May 16, 2010
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #137: Openness = Brokenness
Greetings! Thank you for your prayers to God on my behalf. I have felt His hand of protection in my life in a powerful way this past week.
Since sharing my testimony in the chapel at Soledad three weeks ago, I’ve heard feedback from many sources: inmates, staff, officers, chaplains, and family. I’m grateful for the love I’ve felt through both concerns and encouragement that have been shared with me, and it has served to strengthen my faith in doing what God asks of me, no matter the cost.
It is true that sharing the details of my case carries with it the very real possibility of bodily harm being done to me. In these past two years, I’ve observed enough and heard eyewitness reports to know that those who harm children are not well-liked. I understand and agree with those sentiments! However, the prison system as-is does not work in rehabilitating this worst kind of offender. The “silence” of the Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY) or Protective Custody (PC) ensures that someone can serve all their time and never once receive any help or counseling. This, of course, leads to an extremely high return-to-crime (recidivism) rate.
My goal: if my life or my story can prompt even ONE sex offender to come forward to ask for help, and thus prevent even ONE child from getting hurt in the future—though it may cost my life—(socially or physically), it is worth it! Thus, when—and only when—God prompts me to share, I do. I don’t enjoy it, but I enjoy seeing God getting victory in men’s hearts.
I’ve begun working with just over half a dozen sex offenders so far. At varying stages in their desires to change, and at various stages in their acknowledgements of any wrongdoing, both Christian and non-Christian, gay and straight, I’m just grateful that God has chosen me to bring truth to their sick hearts.
The staff here is well-aware of my openness about my case factors. On intake, when I shared with the medical staff who questioned me, they offered to place me in protective custody. I’m already SNY; adding PC to this designation essentially means being placed in relative isolation, simply for my own safety.
“I’m not concerned about my safety,” I told the medical personnel when I arrived and the Gang Task Force lieutenant who interviewed me in my cell a week later. “God handles my protection.” As long as I listen to Him, I’ll be just fine.
The lieutenant was visibly impressed by my joyful attitude and gave me encouragement to “take care.” Two days later, when he saw me in our dayroom, he remembered my last name and asked how I was doing.
My “case manager,” a Ms. Mariscal, who is the final say on anything that happens in my “J” wing consisting of eight “pods” of 40 men each, singled me out of everyone to receive the best job available (line server). Not only do I get to eat more or less of any food served, but my miniscule work schedule (30 minutes prior to meals) will never interfere with any church activities or other classes that are always scheduled after meals. God is gracious to grant me favor.
We get 1½ hours of “yard” every day. Though often near 100 degrees, most of our yard area is a cement pad located between buildings, under a roof structure, like a carport. Weight equipment is available, a handball court, and half-court basketball.
I was able to get in a few good games of basketball during my first three days on the yard (ice water is provided!). However, on Friday, while going for a rebound against a much younger, taller, black guy, I landed wrong on my left foot and rolled my ankle—a first for me, ever. (Yes, I got the rebound, having succeeded in knocking it off of him out of bounds.) 🙂 Ahh, the pain!
Helped off the yard by two friends, I was taken to Medical on a gurney and immediately examined, placed in a fiberglass half-cast, and promptly x-rayed. I was told (prior to the x-rays) that I’d go into surgery if the ankle was broken. This is all a far cry from how the California Department of Corrections treats medical issues! I’m so grateful! Knowing God has a purpose in everything—for my good!—I looked for every opportunity while in Medical to bring Him glory.
Back in my pod, all the guys have been kind to me, getting my food trays for me, bringing over our one portable chair for me to prop my foot on, or helping with my water, music books, or Bible. My cellie switched bunks with me and has been incredible.
Almost three days later, I feel much better—just a bad sprain. I’m still facing a decent recovery period, and I’m excited to see how God uses it in me!