September 29, 2011
Thursday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #193: Iron Sharpens Iron
I’m finally writing to tell you about my good friend and dear brother in Christ, Phillip Matovich. I’ve not yet written much about him, as I’ve been waiting on the Lord for the right timing, and I’m excited to share some of what God is doing regarding him.
I’d seen Phillip at Florence, briefly, but he was attending Jehovah’s Witness services and was transferred out of my unit shortly thereafter. Then he was moved into my pod here in La Palma and sang in my quartet for the 4th of July.
Near the end of July, he came up to me in the dayroom and asked if I knew of any business ideas for parolees, saying that he was leaving prison next July. He had NO idea how fascinated I am with business concepts, training, management, processes, systems, etc. and that I love helping “short-termers” develop their exit strategies to include small business ownership. Our brief discussion that day turned into an appointment later, which led to us working extensively together.
Phillip had, just a few months prior, spoken with Ray—whom I wrote about last week—regarding the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ, and Phillip had placed his faith in Jesus. I therefore began giving Phillip foundational Biblical content projects and worked with him on the basic disciplines of our faith: his prayer life, reading the Word, giving, fasting, memorization, and meditation. I’ve given him reading projects, devotional assignments, writing projects, and begun making attendance at every Bible Study and church service mandatory.
I was immediately encouraged with Phillip’s eagerness to grow, and it gave me even more motivation to help him. We initially began implementing time-management techniques, and now Phillip uses a weekly planner system to keep his life organized and running efficiently. We’ve spent more time developing his musical skills, and his goal is to be prepared to teach guitar by the time he leaves.
Additionally, we’ve spent many hours developing his business acumen and preparing him to be ready to support himself with a new business. Already, he’s enlisted two other young men who will be paroling soon after Phillip, and they plan to work with him.
We’ve also worked on building his support structure through consistent communication. In everything, I’m amazed to see Phillip’s enthusiasm to accomplish whatever challenge is placed in front of him.
We’ve become close friends, but more than that, we’ve become allies in ministry, pushing each other to do our best with the time and resources God has given us. For the past 2½ months, we have constantly looked for character flaws to work on, we’ve discovered areas of our lives that still needed to be yielded to God, and we’ve uncovered our uncaring hearts toward those who don’t yet know God.
Just as I’ve pulled Phillip out of his comfort zone, he’s certainly pulled me out of mine … I’m outgoing and friendly, but trust me when I say that it is extremely uncomfortable for me to just go up to a guy I know doesn’t go to church or who doesn’t act very nice and just tell him about God. So, Phillip and I have developed a little challenge with each other. Daily, we’ve started telling someone about God or what the Bible says about going to Heaven, and then we report back to each other.
The guy I approached yesterday was so interested that he made an appointment with me to talk about it later and then went and showed his cellie the pamphlet I’d just given him. Phillip, standing by, wasn’t about to be outdone, so he copied my approach (which is allowed) and had a successful interaction with the guy standing behind him. Now the competition is ON!
A book we’re both reading, One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven, by Mark Cahill (Answer: talk to non-believers) is both inspiring and humbling. How sad if I have life-saving information and choose not to share it with those around me!
Phillip’s plan, Lord willing, is to parole to the San Jose area. I’d really appreciate your prayers for him as he prepares for the transition. He’s received great counsel from my two brothers who are pastors, Michael and David, and he’s taken it to heart.
In the near future, I’ll include Phillip’s testimony in his own words, so that you all can meet him. His family support is just a step-dad and half-brother, but I know that the family of God will be there for him.
Thank you for all your prayers. Even when you may not know all that is going on in my life, God uses your faithfulness to bless me. I love you all!