February 1, 2009
Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
Letter #73: A Debut and a New Disciple
Greetings! I’m fat and happy right about now, after no church service today but a fun surprise visit by Daddy! I’m so blessed by my awesomely supportive family, who consistently encourages me with letters and visits. I really have no complaints, as I live so much better than many others here do.
As you may recall, I’d invited a guy named Robert Pando to join my accompaniment team for church services—did I write about him yet?—anyhoo, I began working with him in the dayroom. He plays guitar (which I admittedly know very little about), but as a beginning musician, he has what many “prison musicians” have facing them: lots of time to practice but very little instruction or formal training. I’ve helped him with music theory, common music notation, timing, and the like.
After seeing his desire and willingness to learn and study, plus his humility, I invited him to accompany my buddy John’s solo for our Martin Luther King Jr. presentation of the song “Above All.” Robert put in many hours of work, a few hours of one-on-one practice with me included. Unfortunately, he missed performing in our event because he wasn’t on an “approved list” ahead of time. So, I made sure he had an opportunity to perform with John for last Sunday’s church service.
I prepped him ahead of time, speaking frankly about the differences between performing and worshiping. I encouraged him to make the song his offering to God, doing it for Him and not the hundred men in the chapel. Robert professes to know Christ and used to regularly attend chapel services. It is easy to stop attending, however, and he told me he knew he needed to “start getting more serious” about his faith. This opportunity to play the guitar was his Holy Spirit-inspired instigator to begin attending services again.
Well, I couldn’t have been more pleased, as Robert did an outstanding job Sunday morning, even singing along with John on the chorus, but it was the congregation’s response that floored him. Not only was everyone really getting into it by clapping along and yelling “Amen!” and “That’s Right!”, but many came up afterward and thanked Robert personally. I realized only later that this was his debut performance—ever!
I had an opportunity to speak to him about his faith after the service. He started the discussion by telling me that the thing that “fascinates” him the most about me is my conservative upbringing. Though you wouldn’t assume it from his outward appearance, Robert told me about his long history of abusing drugs and alcohol, beginning when he was just 7 years old. His early years were full of seeing things no child should ever have to see—family and friends overdosing, shooting, sniffing, snorting, and being morally destructive.
I told him how grateful to God I am for the huge gift of a clean start, but I also shared how I’ve battled other addictions. I was able to speak boldly to him about the need to put aside his past, his feelings of inadequacy, and his hopelessness. Satan loves to get so many new Christians discouraged as soon as they “mess up” or lose their fervor. They end up assuming it is a long, tedious process to get back into God’s “good graces.” Often, this is because of the way their parents handled discipline—with harshness and rejection. Praise God that He is not like man! We have forgiveness and acceptance full and free at the moment we repent.
Since our discussion, Robert has been attending services and has let me know he’s reading his Bible. I’m gonna sign him up for a correspondence Bible course to help him get grounded in his faith.
He came up to me in the dayroom a couple of days ago and thanked me for “taking him under my wing.” Wow! I thanked God for the visible increase in my investment … but all I’d done was obey the Spirit’s promptings to take the first steps … and God blessed by allowing me to open a discipleship relationship! I learned that it’s not as hard as you think it’s gonna be, since God does all the heavy lifting. You just gotta find the guy who is your target and man up!
Be available, and see what God chooses to do with what He’s given to you. You’ll be blessed!