Reaching through the Bars

New Life Prison Ministry reaches through the bars to provide Bible teaching courses to thousands of inmates in our Canadian prisons.

Welcome to New Life Prison Ministry. Our purpose is to provide Christian videos and Bible correspondence courses to inmates, their families, and chaplains across Canada.

Watch our Video

“Reach Through the Bars” is an exciting video explaining more about New Life Prison Ministry. Please take a few minutes, watch and learn how NLPM is impacting prisoners with God’s love. 

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Questions & Answers

Who is eligible to take the Bible study courses? Do the courses cost students money? How do counsellors protect their privacy? Do students really change?

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Giving to NLPM

NLPM operates through the generous gifts of people like you.  Click below to donate securely through CanadaHelps.org.

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Testimonials

The following testimonies show just a small glimpse of the impact of NLPM. We receive testimonies almost every week, and we praise God for allowing us to share in our students’ joy!

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Mark your calendar for the 2014 Annual Conference

The planned date for the conference is October 4th, 2014.   Speaker and times will be announced!

A Lost Opportunity

A Message from Tim Horne (Aftercare Impressions)

In my role in after-care support for students of New Life Prison Ministry I go to many places: prisons, coffee shops, people’s homes, doctor’s offices and probation and parole offices being some of them.  I also go to court fairly often. This past week my wife Lil was able to join me to observe the sentencing of a fellow I have been visiting at a local Detention Centre.  I have visited him 5 times during the past few months and he and I have been able to talk about many things, mostly connected to is charges and plans for life after his release from prison.  He came to my attention after a fellow worker with New Life Prison Ministry spoke to me about him.  A little later the Volunteer Coordinator at the prison called and asked if I could connect with him.  There are concerns that every time he is released from prison he returns again within days or weeks.   After my first visit with him I understood why that was his pattern.  J has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and because he started bouncing around from foster home to foster home at the age of 1 year, he was never able to get the kind of loving support or consistent treatment and therapy needed to learn how to function properly in society.  He has been taught few or no coping skills or strategies.

The charges that J has pled guilty to throughout his lengthy criminal history can all be linked directly to his condition with its relational challenges. You see, when someone has been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, in J’s case, Asperger’s Syndrome, there are some characteristics that tend to be present (LINK).  J shares many of those characteristics. He is very challenged in relationships as he has difficulty in interpreting social cues or in entering into the feelings and understanding of others.  He has a heightened sense of what is right and true.  If he feels someone else is slighting him or he is being lied to, he can’t let it go and it becomes his focus and the main topic of conversation. Socially he is awkward and therefore has a difficult time making friends and maintaining those friendships.  He is painfully aware of his loneliness.

The justice system in Canada, for all its strengths (and I know it does have many strengths), has some weaknesses too.  The obvious one I observed in J’s case was the inability to respond to the particular circumstances of the “offender”, in this case a developmental disorder.  J has a diagnosis that directly relates to his offenses- that was ignored by the judge and the crown prosecutor who only focussed on the behaviour, not the underlying reasons for it. Neither this man, or the community are better served by a term of incarceration yet that is what he received because, as the judge said: “it is time he is taught that his behaviour is unacceptable to society.”  The behaviour was not dangerous- deterrence was not given as a reason for the decision. J doesn’t understand what he did was criminally wrong.  Punishment was the only motive for the judge’s harsh words and crushing decision. The judge was wrong and his decision to sentence J to an extra year behind bars doesn’t reflect true justice.  It will, in my opinion, only serve to damage a man and do nothing to resolve the problem.

For someone with J’s challenges, prison will not be a positive teacher. He will be extremely vulnerable to teasing and other forms of abuse while “inside.”  In some ways, and in spite of all he has seen and lived, J has the naïve innocence of a four year-old child.  I left many of our conversations smiling because of the simple yet profound way J has of looking at life.  He genuinely doesn’t understand what he did wrong and why he was arrested. “Isn’t lying wrong, Tim?” he continually asked me.  J contends that he was the aggrieved person. If he doesn’t understand that his actions were inappropriate and unlawful, how will he learn from the punishment the judge felt he had earned? What will a term in prison do to calm his anger and feelings of injustice?  How will he learn how to cope in society?  It is entirely possible that he will come out in much worse shape than when he went in. And if he does, the downward spiral of his life that started when he suffered abuse as a child and was placed in foster care will continue.

J and I had dedicated considerable time to come up with a plan of support for him after his release.  We talked about him getting involved in various, positive activities- like church attendance, peer support groups, and healthy supportive relationships. We talked about him getting involved in counselling to insure that he learn skill for coping with life’s stresses. I remain very saddened by the way the justice system failed J. He cried as it dawned on him that his time in detention was not going to end that day.  His biggest concern was that he had missed his mother’s birthday the day before.  He begged that he be allowed to be “free” so he could give her a hug.  His other concern was that: “I am not that kind of man people say I am.”  He just wants to be understood for who he is and judged for what is in his heart- and who doesn’t?

For many in the court that day, an imprisoned J means that a problem was dealt with and is now removed from view.  For others his was just another case to be closed, with many more to move on to.  But that isn’t how it is.  This was an opportunity missed. Now he is a frightened and confused man who doesn’t really understand what happened and why it has happened. He will need hope. He will need reassurance. He will need something to look forward to. He needs to know that not everyone is angry with him or wants to forget about him or punish him.  He needs to know that God still cares.  That is what God has called all of us in prison ministry to do.

