Mary Mortenson, Pamela Deacon-Joyner, Prison Congregations of America (1)
Jan 21, 2017
By Neil Bullock, PCA Board Member
Like all of us I was saddened by the news of Ed Nesselhuf’s transition from this life into the next and prayed for his family that he loved so much. At the same time, I was filled will joy to know that he was at peace and rest from this world and is in that place that God has prepared for him. I first met Ed when I joined the board of PCA about 12 years ago. I was impressed with his quiet gentle and loving spirit that would well up with tears in his eyes, as he spoke about men and woman in prison. I remember especially a time at a PCA board meeting where in tears, he expressed that he felt that he should have done more. He was preparing for retirement and his passion to bring the gospel to those in prisons was as strong as ever. So strong that he inspired me to do more in my home church here in Chicago. So when the opportunity for Bethel Lutheran Church came to be involved in ministry with returning citizens, I advocated for Bethel church to take part in this ministry.
Now every Tuesday at 7:30 PM for the past several years, we host a worship service called the Bridge. Several of our members are active in the Bridge. The Bridge is a ministry of Mission USA that is geared toward men and woman who are returning to the community from prison or in recovery. Bethel hosts the service which in sponsored each week by churches from different denominations. Each week four different preachers minister to the participants on a predetermined topic submitted by the participants followed by a meal.
One week I had the opportunity to preach at the Bridge on the topic, “Am I Falling Short?” Like Ed one of the participants who submitted the question did not feel they were living to the “standards” of what others might feel they should. My response to the question that night was the same I proposed to Ed. Yes, you have fallen short! The truth is we all have fallen short. But the good news is that God has made a way for us who are in Christ Jesus and have fallen short. This is the good news that we all share.
However, in Ed’s case I reminded him that there are few of us who can say the ministry they have done has blessed so many lives. Hundreds and perhaps thousands still to come are blessed each week because of the ministry Ed began. The foundation Ed laid with PCA is continuing to grow. His vision of bringing the gospel to men and woman in prison is a direct response to Hebrews 13:3; “remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them.” I know Ed loved those in prison as though he was there with them. There was a special place in his heart for Jesus in prison.
I know Jesus has a place for Ed in His heart. I believe Jesus has a special place prepared just for Ed in His kingdom. When the time was right, I believe Jesus received Ed to himself with words like these, “well done my good and faithful cowboy. You have fought the god fight, you have kept the faith, now go into your prairie prepared for you and write your poems.”
Keep the fires lit Ed. We all will be joining you soon.