter, November 2016

 

Satan Worshiper Gives His Life to Christ

It is 5 am. I have been up since 4 am studying for a test I have today for The Urban Ministry Institute's (TUMI) in-prison seminary training. Yes, I do enjoy the class. Not only because of the things they teach us about God and how to be leaders of God's flock, but the study habits and prayer life it has brought back into me.

This past week I was walking down the hallway. There was a young man who just got here standing in his doorway. As I walked by I felt God tell me, “Introduce yourself to him.” So I stopped and shook his hand and told him who I was.

I soon found out he was a devil worshiper. Well guess what happened in this last week. Yep, he gave his life to Christ and is getting ready to be baptized. I was able to sit with him and explain who Jesus is and what he has done for us by shedding his blood on the cross for us, how we are sinners and deserve only death, but he has taken that death sentence away and given us the opportunity for eternal life.

The greatest privilege I get is seeing someone who is so lost find life in Jesus.

Yesterday, he was approached out on the yard by some guys trying to get him to join their gang. He told them he appreciated it but he has given his life to Christ and that is the only gang he wants to be in.

When he told me this story I jumped for joy. Here is a guy who worshiped Satan all his life, proclaiming Christ to others the first week after being saved.

We prayed together and I told him how proud I was. I believe God has something really special in store for this young man. And I am so privileged God allows me to see this take place. I just wanted to share one of God's amazing things he has done with me this past week.

Your friend,
Happy Jack

Taken from the Fall/Winter Newsletter, November 2016

 

Better Than Just Words On a Page

The mission statement and purpose of Alpha Prison Ministries is, “To evangelize and disciple men who happen to be prisoners and former inmates.” Most of you receiving this newsletter are well aware of that statement and purpose but we seek to publish it as a reminder on a regular basis.

Normally our newsletter includes the latest news, letters, and items of interest from people and families whose lives are changed by the gospel we are able to bring to those we minister to. The words evangelize and disciple are key because Jesus' final command was “to make disciples.”

But this month we get to do something better than share stories and letters. We get to invite you to see first hand the difference you are making as a partner of APM. Granted, many of you show up faithfully to our annual banquet but some of you have never experienced it.

There are multiple reasons we do this banquet every year. One, as you would no doubt expect, is to raise funds because our donors are the ONLY source of funding we receive. We couldn't do this without the help of God's people giving generously to help those whom no one, except Jesus and the people he moves, care about.

Raising funds though is a very small part of what the banquet is all about. It's an opportunity for us to show appreciation for our volunteers and supporters. A free meal may be a small token of our appreciation, but the other purposes of the banquet make up for that. It is a great meal though, Res Life catering has a high standard of excellence that really adds to your experience at every level.

One of the distinguishing attributes of prison ministry, and for sure the people who are attracted to APM, is there isn't room for religious pretense or self righteousness. To be in that environment of “real” people who give to those unable to repay in the worldly sense is refreshing and spiritually energizing.

You get to meet the actual people who make up APM. You meet our Board members, you meet our Alpha House residents, and former residents, you meet our volunteers, you meet other APM partners, and you meet our Executive Director, Leon, who works one on one with residents along with several other duties to make the ministry run smoothly.

You're not just meeting others and sharing a time of eternal significance, you're witnessing God's miraculous transformation power. Lives once hopeless and in the pit of despair, lives once brought to the epitome of hitting bottom—prison—renewed and revitalized. It's no longer words on the pages of our newsletter and web site, it's real. Be sure to join us if you can.

Taken from the Fall Newsletter, September 2016

 

Chaplain Steve Adamson

Special guest speaker for the 2016 Alpha Prison Ministries annual banquet

Chaplain Steve AdamsonChaplain Steve Adamson is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and holds additional degrees from respected authorities such as Cornerstone University. He has been in ordained ministry positions for over 30 years and has served with the Michigan Department of Corrections since 1999 where he is currently the Institutional Chaplain for Carson City Correctional Facility.

