January 15, 2014
Wednesday, 11:45 p.m.
Letter #313: That Saved a Wretch Like Me
The angels in Heaven are rejoicing with me right now, for a sinner has come home! I am in awe of what a BIG God we serve. He is truly able to do ALL things beyond what I can ask or think!
I’ve chronicled the journey my cellie, Joe, is taking these past two letters, and I certainly am grateful for all those of you who have prayed for him. Thank you, also, for specifically asking God to use me as He wants. As long as I’ve got time to do here, I’m committed to at least trying to use it for His purposes, His glory.
I wouldn’t have chosen Joe as my cellie, but as soon as he told me how he’s trying to change from his old ways, I wanted to keep him. My last cellie wasn’t trying to change, and it’s refreshing to have someone so set on change! It’s become plain in the past few days that God has been actively working on Joe’s heart to pull him closer in. Every day, Joe asks me if we can read the Bible and pray together. He never forgets, so I let him bring it up.
Yesterday, we spent hours telling war stories from the years when Joe was in Juvenile Hall, Youth Authority (prison for kids), and his five prison terms and four parole violations. He has witnessed horrible things and has initiated horrible things while in prison. Now, however, everything’s changed. He’s tired of doing time, being apart from his family. He just wants to be a good dad and contribute to society.
Just a few hours ago, right after we locked up for the night, Joe said, “I want to dedicate my whole life to God.” A couple of days ago, he’d told me he was certain he’s going to Heaven because he’s tried to do good. (I think he and I have very different understandings of “trying to do good.”)
Well, I knew I needed to explain salvation, so a two-hour conversation ensued. I told him how sin separates us from God, and I asked him if he’s ever broken the 10 Commandments.
From our conversation yesterday, I already knew the answer was yes: As a former practicing Satanist (he just read the Satanic bible two months ago), he’s worshiped other gods. To get what he wanted, he performed a séance and gave Satan his family. Within two months, his dad and grandfather died on the same day. As an avowed prison gang member, he’s personally killed several past cellies. I explained how Jesus said that to even hate your brother is the same as murder, so he and I have both broken the commandment “Thou shalt not murder.”
He’s stolen cars while the family is standing right there in the front yard. I told him how I could never pay for his crimes in court of law OR in front of Heaven’s court, because I’m already guilty. But God gave His perfect Son to pay that price for him. I was up on my bunk, and Joe was standing at the sink, when he looked up at me and said, “Can I be forgiven for all I’ve done?”
What a privilege to be able to say, “YES!”
We finally came to the point where Joe asked the same question so many have posed, “What do I need to do to be saved?” I confirmed that he believes in God, in God’s gift of salvation, in his own need of a Savior, and in God’s ability to transform his life. I told him he just needed to tell God all that was on his heart.
We knelt down at the side of the bunk, and Joe prayed, He gave God his life—both past, present, and future—asking forgiveness for all he’s done. We hugged afterwards, and I’ve just given him my Bible I read through six times, and wrote a dedication in the front of it. He is thrilled.
Now comes the living it part, and I get around six to seven months with him, Lord willing. I’m so honored that God entrusted me with the joy of ushering one kid into the Kingdom. I’m unworthy of this, but grateful to “spend and be spent for the cause of Christ.”