June 10, 2010
Thursday, 1:00 p.m.
Letter #140: Serving Isn’t Always Easy
Greetings! Much has happened since I wrote last week, with much to be grateful to God for. I’ve wanted to be used by God here so badly. I know He sent me here for no insignificant reason, and I’ve eagerly awaited any positive signs of His blessing my ministry or testimony.
What I have grown accustomed to over the years is not at all what I’ve experienced here. That is, at the last five churches I was involved in before prison and the first three prison chapels I’ve been involved with, I began in ministry at the piano my first week at five of them, and the second week at the other three. Not that I feel that I should be the one on the keyboard … it’s just that I’ve been used to it being the norm for several years, and I certainly enjoy assisting with worship from the piano.
Well, I’ve attended every worship team practice and been at every service (six per week) since arriving here months ago. I’ve created relationships with elders and deacons as well as spoken personally with the chaplain on a few occasions. Multiple guys who have served with me at two other prison chapels have verified my walk with God and my testimony on the yards and in the dayrooms. And yet, I have not been at the piano or in the worship team or choir.
Part of what puzzled me about this was the fact that the two guys who trade off on the keyboard are only basic guitarists who, out of necessity, have tried their hand at the keyboard in the last two months. The resulting keyboard travesty is quite distracting to worship, with disjointed rhythms and frequently wrong chords.
Because so many guys from the English services’ worship team were transferred to a different prison just before our arrival, the Spanish worship team has been filling in … and has been reluctant to let go. 🙂
All of this would be just fine—even understandable as cautious, careful, or planned—if it weren’t for some conflicting actions by this same worship team: they’ve let two other new guys begin serving in ministry with them already, one because they “needed” a drummer, and the other as a sound technician-in-training … a guy they never even asked if he is a Christian until after he’d served several times (he isn’t!).
At the risk of appearing desperate to play the keyboard, I brought up this apparent discrepancy in policy at a worship team practice. I worried that the many others from California who will continue to arrive here will be offended by the seemingly closed and confusing system. Some appreciated my forthrightness, and some misunderstood.
That was three weeks ago. Meanwhile, I’ve just continued to be as supportive as possible.
Then, yesterday, at the beginning of our midweek service, I was called up to lead worship while the worship team played. I was humbled, surprised, and blessed to serve in this unexpected way, and I’m grateful for all that God taught me in the process. I’d told Him as I left Soledad that I’d be willing to serve Him anywhere—“even the back row of the chapel”—and He sure tested that willingness! It was trying, frustrating, and awesome, all at the same time. I didn’t write home about it because it was such an odd thing I felt God wanted me to go through internally.
Thank you for your prayers that help me keep a good attitude in the smallest things! I start on the keyboard this Saturday, and the chaplain wants me to teach keyboard for those interested in worship use.
As far as my testimony is concerned, I’ve been the recipient of much verbal heckling by the guys I work with. They’re always mocking my cheerfulness (or my desire to make sure each tray we serve is neatly set up) or order me around or criticize me for treating the guys we serve like “customers.” This has gone on for four weeks, and I’ve kept a good attitude, trying to preserve my good testimony in front of these guys, who all know I’m a Christian.
Finally, two days ago, after another harsh comment, they all changed their tune and came to my defense! One said, “Wow, Christopher! Everyone’s always getting on you, and you never respond. I’d have hit these guys long ago, if it happened to me. You must be so humble! We always boss you around, and you stay humble and patient. Maybe it’s just that you’re the only one who had a real job before prison.”
I thanked God for His protecting my testimony; later that day, He gave me an opportunity to witness about Him to one of my harshest critics. He has since become far nicer, and he’s even asked me a follow-up question about our conversation! God is good!
So, thank you for praying! I’ve had some breakthroughs this week, and I’m excited for all God has in store for me in the days ahead. Blessings on you!