This is a recap of “highlights” taken from the letters written home in the last 6 months since incarceration. There are so many experiences that have been had and so much opportunity to praise God because of them! I’ve been dying to share these stories/letter excerpts, because it is incredible to see what God is doing in these most trying of circumstances. I, personally, have learned that God is well-acquainted with prisons and prisoners and He reveals Himself to them too.
4/20/17 – St. Joseph Western Reception and Diagnostics
“After spending almost a week in PC (protective custody, in “the hole”: 24 hour lockdown in a concrete closet), I was released into general population two days ago to J-Wing. This is, I believe, my third day in J, and it is a lot better. Good folks in here for the most part. There is a daily Bible Study, led by a former history teacher, that has 8-10 of us in regular attendance. He does a good job, and his tendency toward a teahcer’s thoroughness, really shines in content and his ability to engage his students. He has a Baptist background, and even went to the same Church as Minnick’s for awhie, although he doesn’t know them.”
Another excerpt, different letter, same people: “We just finished our Bible Study tonight. It was on Titus. A history teacher leads the study, and does a great job. We have to be a bit careful in staging it though, because anything involving three people is considered an “organized activity” and as such is prohibited… unless it’s a card game. A couple weeks ago, a former preacher and an eight men study group got to spend ten days in the hole for it. Fortunately we have rows of bunks that we can meet under, that make it hard for camera’s to pick up on it. The other group was in an open bay, so no cover.”
4:37 p.m. – Lockdown
“As I sat here reading my Bible, a new guy in the next bed over (it’s an open-bay with 40 bunks) asked me what I was reading. I told him it was my Bible, which illicited a surprisingly positive commendation from another new guy, who is a black, gangster looking dude. The original guy asked me if I could pray for his 11 year old daughter who feels like his drug problem is all her fault. He was high on meth last time he saw them, and pretty much told them as much. Specifically, “that he didn’t care at all about them, (3 kids & pregnant wife) and that he only cared about meth”, and stormed out of the house. He said he only got a short distance before changing his mind, and tturning back to go apologize… he got picked up before he got back. This is his 5th drug charge, and a parole violation. He could be facing up to 8 years. He was in tears as he told me this, and I nearly am just in recounting his story.
This place is full of similar stories, and at times, the pain is palpable. I prayed for his little girl, and his family, right then and there. He was very thankful, but it’s hard to know how to encourage people in such dire circumstances. Please pray that I’ll have the words to help him. The only thing that comes to mind is Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is near those with a broken heart, and will save those of a contrite spirit.”
“A big dude next bunk over has been asking questions about God, and just asked me to show him how ask Jesus into his heart to save him! Please pray for him. He has much to overcome. It’s his 7th trip to the DOC.”
“My buddy, next bunk over, (the one who just accepted Christ) just came over to excitedly show me his wedding ring that his wife sent in. Prior to that, I was the only one in the block that had one. It is pretty fun to see how excited he is about everything right now. He was an absolute wreck when he came in. This is his 7th time in on drug, theft, assault on an officer, and parole violations. And he’s only a little older than I am. He had told his pregnant wife, and their 3 kids (11 years old and under) that he didn’t care about them and that meth was the only thing that mattered to him, just pior to being arrested this time around. He was sure they were going to leave him this time around. None of the rest of his family are Believers, but were eager to forgive him nonetheless, and are fully supporting him through it. He asked me if he should come totally clean with his wife and mom about his behavior (he had been cheating on his wife and stealing from his mom to support the drug habit). I told him we should pray about it, and he should do whatever the Lord laid on his heart to do… which was a bit of a cop out, as I really wasn’t sure it was a very wise thing to do at this particular point in time. That night, he spilled his guts on it all, and they both forgave him, and his wife told him that she was there for him, and they could work through it when he got out.
Pretty cool for that kind of grace and mercy to be shown from totally unchurched people!
He asked his wife if she would start taking the kids to Church, and she was excited about the prospect. Hopefully this is a turning point for their whole family!”
“In other news, we had a transvestite join our Bible Study tonight.. which was a bit different, but who am I to judge. God can save anyone from anything. We also have a second Bible Study group that has sort of eveolved in this wing, that is larger than the first. I’m not sure whether to chalk it up to God working, or just general boredom, but either way, the Gospel gains more exposure! So, either way, it’s a praise. There are undoubtedly a lot of folks in here who need Christ.”
“There does seem to be a fair amount of Christian guys in here, which is kind of neat. But then, as the saying goes, “There are no atheists in a foxhole”. I’m afraid this probably equates, to some extent, to that. Either way though, it also results in most being willing to at least discuss the Christin faith. So it does have some advantages.
I just finished teaching a short series on the book of Jonah. There are a few guys with Study Bibles in here, that makes it easier to do a bit more in-depth research, which is handy. I learned a few interesting things about that whole story. For one, I didn’t realize that Jonah was a prophet in Israel, prior to his calling to Nineveh. In 2 Kings, there appears another instance of his work as a prophet. Secondly, in light of his previous interaction with God, in his role as a prophet, he had no illusions as to the character of God with regards to His lovingkindness, patience, and mercy. Yet, he obviously didn’t understand God’s omnipresence, or unwavering resolve in accomplishing His purpose in the lives of men. Jonah certainly came to a functional understanding of those truths though, by his failed attempt to flee God’s calling.
The text doesn’t give us much personal information about Jonah’s life, apart from his attitude, and actions. We don’t know if he had a family, with wife and kids, or if he was just a nomadic prophet.
What we do know is that God sent him to preach to the Assyrian capitol of Nineveh, which was Israel’s main enemy. Not a thrilling mission field. Especially knowing that God had promised them desturction if they continued on in their sin. Seems like that would be a rather good thing, to have the nation of Israel’s enemy capitol destroyed by God, doesn’t it? But God obviously had a different plan in mind, and Jonah was His tool of choice. Though even in the end, Jonah wasn’t happy about it. He was so unhappy, that he wished God would let him die, rather than have to see Nineveh spared from destruction.
In many ways, I can relate to Jonah’s predicament. This is not a mission fied that I ever wanted to be in. I did everything I could to avoid it, yet here I am. Yet, unlike Jonah, and by God’s grace, I have been able to have a relatively good attitude about the whole thing. For that I am very thankful.
…ironically, sympathy has never been one of my natural strengths, but is being greatly developed through this process. Perhaps due to my failed marriage, and indefinite separation from my kids, I can acutely sympathize with those around me. Certainly not my preferred avenue for developing sympathy and empathy, but quite effective.
I am quite certain that I would not be of much help to those around me in here without those attributes. Who knows what may ultimately come of it, but I am perfectly happy to pursue whatever it is the Lord calls me to do. I have been blessed with a divine level of contentment, for which I am grateful.
Thank you for your prayers.”
…to be continued!