Chaplain Adamson is a good friend and advocate to Alpha Prison Ministries as well as many inmates we minister to together. He has agreed to be our guest speaker this year so he can share from 17 years of insight working inside the prison system.

When Where and Why

September 19, 2016 at 6 pm • The One Eighty at Resurrection Life Church

Society, even some Christians, view prisoners as getting what they deserve. Sometimes that's true. But God doesn't dispose of them. He changes them, sets them free, and yes, uses them. It's not glamorous work ministering to prisoners, but it is exciting. This annual banquet is your opportunity to find out why people in their right mind get hooked on seeing God transform broken lives.

Taken from the Fall Newsletter, September 2016

 

Nothing Beats Prayer

When you read Ron's letter, an inmate from Detroit who wrote to thank us for providing a Bible, his request to pray for those in authority is a direct mandate from the Bible he was thanking us for providing.

I had the privilege of hearing my pastor speak on this subject in a series of messages recently. When Paul and other writers of the Bible gave us this command, not only were they intimately familiar with being in prison, they were asking us to pray for leaders who were far worse than anyone we have the task of praying for now.

To be honest, that series of messages hit me hard. How easy it is to lament about the condition we see this country in now compared to the near story book contrast we got to experience in the past. It's far too easy to complain and criticize when our response needs to be prayer.

The need for prayer resonates through pretty much every letter we receive. You'll see it in the ones published in this newsletter as well as those in other newsletters. The challenge my pastor issued, and the one I pass on here, is to apologize to our leaders for not praying enough. We fail our leaders through lack of prayer.

Our enemy the devil is a master of getting us to focus on the things we see, on circumstances, instead of on faith. Prayer and faith changed the ancient world and it can change the one we live in now.

There are those who proclaim America is too far gone to pray for any more; they go so far as to publish articles saying so. As we just celebrated 240 years now since the Declaration of Independence, shame on them! Never stop praying! Never give up!

The conditions we see currently are cause for more prayer, more Christ-like love, more godly stamina, more showing what we're really made of, not a pathetic surrender because things are tough. A classic military strategy is divide and conquer. We certainly see that in the present political climate.

It's easy to see unrest both inside and outside the prisons. Politics though cannot save us. The results of the upcoming election are crucial to policies and our future as a country, but only the prayers of God's people truly make a real and sustained difference.

Taken from the Summer Newsletter, July 2016

 

The Bible—Contraband in American Prisons?

Dear Alpha,

I received the Bible, the NIV Study Bible, today, but it didn't come without a fight. Satan's at work here in this prison. First, the mail room rejected the Bible. Then, I requested a hearing and fought and argued with the inspector. I finally got the Bible after 3 long weeks of battling.

I finally got down on my knees and told God about this situation with this anti-Christ administration. He answered my prayers. God came through…

People don't have morals or values in this country any more! This prison's officers bring in drugs and pornography, but they reject Bibles. America is digging a hole deeper and deeper with God. It's sad!

The Bible you sent is beautiful. It's the best gift I ever received. I love it. I pray God blesses you and your ministry. I ask that you'll pray for these people in authority in this prison, please. Thank you.

Your brother in Jesus,
Ron

Taken from the Summer Newsletter, July 2016

 

Drug Addiction to Bible Addiction

My name is Eric. I'm 33 years old and I currently reside at Parnell Correctional Facility in Jackson. I've spent 12 years of my life in prison for various crimes I've committed in order to support my drug habit.

About seven years ago, I had gotten to a point in my life where the drugs were no longer effective in suppressing the guilt and shame and I could no longer live with myself. The weight of my sin began to crush me and I realized that there was nothing I could do to change my situation.

I was without hope. In that moment of desperation, I cried out to God, and what followed was an encounter with Christ that changed the direction of my life. He met me in the deepest, darkest moment and began to set me free even as I sat in the very symbol of bondage…a prison.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners… (Isaiah 61:1)

Since this encounter, I have not touched a drug in seven years, and now have dedicated my life to proclaiming this message of hope (in word and deed) to a lost and dying world. During these last seven years, I have been a diligent student of the Word, I work as a chaplains's clerk, and I have been teaching two Bible studies.