…God gives the increase

A look behind the scenes… To encourage us, our good friend Jimmy Cavanagh (who is the Prison Fellowship representative in the Kingston, ON, area) sent us a letter from which we excerpted the following, “Enclosed is a copy of a letter I received from Amanda¹ who took your Bible courses and whom Sheila² worked with and who told Amanda to take the courses. Then after completing your courses she received a copy of my book.

This is an example of how God works through His people as we work together to serve Him. To fill in the blanks for you, the story started five years ago. Sheila was visiting Amanda at the prison in

London, ON. At some time during those visits she shared the gospel with her and encouraged her to do the Bible studies, but Amanda wasn’t ready. Four years later, Amanda is once again incarcerated elsewhere, and she wrote to Sheila, who lovingly corresponded with her and encouraged her once again to begin the New Life Bible studies. Amanda asked the chaplain for courses and to date, has now completed more than 60 courses. Most importantly, she has become a Christian and is growing in her faith. After she completed ten courses she received Jimmy’s book Captured To Run No More as her ten unit award book, which really ministered to her and she wrote a six page letter pouring her heart out to Jimmy. Here is a short excerpt:

“Since being in here I’ve completed (many) Bible studies and I’ve found God. I feel as though I just met Him. I’ve read the Bible and I finally understand and believe. My whole life I ran, but I ran to nothing. I didn’t know what I was looking for. It always felt like a part of me was missing. I know now that that part was God. I see now that it was not God who hurt me; it was man. It was not man who made me, it was God. …Thank you for sharing your story with me. It made me feel like someone understood what I went through. I will be 23 on … and I’ve finally found God.  Your friend, Amanda”

In prison ministry it is of the utmost importance that God’s people work together to serve Him, and He gives the increase. The prison environment has enough factions in it already; it is a place where Jesus’ words of “loving one another” and “being one” is critical. Souls are at stake and it is a privilege to work together to serve Him.

¹name changed, and letters used with Jim’s and Amanda’s permission.

²Sheila Hollands very faithfully continues Hebron Ministries, (founded with her husband Ernie, who passed away 16 years ago.) She sends thousands of ex-offender testimony books such as Hooked, (her husband’s testimony) into prisons around the world.

Aftercare Impressions

A Message from Tim Horne (Aftercare Impressions)

I have taken time this morning to review the past number of months and the people God has had cross my path in my role in aftercare with “returnees.” I have struggled with how to name the people I deal with who have been incarcerated but now are back in the community. A colleague uses the term: “returnee.” I like that much better than ex-offender or ex-inmate for “returnee” gives a sense of belonging or of coming home.  It assumes they are coming back to somewhere they were part of before. It is our hope that, by God’s grace, life will be changed and things will be much different for the person returning than it was before they “went away.” I have met some pretty amazing people during this time, people who teach me about resilience as they struggle against addictions, loneliness, failure and rejection yet maintaining a sense of hope and a belief that God can change them and their circumstances.

I want to highlight an area of the ministry that I try to discipline myself to do at least once a week. I fully recognize that it isn’t an exciting part of the ministry but it is nonetheless important. That area is letter writing. I write a fair number of them each month both to individuals still incarcerated and to returnees looking for support in the community. Letters to people who are in prison carry with them a lot of hope; they remind the individual that there are people on the outside still thinking about him or her. I write letters to people who are nearing their release date for the purpose of informing them of the services that New Life can offer them through Aftercare. In my letters I can also help them identify services and resources in the area where they are choosing to live. My letters to returnees often address needs by giving ideas around looking for where a person might live or which church might be a welcoming place for them. My goal is always to encourage the recipient with hope. One fellow asked me to help him connect with an agency that would assist him with his addictions issues. Another wanted contact information for mental health supports in the community. Yet another asked me to contact his lawyer for him to get some info to him concerning his case. People who have been released from prison have a difficult time finding places where they can go for support. Trust is a big issue for many if not all. It is important that New Life’s students know that they can share their struggles and concerns without being judged or told what to do. In my letters both to folks inside and those on the outside, I invite individuals to contact me so we can meet to talk about their challenges, to pray together and to investigate resources in the community where they can find support. When one of our students asks about a church they can attend I will search the Internet for churches that may be options and write the pastors about their willingness to accept and work with individuals returning to their community from a prison. If possible I will go with the individual to the church to meet with leadership to discuss the support needs.

The written word has great value and transforming power to challenge and encourage.  In this day and age of rapid-fire communication through text messages, email and twitter accounts a good old letter in the hand allows a person to reflect on both the writer and the message. It is something concrete to hang onto and to re-visit from time to time to let the thoughts expressed sink in.
May God bless you as you pray and as you support ministries that God is using to build His church.
Pray for:
MB- coming to church each week. Pray for his salvation.  He has a long and extensive history of incarceration and addiction.
AD- coming out of prison this week and dealing with significant addiction issues. Pray that she stay clean before heading off to rehab on Dec.31. Pray that the safety plan we have made will encourage her and help her grow in her faith.
LD- as she plans for her release, pray that a support circle can be formed to help her attain her goals of sobriety and stability. Pray that she find safe and supportive housing.
MC- because of his criminal record he can’t find housing anywhere. He is a believer but his past is proving to be a real barrier to moving forward. Pray that God provide him with an apartment.
Lil and I are thankful to God for your prayers for us and for New Life Prison Ministry. We are thankful too to those who help support us financially through gifts designated to us through New Life Prison Ministry. We are privileged to be able to serve God by loving men and women whose lives have been derailed by sin. Please contact me if you have any questions about the work we do.
Sincerely,
 Tim