January 3, 2010
Sunday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #116: Beginning to Transition Away
Greetings! Happy New Year to each of you! I know you’re all just dying to find out what kind of wild party I attended or hosted for New Year’s Eve. Well, this year, I threw an upbeat, exclusive party for only 316 people. (That is, only for people who live in cell #316.)
By the time I returned from a day of visiting with my parents, everyone had arrived and we got that party STARTED! This is the life!! Two middle-aged men sitting in a bathroom together, munching on snack food and making each other laugh. It’s either a drug deal gone horribly weird, or New Year’s Eve in prison. I would have done the whole fireworks show thingy, but I would’ve had to mortgage my cell again to afford it. So, my cellie, Mel, and I just had our own time of fellowship. He hit the sack at 10:00 p.m., and I woke him up a minute before midnight to help me wake up everyone within screaming distance. Which we did. We did not kiss.
I’m so full of fresh gratefulness to God right now: I just got a visit from a good friend of mine, Ed. I met Ed when he was visiting my closest friend at Salinas Valley, James, his brother. As I’ve corresponded with James since being transferred to separate facilities, I’ve developed a friendship with Ed. He began receiving these letters to you all, and God kept tugging at his heart. Ed observed that James and I were “more free” than he was, and we had a relationship and closeness with God that he was “missing.” He was excited to tell me today—his first visit since being approved only two weeks prior—that he just received Christ as Savior and Lord on Christmas day!! Praise God!! Ed is a living testimony of God’s special grace and mercy at work. Please pray for Ed as he continues to grow in his new life of faith!
From what I’ve heard, I should be going to a Classification Committee some day this week or next week, to ascertain my qualification to be transferred to Arizona or not. I’m completely at peace with having to leave, though I don’t see the benefit God may have in mind … yet. Being 11 hours away from home seems difficult (not that I’d ever be the one driving), 🙂 but if God knows that I’ll be benefitted more by being in Arizona—more ministry, study, training, etc.—then I can understand why I should go. The great thing about God is that He does not need me to understand what He is doing; just like I don’t need to understand why pens run out of ink when they do (my pen just ran out of ink), I don’t need to understand the far-surpassing greatness of the timing of God in my life!
So, in preparation for a possibly rapid departure procedure, the Lord led me to seek Him for men to take my place in leadership at the Yard Bible Study and in the chapel, the chaplain having asked me to oversee all worship services in the chapel. Gratefully, God clearly brought to mind His choice—Arte—to lead the yard study. He has walked with God for many years of his incarceration, and God confirmed to both of us: he is to lead.
We held a special commissioning service for Arte, where we prayed for him and asked God to bless him. It is important that I set an example of walking Biblically, and our group—which meets the qualifications of a “body of believers”—needed to see clearly the transfer of leadership and respect to Arte.
I have remained in the group (which still meets the first hour of each yard) but am now free to set counseling appointments instead of needing to always be in the group. (More on that later.)
For the chapel, one guy will now be working with the choir on vocals, someone else will direct the choir, someone else will step in as the pianist, another will be leading full-time worship and creating music arrangements, and someone else is in charge of the band and providing their music. The combination of wearing all of these hats was getting difficult on me, besides coordinating it all for three services a week. I’m only helping with transition now and playing the piano, plus leading the worship segment of the prayer service. I feel better about possibly leaving, since I’m helping others to step into ministry and be confident in the gifts God has given them!
Thank you for your prayers! I am only “successful” because of God’s work in me, and boy, does He have a lot yet to do!