February 16, 2014
Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
Letter #318: The God of Angel Armies
I feel as if I’m living in a storybook these days—sometimes the ways God is working and moving on my behalf and on behalf of my cellie, Joe, are just so unreal. But, we serve an incredible God.
The first day back in my old cell, back in my old pod where I’d lived for two years, Joe and I immediately noticed how much better the overall temperament of the guys in the pod is. As if I’d never left, everyone kept coming up to me, welcoming me back. Moving is never that fun, but this move started to look like a winner from day one.
Except for one little problem. Well, two, actually. Joe and I hadn’t even finished unpacking when two bald-headed white guys approached Joe. Formerly from similar prison-affiliated gangs as Joe, they too had supposedly “dropped out” of their gangs and were now mixed into our prison population. But these tough guys have no intention of giving up their old gang mentality. They told Joe that they are “Skinheads” now—a designation they plan to keep once paroled. (This despite the fact that no skinhead street gang would ever accept prison gang dropouts. Go figure.) They wasted no time in antagonizing Joe.
First, when they told him who they were and what they stood for, Joe told them both respectfully that he was no longer interested in being in a gang. They refused to back off, trying to persuade Joe to join with them.
Finding that useless, they began criticizing Joe for choosing to have me as a cellie—a fact that was obvious because we’d stayed together despite being moved. Joe told them firmly to mind their own business, and when he got back to the cell, he was fuming. He was ready to fight them both if they got aggressive any further, and I just told him not to start anything. Still bothered, Joe chose to work out that evening in the pod in plain view of the two guys, who could find nothing else to do but glare at him.
The next few days were horribly uncomfortable for Joe. Here we were moved from the previous pod for MY supposed protection, and now Joe was taking the brunt of the problems. I felt bad.
Every day, as we read the Word, we’d see verses in the Psalms and Proverbs about how to have the right responses to those who treat you unkindly or hate you. Time and again, David asks God to deal with his enemies. One night, I read from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and Joe saw the blessings promised by God when someone says all manner of evil against you because of God. He was encouraged.
Soon, his prayers included not just his family, my family, and “even those who hate me,” but the two guys—called “Tyler” and “It”—personally. He asked God to bless them, and when I asked him why he’d prayed that, Joe matter-of-factly replied that “God wants us to pray for those who hate us, love our enemies, and bless those who curse us!” Praise God to see faith combined with works!
Incredibly, Tyler left for California a week later. Two Christians from our pod went with him, and we all sent them off with a prayer circle. Back in our cell, Joe got on his knees and asked God to bless Tyler’s trip to California too: “No one prayed for him, God, because he hates everyone, so bless him, Lord. Bless his whole family as he paroles soon.”
Two days after that, his cellie, “It” refused to house a black guy as his new cellie and was taken to the Hole (Administrative Segregation). Again, Joe prayed for God to bless him. Two enemies gone in ten days.
Unbelievably, we got to watch God fight Joe’s battles for him while Joe stayed on his knees. God is renewing his mind as he becomes a true warrior for Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your kind notes and prayers!