May 12, 2010
Wednesday, 3:00 p.m.
Letter #136: Big Bucks and a Uniform!
Greetings! Thank you for all your prayers for me! God is faithfully leading me and directing me here, and I’ve begun to see where my ministries may be in this place. Thank you for your outpouring of love and support since I’ve arrived. Even though the distance is greater, I’ve felt so connected to many of you.
Just yesterday I went to “committee,” which formally transferred my records into the hands of the institution I am at. Here, I must have a “job” and attend school (until they receive proof of my GED). Assuming my GED arrives soon, I’ll be enrolled in the Drafting class. I’ve been told that my job will be as a “line server,” which basically means I’ll stand with a hairnet and facemask scooping mashed potatoes onto dinner trays, which is awesome, because with that experience and my felony conviction in my back pocket, there is no lack of opportunities for me when I’m released.
My pay rate is incredible. Since I have restitution that I owe, California takes 55% of any money I make or any money that is sent to me (please don’t!). Thus, I am left with $0.0675 per hour. Yes, out of 15 cents per hour, I get 6¾ cents.
Whoops. Someone just came to my door and handed me a piece of paper with my job listing on it. It turns out I’ll be paid $0.11/hour, which leaves me with $0.0495/hour, slightly less than 5 cents. It’s going to be a little difficult saving up for a car, but I know the power of compound interest, so I’m keeping my hopes up! At this pace, I should at least have my restitutions paid off in 97 years; then I can start building a nest egg.
My uniform looks exactly like what medical professionals wear: pants with an elastic waistband and matching V-neck short-sleeved top. My I.D. card, which must be clipped to my chest pocket, badge-style, completes the illusion that I’m a doctor in residence instead of a ward of a mental institution. The line servers, with those adorable hairnets and facemasks, really look like they are performing complex operations on the food. It’s like dress-up for big kids, and I’m actually getting paid for it—can you believe it?!? Actually, I plan to do it heartily, as unto the Lord, rather than for men. His pay is better!
God has already begun a work here in the hearts of several guys who have opened up and shared about themselves with me. I’ll fill you in on the others later, but first let me tell you about Tyler, a young white kid who has spent much of his first 22 years in juvenile hall and boys’ ranches.
Stealing and doing drugs since he was 13 led to his current incarceration, and despite his lack of much formal education, I found out he’s interested in business ventures. The first night we arrived here, while waiting for hours in a large holding cell with everyone else, I led the topic of conversation from business to eternal things. Tyler hasn’t had a relationship with God, though he isn’t a God-hater. He’s just never been told.
Like so many other guys here, with both of his parents on drugs, Tyler’s family life greatly contributed to his downward spiral. I’ve spent some time talking with him at mealtimes or dayroom but not said much else about God since that first night.
Yesterday, at committee, he was offered one of the highest-paying and benefit-filled jobs here: kitchen worker at a rate of $0.36/hr. He turned it down.
Later, at dayroom, he brought it up and told me why, as one of the only two of us 37 eligible for “low custody” jobs, he’d turned it down: “I only have 22 months left in prison,” Tyler told me. “If I were to accept the kitchen job, they’d move me to a different pod with all the other kitchen workers. I don’t need the money as much as I need to learn things, and I have a lot to learn. You know what? You were the first person I thought of, Christopher. If I were to move, I couldn’t learn from you.”
I thought for sure he was referring to my conversations with him to develop his entrepreneurial spirit, and I told him that I appreciated him saying he’d like to learn from me. He continued, “I think there is a God, but I need to learn all that stuff about Him, and I know you can teach me. That’s what I really need.”
I told him that we’d be certain to set appointments to spend time together to make sure he receives the training that the Holy Spirit has already been preparing his heart for. Please pray! The world has quite a grip on Tyler, but my God is stronger! Blessings on all of you!