July 12, 2010
Monday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #143: Ministry Can Look Rough
Greetings! Thank you for praying for me! I’m doing great, and I thank God for the way He builds me in my inner man … my Shepherd who gently restores my soul! This past week has brought about many things for which I thank God for; all a testimony to prayer!
Joey, the heavily-tattooed young man who is also a line server with me, recently moved into my pod, meaning my quiet times of sitting in the dayroom alone during afternoon and evening count (line servers stay in the dayroom) are over. Joey is now with me, usually watching a TV show at near-full volume. I’m usually trying to write a letter (this one, for example), so I plug my ears with earbuds and listen to a Christian CD or radio static to drown out the noise.
Often, Joey will want to talk, as he did a few days ago when he offered for me to read some of his prose. I was shocked at the clever and thought-provoking words that came from his pen, but even more shocked at how open and revealing those words are.
Joey portrays a tough-guy, crass, often rude persona. His life has only ever included drugs and crime, and he’ll be back on the streets in less than six months. He broke up with his girlfriend of nine years (he’s only 21), yet his many tattoos on his face include her name in all caps on his chin: KORI (a goatee, anyone?).
I asked Joey’s permission to copy down one of his poems, which I’ve included for you to read. As you read what this mohawk-wearing, ex-gang member has written, realize what a cry for help this is, and please pray as God continues to give me many opportunities to reach Joey for Christ. I don’t have much time left with him (perhaps as little as three months) before he gets sent back to California to serve the remainder of his time.
Thank you for your prayers for Freddie, who is trying to win his wife back. Gratefully, he has agreed to be closely accountable to me as he moves ahead in his relationship with Christ, first and foremost. I gave him counsel on a letter to his wife and coached him to call her and re-establish communication. He’s begun regular attendance at the chapel, and I have a personal Bible Study with him each day in the dayroom, where we read a chapter of Proverbs and share a time of prayer with each other.
Additionally, Freddie is someone who has never held a real job, so I’m helping him develop a plan for business and ministry when he is due to be released within a couple of years. Coming from a gang lifestyle, he hopes to help troubled youth steer clear of the mistakes he’s made in life. We plan to add others to our daily study, and I’m challenging Freddie to be open and even evangelistic about his faith.
Yesterday, a young guy named Dustin called me over to where he was working out in the dayroom after lunch. I’d planned to go back in my cell, but the officer had just shut my door, so I missed my opportunity, and I’d have to stay in the dayroom for another hour until the next five-minute “unlock” period. That’s when Dustin called me over to ask me a “huge favor,” as he put it.
I said, “Sure! Anything … what is it?”
He’s a guy who portrays a tough image, hasn’t given up the gang mannerisms, and rarely smiles, so I was shocked when he told me he wanted me to pray for him. Apparently, he’s been experiencing dizzy spells, even waking him up at night.
I put my arm around his sweaty shoulders and prayed right then for God’s healing—that we would see Him work and increase our faith. When I finished, Dustin told me he reads the Our Daily Bread devotional each day and looks up the verses. I praised him for that, encouraging him to keep seeking God. I then invited him to our church services, and he’s agreed to begin attending with me, starting with this Wednesday evening.
I know that God is at work in his life, and I thank Him for making it so very clear to me just who exactly I should minister to and how. I can be kind of dense, selfish, and uncaring, so I’m always grateful when ministry comes and slaps me in the face. God knows what I need!
I’ve just been “approved” to play for all the English services, coordinating the worship and leading the practices. I’ve played for some of the services already, to God’s glory! The best part? Two new guys—one plays drums, the other plays guitar—expressed an interest in serving in the music ministry.
I told the elders, who immediately invited them to our practice, held a meeting with them, introduced then to the chaplain, and green-lighted them for ministry, all in less than a week! Praise God! The process that took over ten weeks with me has changed; it seems the chaplain and elder board took my letter addressing the issue to heart, and all the newcomers won’t feel left hung out to dry but can begin giving of themselves in ministry.
I’m grateful for all of you who support me in so many ways. I love you!