March 28, 2010
Sunday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #128: Anthony … Anthony??!!!
Greetings! I know; I know: you just received a letter from me a few days ago … and now more stuff to read?!? Look, people, if you spent a few days in a bathroom, you’d probably write a couple of letters too! (Actually, 270 letters—three per day—since January 1.) 🙂 Here’s why I’m writing:
I just had two awesome visits this weekend! On Saturday, my dad brought some special friends of mine to visit me, and on Sunday (today), my mom brought two of her “special” friends to visit me! (I say her “special” friends, because well … you’d have to meet them.) God blessed me so much! I was strengthened, loved, encouraged, teased, and fattened like a Prodigal Return Home Party. Thank you!
I was able to make it to our last half-hour of a long chapel service today after my visit. As I finished playing the piano at the end of the service, a tall, big black guy approached me, stopped in front of the piano, and grinned at me. Where do I know that face from? I know I’ve seen him somewhere before! It hit me like a ton of bricks but more like the bricks were being thrown, one at a time, at my head.
This was a guy who was a porter with me during my first three months in prison, at North Kern State Prison. He’d ridiculed my beliefs, called me names, said I was narrow-minded for never participating in crass conversations he had with the Hispanic porter, criticized me for always running to serve the inmates in their cells, stolen condiments from the dinners to make “pruno” (a prison alcohol), and said nasty things about my family. When he didn’t like it that I said the condiments should be served with the dinners and I refused to pass porn for him to his buddies, he threatened me, telling me to head to the mop room (out of sight of the cops) so he could “handle” business and “mop me up.” So to speak. Except it wasn’t funny at the time.
I still treated him with respect, and God allowed me to maintain a Christlike testimony in that oppressive atmosphere. I was never afraid of him, because I knew clearly that God was my protector. Even if he beat me up, God could keep me from saying anything but loving words—as Stephen prayed for God to please forgive the men stoning him to death. God gives us all we need!
So, as I recognized Anthony, a huge smile jumped to my face. “Oh, my gosh!!” I yelled. “It’s YOU!!”
I leapt over the little stage-border railing and into the main part of the auditorium in front of the piano, grabbed his hand, and pulled him into a big hug, my free hand on the back of his head, squeezing him tight. He just stood there as I told him how good it was to see him again and asked how was he doing?
“Fine,” he told me. “I see you’re still doin’ your thing,” he said. “Good for you. You sound great!” He’d never seen me play before.
When I asked him what was going on in his life, he said he’s going home in 30 days, and his mom is upset because she knows he’ll be right back in, just like every other time. He said he didn’t know what to do.
My mouth almost dropped open. I’d never seen Anthony be at all vulnerable. He loved to be cocky and over-confident in who he was. I asked what his exit plan was. “I don’t have one,” he said, worriedly. “That’s what I’m saying … I don’t know what to do.”
Then, the bombshell exploded. “I just know it’s all about what’s in this Book,” he said, holding up a Bible.
“AWESOME!” I encouraged him. “You and I need to talk about some goals and practical activities to help you when you get out.”
“Great,” he said. “I need that!”
I mentioned an accountability partner, moral purity, Bible Studies, and church attendance—even an 8 p.m. nightly curfew.
“Perfect!” he replied, humbly. I’d never seen this Anthony before. “Take care … we’ll talk next Sunday, okay? I saw you on stage last Sunday, but I didn’t come up to you.”
“I’m so glad you did, Brother! God is gonna do great things here!”
Please pray for Anthony!