October 27, 2011
Thursday, 5:00 p.m.
Letter #197: My First Nationally Broadcast Television Interview
A few weeks ago, one of our chaplains took me aside and told me that I’d been selected as one among a few inmates who would be interviewed by the Trinity Broadcasting Network television ministry. TBN provides four Christian TV stations that are broadcast into our facility. Already, we receive far more programming options than California facilities, including a few educational channels such as National Geographic, Discovery, and PBS.
However, for 24-7 inspirational programs, we have TBN to thank. They provide En Lace Spanish broadcast television, as well as The Church Channel, TBN, and JCTV. Not everything is in perfect alignment with all of my beliefs, but there is usually something worth spending time watching. Great preachers such as Billy Graham, David Jeremiah, Charles Stanley, and the late Adrian Rogers are all regulars across the TBN stations.
In addition, JCTV plays Christian music videos from artists of the kind heard on the radio station KLOVE. Several of my cellies have listened to JCTV nearly all day for a constant source of inspiration. Though I rarely watch TV, I agreed to do the interview, hoping that my story would possibly help some viewer who might be living a double life, as I had.
The interviews were held in the chapel. Ten of us (four Spanish and six English) were there, while the prison had no less than eight staff members monitoring us and the three-person TV crew. The first guy in my group rambled on quite a bit, so the cameraman reminded him to try to stay on point with the question asked. The chaplain had listened in on the Spanish interviews and instructed us to not turn the interview into a preaching moment, as a few of them had. (Personally, I enjoyed their testimonies, though I saw his point. Excited to share what God has done in their lives, they get wound up and don’t seem to know how to end it.)
Prior to the filming, I asked our interviewer about the relationship of TBN to other stations, about the prison arm of TBN, and about her role (she’s a freelance reporter often contracted by TBN) and the donor network, which came as a bit of a surprise to her but prepared me for the interview.
The time finally came for me to speak. I gave a bit of my story, and when I said that I’ve never asked God to reduce my 15-year sentence, the lady, for the first time in any of the interviews, interrupted: “I think that a lot of our viewers would find that to be shocking,” she said, shaking her head.
Fumbling for words, she looked back at me and asked, “So, if an opportunity to leave prison were to present itself, you wouldn’t leave?”
God gave me the correct answer: “Well, I’m sure doing a lot better for the Lord [now] than what I was doing before prison!”
At that, she just nodded and said: “You’re so right. None of us would want to go back to who we were before Christ!” All in all, it was a good interview and one that honored the Lord.
Last week I wrote this poem I thought you may enjoy; it will be printed in a prison newsletter.
God, you seem so far away
I got put in jail for a crime today
No one’s here; I’m lonely and they
Tell me I’m facing life.
I had it good; I had lots of stuff
Lots of friends and played it tough
But all those things weren’t good enough
So now I’m facing life.
God, I’m down on my knees you see
I’m at the end—nothing left of me
I need your help, your victory
I’m finally facing life.
God heard my prayer, answered my call
He pulled me up, made me stand tall
My life is His—my All in All
Together we’re facing life.