Anyway, the purpose of this letter is to help me determine the Lord's will concerning parole placement. Due to my behavior while I was lost and enslaved to drug addiction, my family no longer wants anything to do with me.

I will be seeing the parole board in June or July and my release date is December of this year. I'm from Wayne County and I do not wish to return there. Someone gave me your information and told me that you have a ministry to help people like me. If this is true, would you please send me some information about your ministry.

Thank you and God bless,
Eric

Taken from the Summer Newsletter, July 2016

 

Al's Story—A Former Alpha House Resident

My life was full of death. I was cursed with every addiction from a young age, so much that I was self destructive. Drugs, alcohol, lust—my life was out of control. As a desperate act I tried to control others, thinking I was in control. That act led me to the state penitentiary for 30-60 years.

It was a wake up call. Christ found me, saved me, delivered me, rehab-ilitated me, redeemed me from my destruction. For 25½ years I was a believer in Christ in prison. I walked in love and victory. God blessed me at every turn.

August 25th I was released from prison. God blessed me with a good job, an excellent church, and good friends. I am more blessed than I ever could have imagined. Jesus is Lord. Every day I tell someone my story.

Taken from the Summer Newsletter, July 2016

 

Clarification on May Newsletter

We had multiple recent letters from inmates advising us of policy changes at facilities restricting their ability to participate in religious activities. A couple of those letters were highlighted in our May newsletter. These inmates were informed by prison officials that the policies were mandated by Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).

After further inquiry into the matter, we were informed that the policy is not required department wide, but perhaps a response to the specific needs of certain facilities. Apparently, inmates were correctly informed that it was MDOC policy, but the policy is not being unilaterally enforced or mandated.

Although the enforcement of the policy is not being viewed by prison chaplains as a trend, it's still certainly a concern and should be a subject of prayer. For that matter, any issues regarding prisoners is a subject of prayer, as is praying for those in authority as Ron requested.

Taken from the Summer Newsletter, July 2016

 

Views From the Inside

In the words of one inmate, “I think that sucks but this is their world not mine. They can do whatever they want and I just have to go with it! It just makes me not want to come back to prison.”

Last month, two of the handwritten inmate letters we received made special mention of a new policy being enforced in the facilities they are incarcerated at. The policy will no doubt strike you the same way it struck us so there's no need for us to render an opinion in this newsletter, only to inform you of it.

What is this policy and where did it come from? The origin is Lansing so our own elected officials created it. The policy is that inmates are now only allowed one religious “callout” other than a primary service such as a Sunday chapel service. This includes any type of Bible study or even a choir practice, even if the other callouts are only once a month.

This means inmates participating in Alpha Bible studies along with other Bible studies and/or ministry groups must give up all except one. As you'll read in Brian's letter, “Many of us here were in two or more Bible studies.” But the news is not all bad. The policy has created independent small groups that inmates are forming on their own.

What's interesting about this new policy is that several studies have been done over past decades and the results are consistent every time a new study is done. Prisoners who participate in faith based activities while in prison have significantly less chance of returning to prison after being released.

Of course as Christians, we know that only Jesus can change the heart of prisoners, but even the statistics of the prison system itself confirm that faith based programs have the highest success rates for true rehabilitation. The new policy certainly isn't going to hinder our life changing God, but it does make you marvel at the logic behind it.

We're publishing the “views from the inside” not only because we believe inmate letters help reveal the importance and effectiveness of this ministry, but also because now our official numbers will naturally be skewed. What may show as a drop in Bible study attendance is not because prisoners are less interested, they're just no longer being given the opportunity to go on record except through their letters.

Taken from the Spring/Summer Newsletter, May 2016

 

Loving God and His Word

I pray this letter finds you and all the brothers in our APM family well and blessed. There is good news and a little that's not so good, but all in all I believe the good far outweighs the bad.

