September 1, 2011
Thursday, 5:00 p.m.
Letter #189: Rudy’s Story
I was talking with a friend of mine today, a young man who used to enjoy seeing the terror on someone’s face as he pulled out a knife to attack them. He lived the typical gang lifestyle—at 12 years old, he challenged another kid from a rival gang to a fight, unbuttoning his shirt and rolling up his sleeves. The other gang member refused the fight, since they were both in a county courtroom. He’s shot many people, stabbed countless others (one being a guy dating his step-sister, for which he’s incarcerated this time), sold unbelievable amounts of drugs, and lived the lifestyle it brings. Now, he’s turned his life over to God and is learning to be free from the hatred and anger that once controlled him.
Heavily tattooed, he appears tough, but God has very obviously changed his heart. He knows that though he’s broken many of man’s laws, with severe consequences, it is God’s laws that he is most guilty of breaking. A prison term is insufficient to pay the price for those laws being broken—laws that every person has broken multiple times.
Gratefully, the “curse” of God’s law—the fact that we can’t hope to keep His laws—has been broken, as Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.” The kind of freedom that I see in my friend is truly inspiring. No rehabilitative efforts are being made by the state of California, but God is rehabilitating a gang member, now born into God’s family, making him into the kind, compassionate, patient, and forgiving child of a King he was always meant to be. He faithfully attends church services, sitting in the front row, and has begun attending the three other Bible Studies in our unit every week. And the craziest thing of all—he’s joining the choir. It’s these elements of prison that I love … watching God’s transformative work in someone’s life.
Even more exciting is when that guy—in this case, Rudy—happens to be my new cellie, who plans to return home to his wife and three kids as a changed man in three years. So, when asked if prison changes you, the answer is that only Jesus Christ changes a man from the inside out. But prison was the place where He was finally able to get that man’s attention. As Philip P. Bliss wrote in 1873, “ … cursed by the Law and bruised by the fall, Grace hath redeemed us once for all.”
Besides a new cellie, I have much more to thank God for this week. (Yes the smell from Andrew is gone. Rudy actually cleans the cell and sprays cologne spray every day; lots of people have commented on the change.) You may recall from last week’s letter that I was hoping the Lord received glory from my actions at the graduation; that by my servant’s heart, He would be made known. Well, the definitive answer is yes.
The day after the graduation, the school principal came by to deliver my new college supplies for this semester. He said that he and the head of safety at the prison were talking about me. He said, “We’ve never seen an inmate do the things you did. Here we’d asked you to simply play the piano, and you went all out to help us clean up and organize everything.” He then said they wanted to hire me as their clerk, if I was at all interested. He laughed (and I felt stupid) when I told him I was really busy. I said I’d at least come in and go over my schedule with him in an interview. He liked the idea, so I made a point to show up at his office after the weekend. I had a full list of questions I peppered him with, and the principal was shocked by my schedule.
I’m not very interested in the “safety” director’s side of the job description, but helping create a meaningful educational program at the institution appeals to me very much. I’m preparing my résumé (yes, they know I’ve done prison time) and will meet with the safety director this coming week. If God is opening this door for me, I want to be faithful to go through it. However, I don’t need a time-consuming distraction from the other things on my plate right now. (I’m sure this scenario seems overly familiar to most of you, so I appreciate your prayers for discernment.)
I’ve not told many guys other than my close friends, because the clerk position is the highest-paid position at the prison. (Out of 3,000 inmates, there are as few as 20 clerks.) Only $0.32/hour, but four times what I make currently. I know if God wants it to happen, He’ll make the decision clear to me, so I’m trusting Him for that wisdom. Gratefully, the decision is mine to make—the résumé is so they can assess how to use me. One thing I was told for certain: I would be planning the graduation ceremonies from now on. And all this from trying to look for ways to serve. God is good!