December 20, 2009
Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
Letter #114: Ministry of Reconciliation
Greetings! Merry Christmas to each of you and your assorted extended family members! Most years, I’d drive around and look at Christmas lights. This year, not so much. 🙂 However, while coming back from visiting with two of my four nieces and Katie, I was allowed to ride a motorized industrial cart, since the distance was considerable. As we headed toward my building, we had to pass through several gates and guard posts. And there, strung up in the small window of one of the guard posts were Christmas lights! It was like a little “Christmas Tree Lane, Soledad-Style.” No life-size nativity, candy canes, or “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” playing through the loudspeakers, though. Next year?
As you know, I’ve been praying for each man who attends our yard Bible Study, even once, every day. Raymond came to our first few, asked prayer for his family, and hasn’t participated since. (He is Rafa’s cellie, the young man who’s been doing correspondence Bible Studies and whose mother was just healed of depression.) Seeing him on the yard recently, I asked him how his family is doing. He was surprised, then told me he’d just received a letter from his sister he hadn’t heard from for eight months, yet he was so upset at her that he didn’t want to write back. I offered to help him with the letter, then just let it go.
A month later, I saw him again and asked if he’d written to his sister. He looked down and stated, “No.” I set an appointment with him for the next day to sit down at yard time and work on the situation. He agreed.
The next day, I came out with a couple of dozen small cards with envelopes (sent to me by some of you!) for him to choose from. We prayed, then talked about his family and I read the letter from his sister. Talk about having a legitimate excuse for not writing any sooner! She had lost her job, got kicked out of her apartment, lived in her car until it was repossessed, moved in with her mother,—IN MEXICO!—got remarried, etc., etc., etc.! And, she apologized and said she loved him.
I talked to Raymond about the need to be reconciled to her. We then focused on what things he felt he could say to her, though he was/is still hurt by her abandonment of him. He wanted me to take notes on what ideas I threw at him. A few sentences into it, and he was beaming.
We finished up, and it was time for me to get our Bible Study group started. Raymond shook my hand, then hugged me and said, “Thank you for your friendship.” (Praise God! I hadn’t even tried to be his friend … I only did what Jesus wanted me to do—what any one of you would do—to help heal the wounded hearts!)
He then joined us for our study and agreed to let me share his testimony of obedience to God by reconciling with his sister. As I spoke, I couldn’t help but think of my brother, David, who I haven’t been in contact with. After I’d met with detectives twice regarding my case, David called the police and tried to help them find me guilty. Though it was ultimately my own confession that brought the only charges, my lawyer had prohibited me from having any other contact with David. I was only too glad to oblige.
David’s wife sent me a short note in March—a year after I was sent to prison—and said they’d like to start communicating with me. (Well, let’s just say that it was a whole lot more complicated than it sounds in these few lines.) No matter how muddy the issues are, who’s lied, who’s wronged, etc. … Scripture is crystal-clear on reconciliation!
As I gave Raymond’s encouraging testimony to the group, I realized how badly I wanted God to have EVERY area of my life … even my relationships. Even David. So, I took my own advice, and just did it. I focused on what I could say, and left out all the stuff I’m struggling RIGHT NOW! not to write to you that I COULD HAVE said! (Sheesh! The flesh is oh-so-weak!) I started by calling him a pet name, and I ended with a P.S. regarding his little dog:
Dear Davey + Jill,
Merry Christmas! I hope and pray all is well with you and your extended family and that you are finding time to make memories and remember fun ones (like crowding onto Daddy’s lap as he read the Christmas story).
May Jesus be ever more precious to you as you bring Him praise!
Blessings Always With Love,
P.S. Please wish Noel a Happy Birthday from her Uncle Christopher and let her know I’m sorry I’m not able to visit her at this time. 🙂
Praise God! He’s working on me! Thank you for praying!