The not so good news is that we are now limited to one primary service (which has not changed) and one other religious callout. Many of us here were in two or more Bible studies, but now we must choose one. This includes choir practice and studies that are once a month as opposed to every week.

The staff here says this is a directive that came down from Lansing, so we really have no recourse. Some of the brothers here have started small groups that meet on the yard which is great! The volunteer who comes in for my study on Saturday hit on a positive aspect, that the smaller groups are sometimes more intimate and productive. I think he may be right.

I finally got a little job here in the kitchen. It will only make me about six or eight dollars a month but I feel blessed to have even that. There are not many jobs here and probably two thirds of the compound is jobless. This is a far cry from Carson City where almost everyone had a job. I will have an opportunity to advance and try to get more hours as I'm there longer.

My job starts at 5 am so I'm up at about 4 am. It's a very peaceful time in prison. I've started using this time to meditate on the verses I've memorized. I've made little flash cards with the book, chapter, and verse on one side and the actual Scripture on the other. As I relax with my morning coffee I go through them, saying them quietly to myself and thinking with my whole heart what they mean.

I've found this is a wonderful way to start my day. So much so that even though I only work four days a week, I get up early and do it every day. As I go through my day and am confronted with difficult situations or just random events, those verses just “pop” into my head. It is so cool!!!

It really inspires me to want to learn more and more. I'm taking my memory verses slow because I really want to know and understand them as I learn them. Context, who is speaking and being spoken to, these are as important as the Scripture itself.

I've also been doing the Read the Bible in a Year from Our Daily Bread. It's been a while since I read the whole Bible and now I have study versions of the NIV and NKJV so as I read, I also read the annotations and use the cross references to help me gain more insight and understanding. Of course I always pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me in all my studies.

God is really awesome because it's not only the verses I've committed to memory that “pop” up, it's also all the Word that I know; although I can't quote that perfectly or give the reference unless I look it up, it's still truly written on my heart! The last verses I memorized are John 1:1-5 and 14. I was just struck with how beautifully these particular verses describe Jesus, I just had to know them.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As I prepare for my interview with the parole board I am feeling a little nervous. But nowhere near as nervous as I thought I would be. I know this because Jesus is with me, bringing his peace to me and comforting me. I know that no matter what happens I will be where God needs me, so I have no real reason to worry.

The Lord has cared for me all my life, even when I didn't deserve his love and mercy, he was always there. He is the one who guided me to APM in the first place and you've been yet another blessing by providing me a place to parole to. I just wanted to make sure you know I'm thinking about you and all the brothers at APM and that you are in my prayers every day. God bless.

Your brother in Christ,
Brian

Taken from the Spring/Summer Newsletter, May 2016

 

Inmates Fasting

We just finished a 40 day fasting here and boy I made it! Didn't think that was going to happen but it did. So what happens next, a brother that is getting out in a month came up the other day and asked me to fast with him for a day. Boy I wanted to jump out of my skin, but when I realized what is happening, I thought it a great honor to help ride the prayer waves with him.

He wanted to fast and pray that him and his new wife will continue serving God when he gets out—wow how marvelous right! Thinking ahead before he gets out, that is what it's all about. Boy if these guys would start practicing that then there would be no more “return trips”!

Your brother in Christ,
Eric

Taken from the Spring/Summer Newsletter, May 2016

 

Inmate Letter with His Donation

Hello to all my friends at Alpha House. I cannot begin to explain the joy God has put on my heart today as I fill out my tithes to you. Knowing God gives me the privilege to help out in one of the most important programs he has.

The joy I get out of being allowed, or called, by God, to be in part-nership with all that Alpha House offers to men returning to the community, well, I just want to jump for joy! I know that when I left the program we both may have looked at it like a failure. But as God says in Romans 8:28, “All things work for good to those called according to his purpose.”

So because of your love and desire to see the best God can offer me, I am able to see the importance of you and all you offer through him. I truly cannot express fully the joy I have being able to write to you and the desire that God has put on my heart for Alpha House.

