September 16, 2010
Thursday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #151: Disciple-Making
Greetings to you all! Thank you, first of all, for all the encouragement I received from so many of you after my last “Dear Family” letter went out. It is remarkable to me that you have such a deep care and concern for the men God has called me to serve. Thank you for your prayers for them, your prayers for me, and for being an integral part of what God is doing here.
Please do not neglect to pray for those who are truly prisoners—the incredible saints of God who are imprisoned around the world, for no crime but that they love God and are not ashamed to proclaim it. Kept in deplorable conditions while I live in relative luxury, I would choose to swap places with them if I could … it is often on my heart and mind how they are despicably treated, yet the world is not worthy to even have them in our midst, so godly are they!
After what seemed like everything short of major dental work, I finally persuaded six guys to join me in going through the book Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. The best-selling book of 2004 and 2005, and the best-selling hardback non-fiction book of all time, we get free copies that I procured in the chapel.
Beginning today as Day 1, we’ll be reading one lesson per day for 40 days. Each day, after lunch, I lead a discussion group on what we’ve read. My new reader, Victor, spends time with me each afternoon going through the following day’s lesson.
Because everyone’s schedules are different, with some in morning school and some in the afternoon, it looks like I’ll be facilitating another discussion group that meets right after breakfast each morning, and one right after dinner each night. The flexibility will give options and allow for the varied personalities to have time to express themselves.
If today is any indicator of how effective this “40 Days of Purpose” will be, I’m excited. Chuck, my next-door neighbor and career drug dealer with a soft heart (he used to filter the smoke he’d blow out his window at home, so that the baby birds in a nest nearby wouldn’t be adversely affected) was rocked to his core by the principles found in Day 1—It All Starts With God. The first sentence of the book is, “It’s not about you.” He told the group that he used to think that he was going to get out of prison someday and do such-and-such, but after reading this chapter that clearly showed how he was created for God’s purposes, he now thinks that he needs to live for God and do what He wants.
I realize that Chuck has a lot of growing to do—I’m fairly certain he’s never made a decision for Christ—but I’m proud of him for committing to this process. It isn’t easy for “tough guys” to open up and share what they’re feeling, much less to put aside self and let God be Lord of their lives.
We had a fight in our dayroom, just before dinner last night. I was out serving the meal, so I missed what was a common occurrence in California, but quite rare in Arizona: one-on-one live entertainment.
The combatants had “handled their business” in the only place out of camera view (under the stairs), and it was over after both guys got in a few lumps on the other guy’s face. Both were lucky not to have been seen by the officers—it would have meant disciplinary action, including moving to a different housing unit, going to “the hole” (the Segregated Housing Unit, or “Shoe”), and a loss of three to six months of earned good-time credits.
For Tyler, one of the two involved, this would have set back his parole date, which is fast approaching, in only four months! I pulled Tyler aside and sat him down, concerned for his readiness to parole or not. I asked him if this was how he planned to handle situations when he leaves, and he told me about the terrible neighborhood he lives in and how everyone does drugs and resorts to violence.
Tyler is a smart kid with an entrepreneurial mind and a can-do attitude. I asked about his goals and his action plan for when he is released, and he told me he hopes to get a job, then begin college classes next August. I suggested that he live in a residential treatment/recovery center, such as Teen Challenge or City Team, and he became very interested. I’ll be writing for information on them for him, as I pray that he is benefitted eternally by this choice.
Thank you for all your prayers for me. Every day, God gives me significant and precious moments with guys who need to have truth spoken into their hearts. He gives me wisdom in the time I need it most, and it makes me so grateful for your prayers!