Alaskan Named Restorative Justice Award Recipient

by Emett Barfield, June 17th, 1998

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--On Thursday evening, Rev. Mrs. Mable Rasmussen distinguished associate pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Fairbanks, Alaska and chaplain of the Fairbanks Correctional Center will receive the Restorative Justice Award from the National Ministries Division of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Rev. Rasmussen was nominated for this award by her session at First Presbyterian Church.

In 1951, this devoted disciple and her husband moved to Alaska to serve as missionaries to Native Americans. In 1957 she and her husband founded the Hospitality House for Youth-at-Risk, where she worked until retirement in 1974. Her work in prison ministries began in 1984 when a visitor to the church asked Rev. Rasmussen to go with her to the Fairbanks Correctional Center. She responded to the call for help and has been responding ever since. She energetically ministers to some 250 prisoners in her role as chaplain. In addition, she carries on a very active counseling practice for the street people of her city and an outreach program for girl friends, wives, and families of the prisoners. At the age of 78, when most would be considering retirement, she became an ordained Presbyterian minister to comply with state requirements for prison chaplains. Her infectious commitment to her work has caused more than two hundred volunteers, including spiritual counselors and ministers of other faith groups to join in this work.

Seeing prison ministry as an invaluable evangelistic tool, she encourages her volunteers to see themselves as friends to those with whom they work. One of the projects her church sponsors each year is the provision of gifts for the prisoners to give to their families each Christmas. Each prisoner is permitted to choose a gift for members of his family from the array of gifts gathered by members and friends of the church. She speaks of one prisoner who asked, “Who gave us these gifts?” Rev. Rasmussen replied: “Church people.” The man’s immediate response: “I’m going back to church. No one has ever done anything like this.” Recently six folk joined the First Presbyterian Church. Five were recovering addicts from her outreach program. Due to the overcrowding in the Fairbanks Center, a number of the prisoners have been moved to Arizona. There the ministry of this marvelous minister continues, as the men share their witness of faith which she has nurtured in them.

The award to this very worthy disciple of Christ concludes with these words: In the Letter to the Hebrews we are challenged: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them.” For doing this, and much more, your church - the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) - honors you.”

The most wonderful thing of all is the fact that this very amazing minister in her pioneer candor sees nothing extraordinary about her long and fruitful ministry.

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