Nesselhuf accepts 'Faithfulness in Ministry' award Each year during the Mid-Winter convocation at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN three individuals are honored with the Faithfulness in Ministry Cross. These recognize faithful service in three categories: urban/suburban ministry, small town/rural ministry and specialized ministry.
This year's honorees included the Rev. Ed Nesselhuf of Vermillion in the specialized category. He developed and directs Prison Congregations of America, whose ministry is to work with Christian denominations and prison officials so that prison congregations are established in state prisons across America.
Nesselhuf has not only been a model of what it means to bear another's burdens; he has been the model of doing so with those in prison.
Nesselhuf's career has included serving as a parish pastor in Rapid City and Chamberlain, as director of a Bible camp, and as campus pastor at The University of South Dakota. His passion, though, lies in reaching out to those in prison.
After 12 years of parish ministry, he was called to be the pastor-developer of the first prison congregation in the U.S. His first church plant, a Lutheran congregation in a prison in Maryland, began with only two Lutherans. As the ministry grew, congregations were started in two prisons � one for men, one for women.
A decade of dreaming, praying and grassroots research led to the development of Prison Congregations of America (PCA), a non-profit organization dedicated to lifting up Jesus' call to reach out to people in prison. Since its beginnings, PCA has been instrumental in developing congregations in prisons in four states.
"Throughout the struggle and the stress, Ed has remained hopeful. He continued to believe in his dream," wrote Leroy Iseminger, a colleague from the South Dakota Synod. "He has demonstrated for me the tenaciousness of faith. In many ways, he has been a prophetic voice. He has had to convince others that God truly called him to work and gave him this dream and passion that burn deeply within him."
"Sometimes life presents us with a call in which we have no choice. The development of Prison Congregations of America is such a call for me," Nesselhuf said. "Having seen the marvelous ministry that such a congregation provides not only to the inmate member, but also to the members of the partner congregations, it was inevitable that some system of exporting this model to other states and other denominations be developed.
"God has provided the human and financial resources to make this dream a reality. The prison congregation model fits the mainline denominations such as ELCA. It provides encouragement and access for our members to visit the imprisoned. And when we do ? as in all of the Matthew 25 ministries ? we find that Jesus is already there and we are blessed and enriched by encounters with him," he said. "This ministry that is near to the heart of Jesus. It provides opportunity for the church to be at its absolute best!"