August 31, 2014
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #346: My Next Assignment
Over the past several months, I’ve been meeting with a young man named Brandon to disciple him. Just new in his faith, Brandon began making changes in his life to build his relationship with God and restore damaged relationships. His father, an active gang member, has rejected him due to Brandon’s choice to drop out of the gang and live life differently.
When Brandon told me he wanted me to continue to mentor him and asked if he could cell up with me once Joe left, I agreed, since he will leave prison in less than two years. However, when it came time for me to request a new cellie, staff told me that Brandon and I couldn’t be cellies due to new regulations that separate those who have committed extremely violent offenses from those like me who haven’t. I didn’t need a reason, since God uses all kinds of circumstances to lead me where He wants.
Just before Joe left, he got really serious about his walk with God and about his intentions after prison, as if everything became real to him all of a sudden. During his final two days, Joe kept telling me that he thought I should let a long-time friend of mine, Duffy, move in. Though I’ve known him for four years, including times he was in classes I’ve taught at two prisons, I wasn’t interested in having Duffy as a cellie because I thought he has a lot of prison time left to do.
I finally realized God was directing me to take Duffy as my next cellie, then discovered that, just like Brandon, he has less than two years’ time left to serve. I believe God wants me to help prepare inmates for release, both through class instruction and one-on-one discipleship, and Duffy is hungry to grow in his relationship with God. He’d asked me if he could be my next cellie nearly two months ago, actually, but I’d made plans with Brandon, so I’d had to turn Duffy down. Then, suddenly, once Joe was gone, everything moved along, and Duffy moved in.
As soon as the officers came for Joe Monday night at midnight, we stood up from where we’d been talking and laughing and praying, and hugged each other goodbye. It’s an odd sort of goodbye, the knowing you most likely won’t see each other again for at least nine years, yet the anticipation that you will be keeping in touch. I, for my part, will be writing Joe a letter that he’ll receive every week along with a copy of this weekly letter until his release date on November 17th of this year. And Joe knows I’ll be talking about what he does once he’s released: good, bad, or ugly.
A couple of Joe’s “friends” and work-out partners stopped by my Joe-less cell the morning after he left. Jokingly, their voices dripping with sarcasm, they said to me, “Ha! I bet you’re really gonna miss him, eh?” They knew Joe well; knew he wasn’t easy, knew he and I had faced tough times together. But they didn’t know the Joe I got to know, so I acted relieved.
“Nope,” I agreed with their sarcastic question, “I won’t miss him a bit.”
They jumped on this, retorting, “Yeah, we didn’t think so.”
With perfect timing, I calmly said, “Yeah, I won’t miss him because he’s part of my family now, so I’ll be hearing from him and talking to him like I talk with my other brothers.”
Ahh, their faces were priceless. Nobody here really understood us, anyway. His buddies couldn’t see why he’d live with someone like me, and the Christians and cops here couldn’t see why I wasn’t having problems with him. It’s a God thing, I know.
I can’t wait to see how God uses Joe to bless others, and I’m excited for my next “project” and friendship with Duffy.