October 19, 2011
Looking over my August letter, I see that I began by mentioning that I had only covered two chapters in the Gospel of John since my June letter. Now it’s October, and we haven’t even finished chapter 8 yet—we’ll do that this Thursday night.
John 8 is a chapter we can never consider too often. Jesus begins by making the statement “I am the Light of the World” and ends up by stating that “Before Abraham was—I AM”. That last statement sparks a spontaneous and failed execution. Jesus clearly states his deity here—He is the God Who spoke to Moses at the burning bush. And he assures his followers that he will free them from the greatest fear that we all have—the fear of death.
From time to time, I ask the men in the brig what I consider a trick question: “Is there anything you would like to personally accomplish between the time you get out of prison and when the Lord Jesus returns?” The ones who’ve been coming for a while know the trick, and don’t usually fall for it. Others, however, will often say they want to prove to their families that they can “make it on their own.” Some of them even want to write a book, start a business, or spread the Gospel in a foreign land.
Admirable as these things are, they miss the trick of the question. As Christians, there is nothing we long for more than the return of the Lord Jesus. There is nothing to accomplish before He comes back—He has, after all, accomplished everything necessary for Salvation on the Cross. But most of us get distracted by the world’s ways of wanting to prove ourselves, and we forget that Jesus proved everything that needed proving.
The last few months, it seems like I’ve been spending more and more time keeping in contact with brig “alumni” or writing to prisoners in other states. Norm, a civilian contractor with the Army in Afghanistan, keeps in touch via email a few times each week. Nate, who graduated at the top of his class in welding school a few months ago in Florida, begins a new job this week in Southern Georgia. I’ve made three trips to Los Angeles to visit with Javier, and we’ve begun looking at the Gospel of John together. He now has a job at Home Depot, which makes finding time to get together a bit more difficult. In a few weeks, he begins training as a bus driver for the Transit System in LA.
I have also corresponded with Dan, a brig alum who re-offended earlier this year. Dan is awaiting sentencing in a Colorado jail. And in August, I began corresponding with Clark, a former soldier who is now serving life without parole in Arizona. Clark is not a believer, but sends long letters (6-7 pages) and is interested in whatever help I can give him.
At the Miramar brig, the transition continues and things are still tense. Most of the men who attend the Thursday night study have moved from the B-1 dorm to the B-4 and B-5 dorms (in the new wing). Some like it; others loathe it. Joe is still the only attendee from B-2 (which recently moved into the B-1 dorm). David, from B-3, has brought Darwin with him a couple of times. I think B-3 is still in B-3, although they may be moving soon. B-2 was in A-3 for a few weeks, before moving back to B-2 and then to B-1. Let me know if this ever gets confusing, OK?
Eric left this week on parole to Phoenix to be near his father. And although Bruce, Joe, and Marty are still looking for housing to be approved (they’re all approved for parole for many months, but cannot get a residence approved), some people responded to my previous letter and have expressed a desire to help out. One of them is Tom in Tacoma, Washington, who left the brig in 2001. His church has just begun a program to help ex-offenders in this kind of situation.
One inmate to be concerned about is Bo. Bo came to Bible study a few times, expressing a profound belief that God would be releasing him soon to return to his wife and five kids in Michigan. When he received a very, very long sentence, Bo abandoned his faith in God and is now quite hostile toward the faith. Please remember Bo as you pray for this ministry.
As always, thanks for your faithfulness in prayer and financial support.
Grace and Peace,