February 23, 2011
On Friday, February 4, I attended the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony for the new Joint Regional Correctional Facility Southwest—the expansion of the Miramar Brig. You can see pictures I took at the ceremony and inside the facility here.
In a rare feat for military construction project the JRCFSW was completed on time and under budget, and with no days lost for injury from ground-breaking (November 4, 2009) to ribbon-cutting. The ceremony was full of the usual military pomp and circumstance, as well as speeches from several people I’d never heard of before. Cdr. Erik Spitzer, Commanding Officer of the Miramar Brig, reminded everyone of the Brig’s mission statement:
The mission of Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar is to ensure the administration, security, good order, discipline, and safety of male and female prisoners and detained personnel from all military services; to retrain and restore the maximum number of personnel to honorable service; to prepare the remaining prisoners for return to civilian life as productive citizens.
He also reminded us that the mission of the Brig is consistent with the military mindset of “leaving no one behind.” At some point, each inmate in the brig has sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. So even though they have violated the law, the brig seeks to retrain and restore, thus “leaving no one behind.”
These words reminded me of something else I think you’re familiar with—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it’s why Christ’s Gospel is so offensive. The idea that anyone can be saved from their sin, no matter how awful that sin might be, is offensive to the “good” people of this world. And that they are saved not because of anything they have done, but because of what God has done in Christ, that is even more offensive.
And it’s also the reason prison ministry is important if we understand the Gospel. As Jesus Himself said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:31-32 (NIV)
At the end of this month, the keys to the JRCFSW will be handed over from the construction folks to the Navy folks. Soon after that (although no one I’ve spoken to knows the exact timetable), prisoners will be transferred from the Camp Pendleton Brig in Oceanside, California; from the facility at Edwards Air Force Base near Lancaster, California; and from the facility at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 new prisoners, plus the staff (both military and civilian) required to house and retrain them. Please continue to keep this transition in your prayers.
Also continue to pray for Bruce, who has been approved for parole, but has been unable to get a residence approved. Bruce’s situation has not changed; he has been waiting since September. Marty, who had more or less given up on parole, was approved for parole a couple of weeks ago and will be leaving for Houston very soon. Rick was released last week, after more than five years of incarceration. He and his wife will be living about five or six miles away from where I live, and I’m hoping that Rick and I can connect and be in touch on a regular basis.
Attendance on Thursday nights has been picking up lately, after several weeks off around the holidays. We had twelve men at our last study. In 2000, when 80 Marines from Camp Pendleton were transferred to Miramar while the Brig there was being renovated, Bible study attendance jumped from 18-20 to about 35 every week. But the spiritual climate at the Brig was quite a bit different in those days.
We have been working our way through Malachi these last few weeks, in preparation for a study in the Gospel of John, which will undoubtedly take the rest of 2011. I think this will be the third time I’ve gone through John’s Gospel since I started leading the group in 1998. Every time, it gets more exciting.
I do appreciate your prayers and donations, and I look forward to hearing from you when you can.
Grace and Peace,