“Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads!” —written on a wooden refrigerator magnet Al Peters of North Newton made
By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now
When Al and Nadine Peters took part in a prison ministry at Nebraska State Prison for 40 years, they handed out cards with inspirational messages that Nadine designed and made.
“It would relate to the lesson we were studying,” Nadine said.
Now, her husband Al laser cuts the words from some of those cards onto wood.
He said he asked the Newton Et Cetera Shop manager if he could donate his magnets to the thrift store so they could sell them to make money. That was in the spring of 2016.
“I make those magnets in Spanish and English,” Al said. “They go over well.”
Nadine said one of the Et Cetera Shop volunteers said a Spanish-speaking woman went up to the counter in the store with four of the magnets written in Spanish.
“She had tears in her eyes,” Nadine said. “She was so grateful. Hardly spoke any English.”
“A lot of them are scripture verses,” Al said about his magnets.
Al, 81, and Nadine moved to the Newton area several years ago.
“We just moved here 6-1/2 years ago from Nebraska,” he said, adding they brought cedar and walnut wood from the farm on which they resided. He said his great-grandfather had planted the cedar tree and then he and his dad brought it down.
“I had a friend cut it up into planks, and we hauled it to Kansas,” Al said.
In May 2015, a friend of Al’s did some laser work on a piece of walnut he had.
“I said, ‘I think I could do that,’ and the rest is history,” Al said, adding he figured he’d made plaques for people, like for when they got married and then started making refrigerator magnets. He said his light-colored pieces are made from a sycamore tree that was in the back yard of their current home in North Newton.
“Locally grown,” Nadine joked.
Other items Al makes are penny-sized pieces of wood with messages on them.
“I call them my …” Al said.
“Pocket proverbs,” Nadine said, finishing his sentence.
Al said that one time, he went to get a shot and the nurse there said, after he gave her a Pocket Proverb, “Oh, you’re the one.”
She couldn’t remember who gave her one the last time, but then when he gave her a Pocket Proverb that time, she remembered.
He’s also made ornaments and toys.
“We had our first great-grandchild and I made some wooden blocks with her name on it,” Al said. “She’s almost 4 months old. “
He said he’s also made Christmas ornaments to sell at Et Cetera and for the Bethel College Women’s Association for Five Places of Christmas.
Al has a laser engraver/cutter in his basement, which he uses for his hobby he combines with doing things for people.
He does it for several reasons.
“It’s a fun way to do stuff that takes time,” he said. “What you do is only limited by your imagination. It is a way to give and use scrap wood that’s not good for anything else.”
He said it also gets his creative juices flowing.
In addition to making wooden blocks, Al’s created other items for relatives. He said a year ago at Christmas, he made sets of dominoes for the grandchildren.
“Seven grandkids, so I made 280-some dominoes,” he said,
The grandchildren also were recipients of bird houses he made in 2019.
He’s also created cross necklaces and Valentine magnets and he’s given some of the necklaces to EmberHope girls.
He’s also made some Easter items for Et Cetera and makes magnets for the Mennonite Central Committee sales in Kansas and Nebraska.
Other items include 12- by 12-inch nativities one can hang and he makes crèche ornaments.
Al said he can do commissioned work for people and plans on doing engraving on a lamp for a man giving the lamp to the MCC sale.
Other items include bookmarks for the Mennonite Mission Network.
“They’re given to donors at a certain level or something,” Al said. “It’s amazing what you can make on a laser.”
Making wood creations isn’t the only thing Al’s done. He and his wife put together a book on 14 women they met at the prison who’ve written to them.
“These are from prison and out of prison,” Al said.
One woman sent them 60 letters, although she’s not in the book. The book, “The Years the Locusts Have Eaten,” can be purchased at Faith & Life Bookstore in Newton.