May 23, 2010
Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
Letter #138: Less Is More Sometimes
Greetings from lovely Phoenix, Arizona, where the weather has stayed at a perfect 72 degrees Fahrenheit all day, every day this whole week! Yes, I’ve been indoors; the air conditioning here works beautifully! I’m blessed to live in relative comfort and ease in this place—I thank God!
Thank you for praying for my speedy recovery. Within only a couple of days, I went from needing crutches to being able to walk on my feet unassisted. I’m being careful not to re-injure it, and it will be a couple of weeks before I switch back to living on the top bunk.
I’m grateful for God handling the pain management for me, though the doctors had recommended pain-killer drugs. The fact that I had only mild discomfort at times, despite it being categorized a “severe sprain” was a testament of God’s protection over me through prayer. Thank you!
Chapel services here are far different than at Soledad, and very much resemble what we had at Salinas Valley. Soledad’s chapel could max out at nearly 150 inmates seating/standing capacity; Salinas Valley’s small chapel could hold close to 110 inmates, without the big stage area that Soledad’s chapel had. This room is even smaller, and it is further limited to only 50 inmates at a time. In the event of an overflow, other nearby classrooms are utilized.
The positive change, however, is that neither the chaplain nor outside volunteer is necessary for a chapel activity to take place. This means that not only are our services virtually guaranteed to actually take place (unlike all three other prisons I’ve been at), but they start and end on a very precise schedule.
Also, this chapel runs very similar to a church beyond the walls (or, in prison vernacular: “on the outs”) in that the chaplain has established a leadership of elders and deacons who humbly—for the most part—handle the administrative, ministerial, and organizational needs of our local body. Similar to Chaplain Powell at Soledad, Chaplain Lungu (a Nigerian) 🙂 has entrusted this group of men to take the initiative to effectively run the church, allowing true growth to take place.
The chapel has a decent selection of Christian books, resources, and Bibles. I was particularly blessed to discover they also have a wide variety of teaching and music CDs available for us to check out. In amongst the box of maybe 50 CDs, I found three CDs arranged, performed, and produced by friends of mine! I’m listening to one of them as I write this letter—beautifully orchestrated hymns set in a classical styling. So worshipful! What this means, of course, is that I’ll—FINALLY—be able to have the CDs of my brothers and me singing, sent to the chaplain as a donation, as well as great preaching by Michael.
If you have any Christian music CDs or sermon CDs you wouldn’t mind donating to our chapel library, please let my mom or dad know, and they’ll make sure we receive them here. Any CDs, with or without the CD cases, new or used, is great! Thank you!
Thank you for praying for the guys here. Tyler, who I wrote about recently, has just begun attending church services! Praise the Lord.
Most everyone here is generally nice—the last fight was over six months ago, as compared to any California prison, that experiences inmate-on-inmate fights several times a week, and far more often among the General Population inmates, who fight over everything. Yet, though everyone is well-behaved here, Satan has a real stronghold in the way of pornography and foul language.
Because it is so “easy” here, there is not as big a perception that God is “needed.” The tougher it gets,—such as facing a life sentence (no Arizona inmates from California are lifers) or being put in isolation in the “hole,” etc.—the more it is common for prisoners to reach for a Bible or desire to attend a chapel service.
However, I am confident that God will use the dynamics of this place to bring many to Himself. This can be accomplished through the abundance of opportunities we have to interact with each other in our 40-man pods throughout the day and into the night.
Thank you for praying for me as I seek to use my time wisely for the sake of the Kingdom!