Prison Revival - Matt Penner
An evening of revival and prayer at a local prison doesn't just happen. For days, weeks, months, and even years, God had been laying the groundwork led to this hot and windy night. Two years ago, The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) began in the Hutchinson Correctional Facility with nine students. Around that same time, God was placing a call for prayer and revival on my heart. Not long after that, Matt Thomas, a man with a powerful testimony from his own time behind bars, became a World Impact ministry partner. Matt now runs a ministry called Firm Foundations for ex-offenders. All of this—along with two TUMI students, Abe and Randy, who were transferred to the East Unit—led to this night in the yard of their East Unit where we hosted the revival. With a team of 20 volunteers from World Impact and ministry partners of Firm Foundations, we went into the prison to partner with Abe, Randy and their church inside the walls.
We quickly set up the sound system, cookies, and soda. We didn't know how many inmates would attend, so we optimistically prepared for all 500 men. When they were released to the yard, 100 inmates were eager to greet us and drink the cold Pepsi on such a hot afternoon. In the yard where we met were was a group of Asatru and Wiccans gathering for their worship and men actively working out. But we were confident that the Lord's presence was with us and the distractions would be silenced. We even saw some of the men who were working out walk up to the fence and listen.
After some worship led by Ben Wray and my wife Angie, we had two dynamic testimonies from Abe and Randy. Abe's story in particular touched me. He initially was locked up around the age of 18. He spent his first 15 years of incarceration on the run from the Lord, but when he finally hit rock bottom, the Lord spoke to him: "Will you give me another chance?" When he heard the Lord's voice, Abe finally surrendered and was radically changed.
This led to a clear Gospel presentation while incorporating his testimony from Matt Thomas. During the altar call, a group of 20 to 30 men came forward either to receive Christ or rededicate their lives to the Lord. As they circled up, praying arm in arm, Abe took the lead and shared more about following Jesus.
Following a second message from Coach Larry Allen, we came together for a time of prayer. This time, about 40 inmates locked arms and we led them in prayer of repentance and forgiveness. Men cried out to the Lord with tears and the desire to be set free. The presence of God was so clear and powerful!
As we said goodbye, I could see smiles of joy all around. One inmate told me that this time was the happiest he had ever been in his whole life. My lasting memory from this evening was a few of the inmates singing "I Can Only Imagine" during worship. The reality is that these guys live in a dark place and carry so many burdens. Yet, for that night, they were able to experience the presence of God in a tangible way. It was a definite foretaste of heaven.
A total of 125 people (including volunteers) attended the prison revival night. We drank around 450 cans of soda. Thirteen inmates prayed to receive Christ for the first time and another 20 rededicated their lives. Our next steps are to work on following up with these new believers.
Please pray that the seed of the Gospel would grow deep in their lives. Pray that this will be the start of more outreaches and revivals in our cities and prisons. Amen!
Matt Penner is World Impact's National Prayer Director.
Written in Stone - Maria, LACS Student
Hello! My name is Maria and I am in eighth grade at Los Angeles Christian School. The picture here is of me with one of my teachers, Ms. D'Avirro. She asked me to write to you so I could share a glimpse of how God is working through the middle school. We recently participated in the 30 Hour Famine that is put on by World Vision, which has changed my life completely. Before the Famine, I was not really feeling God. I was wondering who I was and what I was supposed to be. I was struggling. I had a feeling that if God was going to do something, it was going to be through our 30 Hour Famine weekend.
The night of the Famine, after playing games and building our huts to sleep in later, we got the chance to participate in prayer stations that some teachers created. The stations showed me many things; like how much my family means to me, that God is always there for me, and that I need to give myself fully to the Lord. Then we all sang and praised the Lord. I was so moved to see my younger classmates in sixth and seventh grade put their hands up to worship.
Then the Lord put it on my heart to pray for one of the sixth grade girls. I was unsure if God really wanted me to but then I saw her break down and cry. I then knew God definitely wanted me to pray for her. I went up to her and prayed out loud for her. As I prayed for her word after word just came to my lips to say to her. They were words for her, through me, but from Him! After praying for her, I still did not feel at peace. I looked over and saw a seventh grade boy crying before the Lord. I was not sure if I was supposed to pray for him because I am a girl, but I went over to him anyway to pray. Again, the words spilled out of me in prayer for him. It felt like the words were delivered straight from God for him to hear! After I prayed for him, I sensed God telling me something: this is what I am supposed to do. It is written in stone already that I am made to pray for people. After doubting myself and being so unsure, the Lord told me what my heart was longing for.
Last but not least, I wanted to share that through the whole Famine I had the word Psalms in my head, but could not think of the verse or numbers. When we woke up from sleeping outside the next morning, my friend turned randomly to a page in the Bible and found Psalms 144:1-2. It said that the Lord was my refuge and shield. Later that day, still during the Famine, we had prayer cards given to us and it said again that the Lord is my refuge. Even after the 30 Hour Famine, at church the whole sermon was about God being my refuge. I do believe that! He is my refuge and my shield!
I just wanted to explain, show you, and THANK YOU for sponsoring my school. Thank you for helping us middle schoolers find a relationship with God!
Dr. Alvin Sanders Transitions to World Impact
World Impact, Inc, a mission organization empowering the urban poor since 1971, has announced the selection of Reverend Dr. Alvin Sanders as its new Senior Vice President of Ministry Mobilization and Vice President of the Midwest Region.
"It is my pleasure to announce this appointment," reported Efrem Smith, CEO and President of World Impact. "Alvin comes to us with extensive experience in urban ministry, church planting, ministry expansion, and denominational executive leadership. In recent years he has served in an executive role with the Evangelical Free Church of America denomination providing leadership in areas of multi-ethnic ministry, urban ministry, and missions. Alvin will begin his role with us July 1st, 2015."
Alvin's experience includes over two decades of urban ministry. A highlight was planting River of Life Church in 2000 in downtown Cincinnati. He joins World Impact after serving as the associate executive director of ReachNational, the national ministry arm of the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA).
In this role Alvin brought awareness and education of the reality of America's changing demographics, giving leadership to their diversity efforts. Under his leadership the EFCA moved from 13% of its 1,500 congregations classified as ethnic or multicultural to 22%.
He is a graduate of Cincinnati Christian University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and received his Ph.D. from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of Bridging the Diversity Gap: Leading Towards God's Multi-Ethnic Kingdom.
Alvin will serve as our national team leader of ministry mobilization and implementation, overseeing processes of greater faithfulness and fruitfulness in World Impact's four focus areas and the ministry initiatives within them. In this role, the vice presidents from all regions will report directly to him. He will also provide direct supervision to the Midwest regional team.
Alvin, his wife Caroline, and their two daughters will continue to reside in Cincinnati, Ohio. Please pray for Alvin and his family as well as World Impact during this transition.