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The results of an autopsy of inmate Raymond Jones, whose illness and death led to the courageous meeting between three inmates and an investigative reporter, have confirmed the cause of death: CHRONIC MENINGO ENCEPHILITIS (which is another way of saying an infection or inflammation of the linings of the brain and the spinal cord - which COULD have been caused by an untreated ear-infection.) Troy was right - Motrin was not sufficient treament in this case.
Late 2007 News
Suddenly on Dec. 5, 2007 Troy Rienstra was transferred to the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, a Michigan Department of Corrections level III facility in the Upper Peninsula. His address now is:
I pray in faith that all is well with you in this seasonal time of transition. The old is gone and the new is come. Anticipate the great and awesome things the Lord will do through, for, and all around us as the return of our King draws near.
At the beginning of every year I ask the Lord to “Use me” and if there is no one to go, “Send me.” This year God saw fit to make some major changes in my life and my surroundings. On May 11, 2007, after a six-year stay at Standish Maximum security prison, I was transferred to Brooks Correctional Facility, located in Muskegon Heights, MI. Instead of being a three-hour drive away from family and friends, I was now no more than 30 minutes away. I found the Christian community at Brooks to be vibrant and thriving, with many expressing a true hunger and thirsting for the Word of God. However, history has taught us that wherever seeds of the gospel are being sown, the enemy is sure to sow tares.
My stay at Brooks was short-lived. On December 5th I was transferred to Chippewa Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula, about a 6-hour drive from home. This move came about as a result of a very unfortunate event. On September 25th prisoners Raymond Earl Jones died. Before his admittance to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon, Raymond was being housed at Brooks. Shortly after I met Raymond, his physical condition required regular medical treatment. As his health deteriorated before our eyes, many prisoners became concerned and asked for better care for him. Three weeks before Raymond’s passing I contacted my family with an urgent plea on Raymond’s behalf. Even with the outside support and interventions, we were unable to save Raymond’s life.
An investigation into Raymond’s death was initiated after Innocent! director Doug Tjapkes contacted Penny Ryder of the American Friends Service Committee. Grand Rapids Press reporter Pat Shallenberger made a special visit to the E.C. Brooks facility for the purpose of interviewing Ken Mazurek, Jesse Hawkins and me.
On November 18th a beautifully written story appeared in the Grand Rapids Press under the headline “I’ve never seen so much apathy” and on the Muskegon Chronicle front page as “Death adds to concerns about prison health care.”
About a week later, Ken Mazurek was transferred out of the Muskegon facility. A week after that I found myself bound in belly chains and cuffs, riding a prison bus and wondering if I made the right decision - to speak up on behalf of someone who couldn’t speak for himself. E.C. Brooks was a comfortable place for me in many ways. I was conveniently close and I had the opportunity to meet with many new outreach volunteers from Church of the Servant. My telephone calls home were only about $3 for a 12 minute call compared with $9 a call from Standish.
After nine hours in the windowless vehicle, we crossed over the Mackinaw Bridge and I thought, “Where ARE they taking me?” My wrists were burning from the pressure being applied by the handcuffs. After crisscrossing the state from prison to prison, my head was throbbing, I had motion sickness and I really had to pee. I found myself in the midst of a wilderness of temptation and my first trial was to choose whether I would be a man who lives by bread alone or by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Martin Luther Ling, one of namesakes, penned these words from a Birmingham jail cell, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Another namesake, closer to home, Ty Hofman, whispered in his last day to his wife Cobi, “I just need a little more time. I want to change the world.” And Christ Jesus, who is my life-sake, said, “Take no through for your life.” I am resolved to live a life that honors those who have gone before me. My prayer is that I become more like them.
Sometimes we wish we could make changes with one set of sweeping reforms, but I’ve discovered we can only advance the kingdom of God to the extent that we are willing to give of ourselves to it. We should all want the world, at least out part of it, to see God’s will being done through us, and that always comes at a great expense. We have to give our greatest desire over to God’s care, in belief that He will prosper it and in turn, lay it up for us to enjoy in its abundance as Christ promised.
In conclusion, I want to encourage you all to continue in prayer and support of our mission to reach prisoners with the love of Christ Jesus. We have much work to do in 2008 and there is a little something we can find for everyone to do. Have a blessed new beginning. As the Scripture says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing.” Isaiah 43:18-19a
Thank you family, friends, and members of Christians for Prisoners & Prisoners for Christ, for another year of work and support. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve only just begun. So, to my fellow prisoners on assignment for Christ, continue to work while it is still day, for when night comes no one shall work. Just be willing and available to be used. God will do the rest.