I do hope and pray your new year is one filled with blessings and joy for everybody who is there. All the people who help out, and especially for your family and yourself, I leave you with these two verses today:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. (Psalm 32:8)

I do love and appreciate you.

Happy Jack

Taken from the Spring Newsletter, March 2016

 

Hand Written Thank You Note Received

Handwritten thank you note

Taken from the Spring Newsletter, March 2016

 

New Alpha House Resident Writes From Prison

As you receive this newsletter, Alpha House will have a new resident as of March 1st. Before leaving prison, APM received his final two letters as an inmate which are excerpted below. Hanson is being released after 35 years in prison!

 

Hanson's January 3, 2016 Letter

Happy New Year

I pray as always that while reading this letter, it finds you, brother Bill, and all of Alpha House at peace. As for me, I am blessed by the best. God is good all the time, and by saying that, please let me testify to the power of prayer.

The morning I was scheduled for my parole board hearing (November 4, 2015), I prayed reluctantly. I say reluctantly because even though I believe in prayer, it was to me hard to pray for freedom. However, I did, but my prayer was that his will be done.

Well brother, God's will was done on December 11th. I was granted parole after 34½ years in prison. My release date is March 1, 2016. I look forward to fellowship and learning everything I can and sharing that knowledge with believers and non believers.

Know that as I close this letter, never will I close my heart and prayers for you and the wonderful work you are doing with Alpha House and Alpha Prison Ministries. Let me say again, God bless you all.

Peace and God's continued grace,
Hanson

 

Hanson's February 4, 2016 Letter

God bless you, brother Bill, and all the brothers at Alpha House. All is well here at Carson City and the APM Bible study. As always, it's a pleasure hearing from you. I would like to take this time to thank you for the inspirational newsletter titled, Men on the Beach. Also, for the tract, Free From Fear by Duane Vander Klok.

I would also like to thank you in advance for picking me up at the parole officer's office. On that my dear brother, I'll close for now with this:

As God's co-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.
We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. (2 Corinthians 6:1-11)

My prayers are with you, brother Bill, both Alpha Houses, and APM.

God's peace and continued grace,
Hanson

Taken from the Spring Newsletter, March 2016

 

Alpha House Gets Great Reviews In Prisons

My name is Anthony and I am currently incarcerated at Newberry Correctional Facility. I have been incarcerated for 4 years and will be seeing the parole board sometime this summer.

I learned of your ministry through my bunky who went to placement with you for his parole in September. My old bunky had great things to say about your ministry.

I had told him how Christ had changed my life and if I was given the opportunity of receiving my parole, how I couldn't return to the old environment and people I used to involve myself with because the chances of a relapse are too great. My sobriety is the most important thing to me in my walk with my Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

I had asked the chaplain here about your program and he gave awesome reviews. I asked him for a referral to your program and he stated that I had to write to you first. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this letter. I truly pray that there can be a place for me so that I can grow more in Christ at your ministry. Thank you Alpha Prison Ministries.

Love,
Anthony

Taken from the Spring Newsletter, March 2016

 

Past • Present • Future

We're not in the habit of looking back too much or getting too concerned about the present in such a way that we lose focus on the future, but the beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect back, realistically evaluate where we are now, and plan ahead.

Here's a recap on APM for 2015:

Not mentioned on that list is Alpha House residents who study the Bible with Leon and meet with mentors every week.

If the theme of Bible shines through, that's deliberate. It's not just about getting men into the Bible, it's about getting the Bible into them. God uses his word in tandem with his Spirit to change lives.

APM Exective Director, Leon ALdermanBy reaching inmates and former inmates this way, you're showing them that someone still cares, that God still cares, and you're doing something about the crime problem even if it seems overwhelming by appearances and society never recognizes you for it.

APM has only one paid staff member, Leon. The 800-900 letters and 1000+ phone calls we get, he answers them, sends out the Bibles requested by inmates, and so much more.

