September 22, 2011
Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #192: Prisoner Parents
Just writing that word—family—makes me grateful for you all over again. (When I say the word “family,” I use the voice of the little monster, Stitch, from the movie Lilo and Stitch who learns the wonders of a family’s love. For the full heart-warming effect, use his voice.) I’ve expressed many times over just how much I appreciate you, especially in light of so many tragic cases of broken homes and shattered relationships that I see here constantly. Just a taste of what I hear every week I thought would be beneficial for you to know about. Perhaps it will inspire you to pray for prisoners and their families, and I hope it will make you grateful for the relationships in your life.
This week, Mikey, a guy who lives a couple doors down from me, asked me for a favor. He was trying to call his daughter, Christina, on her 6th birthday. I’ve been in prison long enough (I’m dying to put a period right there) to know that it isn’t always best for a dad to be in contact with his kids, but that’s not usually the case. I have a soft spot for dads who are trying to reach out to their kids, no matter their age. (Thanks to my mom’s help, I was able to reunite a dad with his incarcerated son via letters recently.) But it is especially sad when circumstances and strained relationships prevent fathers from communicating with their children. It is shocking to me how many prisoners have children, and the sheer numbers of children they have—my cellie: seven kids, is a very common number. Additionally, it is shocking how many of those children are with moms who do drugs or practice risky behavior and have their children taken away from them.
Mikey’s situation is far too common: his ex-girlfriend, Daisy, Christina’s mom, has a new boyfriend, Chad, who is not exactly excited to have Mikey in his kids’ lives. Chad’s cellphone is the only phoneline in the family, and he’s blocked calls from Mikey. I called from my account and tried to get Chad to put Christina’s mom on the phone, but he was suspicious and just took a message. Later, Mikey found out that his daughter received the homemade birthday card he’d sent—through the grandma—which is good, since his 7-year-old son’s card was returned by the new boyfriend, marked “Return to Sender.” Since then, Mikey has been praying for Chad every day, and I told him I’d be praying for God to change his heart.
Ray, a godly man who teaches our class on Revelation two days a week, has been praying for the restoration of his family too. Having served the Lord for many years in church ministries, the prison sentence shocked many people who had looked up to him, including his four daughters. He hasn’t heard from some of them for eight years, and even men who served with him in ministry—including the pastor—have kept their distance. Ray just continues to pray, knowing he’s been forgiven by his Savior, but hoping that others he loves could find it in their hearts to possibly forgive him as well.
Recently, his youngest daughter wrote to tell him she was getting married, and to a Marine, just like her father once was. Eight months went by, and Ray finally received another letter, saying she was now happily married … and her new husband wanted to visit his new father-in-law with her, so please send visiting forms. He was so proud. So excited! He asked me all about what it is like at visiting, barely allowing himself to believe it was true that after no visits for eight years, it’s actually going to happen soon.
There are so many others … my buddies who put on a brave face but wipe away tears as soon as they talk about their kids. My cellie, Rudy’s little three-year-old boy has been telling his mom that he wants to do something naughty so he can go and live with Daddy. I’m grateful I don’t have children, and I’m so blessed to be close with my family … so I pray for these others.
My parents will be celebrating 40 years of marriage this next weekend, on October 2nd. I remember my grandparents’ 40th anniversary—the limousine, gifts, and fancy dinner with the whole family. My parents? Disneyland together, on their way to Arizona to have vending machine food in a prison visiting room. I’m blessed.