History and purpose of Christians for Prisoners & Prisoners for Christ
CfP & PfC grew out of a vision that God revealed to Troy Rienstra in early 2003. He saw Christians behind bars being trained to be effective disciples while serving their sentences, and uniting to the church of Jesus Christ though communion (letter-writing, visits, sharing the sacraments, and responsible involvement) before and after release from prison.
The foundation of CfP & PfC is Christ’s commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey.’ Matt. 28:19-20.
The mission is to build connections between 'bond' and 'free' groups of followers of Jesus Christ for the purpose of discipleship and building unity.
Message from Troy Rienstra
Our movement, Christians for Prisoners and Prisoners for Christ, was born out of a need for Christian prisoners to live out the disciplined life of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Our goal is to have candidates be mentored and equipped for effectively carrying out evangelical work and church planting during their "tour of duty" within the prison system.
God has created a unique and advantageous opportunity by positioning several men in various prisons who share the same zeal and vision for the increase of the family of God. We've all walked through Rick Warren's "Purpose-Driven Life." A Christian visiting ministry volunteer at Standish had donated 20 copies of the book to our church.
I've had the benefit of reading two excellent books written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was martyred while in prison under the Hitler regime. "Life Together" and "The Cost of Discipleship" read as companions defining the framework for small group fellowship and answering the call of Jesus Christ to follow Him.
On November 8, 2004, I was visited by a four- member delegation of ministers from the Christian Reformed Church. They came to inquire as to how the church could best equip the prison ministry, enhancing the Christian experience for prisoners. Being with these men was a most encouraging confirmation that we have been praying for God's will. We look forward to the fruitful growth of this relationship.
Our vision for 2006 is to see prisoners equipped to become more active in the ministry of the word, for them to be allowed the observance of the sacraments, and that church discipline will help establish integrity and virtue as standards for the prison church.
It is important for the prison church to have an impact within its immediate community. We are called to serve, not to be served, and to minister outwardly by doing all things for the building up of the body of Christ. I challenge and call upon Christians in prison to become faithful in tithing, develop an outreach ministry through their "congregations" and always intercede in prayer for someone theydon't know personally, as well as for those they do know. This is how we can be used by God, and this is the only way a change will come.
Archive: Winter-Spring 2007
In May of 2007, I was moved to the E.C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights, MI - closer to my family, and to moved to a lower level (from a V to a IV) which is a lot less restrictive and, of course, much closer to the family and friends I love to see, which I can more frequently now. Praise God!
Please p ray for believers in prison who need and desire to hear the Word, celebrate the sacraments and praise God together, and for chaplains and visitors who help make these things happen.
Clyde Davis (above, 3rd from left) is pictured with friends Bennie, Ryan and Holly at Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids in December, 2006, when he said:
“I want to say thank you to all who have helped me come so far in the four months that I’ve been in Grand Rapids. Without my family and friends from Church of the Servant, Reconnection, Butterball Farms, the Grand Rapids Library and Restorers, I would not be where I am today. I thank God for all of you, and I pray that many others who come home from prison will find the love and support I have.”
1. The council of Church of the Servant approved "Christians for Prisoners & Prisoners for Christ" as a ministry partner in the work of restorative justice and reconciliation.
2. In an interesting turn of events, the Michigan Parole Board (unbeknownst to them) has committed to investing one-hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) over the next five years toward prison ministry. On January 25, 2006, the Parole Board stated they had “no interest” in seeing Troy Rienstra released from prison. In effect, they agreed to provide him with access to prisoners and guards, as well as all-expenses-paid room and board in the prison mission field.
An article "The Church Behind Bars" in the September, 2005, issue of the Banner, the Christian Reformed Church of North America's magazine, generated miraculous results. People from all over the world responded with offers to join with Christians for Prisoners - Prisoners for Christ in the work of spreading the gospel throughout prisons in our land, and building bridges of communication between Christians on both sides of prison walls.
On November 18, 2005, at the Christian Community Development Association 17th Annual National Conference, Rich and Carol Rienstra presented a workshop featuring a DVD presentation from their son Troy.
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