APM thanks you for your prayers, volunteering, and financial support to help make this happen, and for your continued participation as we look forward to 2016 and the eternal difference we all make together this year.

Taken from the Winter Newsletter, January 2016

 

800-900 Inmate Letters to APM Per Year

With 800-900 inmate letters per year to APM, only a few that we have limited space for make our newsletters. Since we answer all of them but have so little room here, it seemed fitting to include a couple more examples of previously unpublished inmate letters from 2015. In July, we published an excerpt from one of Justin's letters, but another one shown below has was received later; it just wasn't a letter alone (see editor's note).

Taken from the Winter Newsletter, January 2016

 

Sunday Services Running Out of Room

I hope everything is going good with you and everyone at Alpha House. Everything is going real good here. I am just waiting to see the parole board. I should be doing my Parole Eligibility Report (PER); as soon as I do that I will know what day I will see them.

I really enjoyed the newsletter. Tim's testimony was powerful. It shows you that with Christ on your side, all things are possible.

God is really doing many great things here. We have 2 services on Sunday. We have so many people who are in both services we are running out of room. If it keeps on going like this we will take over the gym for services on Sunday. That is the kind of problem I enjoy solving.

God has really blessed me so much I can't even explain the joy I have for him; he is awesome. On Monday nights, Alpha Ministries is doing really well.

I really look forward to coming to Alpha House. That is going to be amazing to meet all my Christian brothers and sisters when I go to church. God bless all of you and keep me in your prayers.

Your brother in Christ,
Justin

EDITOR'S NOTE: This letter was included with a $35 donation which is a lot of money to an inmate.

Taken from the Winter Newsletter, January 2016

 

DeShawn Seeks Transitional Housing

My name is DeShawn. I'm writing this letter to inquire about your housing programs for parolees coming home from prison. I heard about Alpha House from my counselor here at Pugsley Correctional Facility so I was inquiring about different community placements: transitional housing programs for parolees throughout the City of Grand Rapids, MI.

Be advised, the reason I'm requesting this information is because I've seen the parole board, though they gave me a continuation pending the completion of a Violence Prevention Program (VPP) which I've completed.

My question is, if it is at all permissible, could you please send some information about what I need to do to be a part of Alpha House and what are the requirements expected of me to be a part of the program?

Unfortunately, I have to return to Detroit because I'm going to a community placement but I'm willing to relocate because I have no family down there. They've all moved out of Detroit, but I've been locked up for 15 years.

I was charged with 2nd Degree Murder with Felony Firearm and I'm not proud of it, but this is why I'm trying to go to community placement in a different location. If you could please honor this request, I'd gladly appreciate it. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read this letter.

Sincerely,
DeShawn

Taken from the Winter Newsletter, January 2016

 

From the Editor

You can probably tell that DeShawn's was a first time letter by the way it reads, unlike many others such as Justin who write to us on a regular basis. Since APM has no physical presence at Pugsley, it demonstrates that word about us gets around and that the need for transitional housing is a big challenge for parolees.

There are other elements of inmate letters that you don't get to see as I prepare them for publication. Sometimes, it takes me a bit of effort to not only decipher handwriting (sometimes a great deal of effort), less than perfect communication skills often require close examination before I can effectively translate them into an easily read newsletter.

There's also that fine line between making corrections for clarity and preserving the authenticity of inmate letters. I usually only correct spelling, sentence and paragraph structure, and make excerpting decisions for space limitations, but in spite of my efforts to demonstrate the diversity of writing skill levels found in prisoners, one thing still doesn't show.

DeShawn's respectful tone and grammar skills are part of his handwritten letter. Only the punctuation and paragraph breaks were corrected. His spelling is flawless. His handwriting is particularly impressive. If you find it shocking about his 2nd Degree Murder charge in print, it's even more so with the pen and paper original. I don't know the circumstances that led to his crime, but I have read what the Apostle Paul was like before and after Jesus Christ literally knocked him off his horse.

Taken from the Winter Newsletter, January 2016

 

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