September 9, 2018
Sunday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #477: A Parting Gift
A few weeks ago, I sent out an urgent prayer request for the brother of a friend of mine. At the time, with a rare disorder plaguing his lungs, Sean’s brother, Prince, was put on life support. Every effort to combat the escalating issues within his body failed, and his wife was told by the doctors that they’d never seen so severe a case of this particular disorder. It had taken less than a year for Prince to go from a healthy young thirty-something to being on his deathbed.
His younger brother, Sean, has been a friend of mine for the past two years. While our upbringing was quite different, we share a love of family, a closeness with our brother, and we’ve both been incarcerated for ten years.
With just two weeks left until he paroled, Sean was beside himself. The day he and his brother had looked forward to for so long was finally here … and it looked so very different from how they’d been planning it to be.
I’d been praying for Sean’s brother, Prince, since hearing of his deteriorating condition a few months ago. Now, with the end looking near, Sean came and sat down next to me on my bunk and asked me to please pray for his brother.
I put my arm around him and poured out my heart to the Great Physician, the Healer, the Giver of Life. I asked God for healing, and I asked Him for wisdom for Sean to see His purposes in all of this.
I then placed a call to notify each of you, faithful prayer partners and dear family and friends of mine. Thank you for praying. Thank you for writing and letting me know you prayed. I am blessed to know you, and God uses you.
Several days later, with the daily status of Prince being unchanged, I took the opportunity to speak with Sean. I had him tell me all about his plans with his brother.
Prince had his Master’s degree and was well known in his hometown, Sean told me, working for a non-profit to benefit inner-city youth. It was Prince’s hope for Sean to work with him, which scared Sean, since he is not well-educated nor well-spoken like his older brother.
I assured Sean that, no matter what happened with Prince, he is in God’s hands, and it is up to Sean to determine how he will honor his brother. If he lives, I told him, he’ll have a long road of recovery ahead. If he dies, then Sean could help his legacy to live on. Sean smiled, gave me a hug, and told me he needed to hear that. He’d been on the phone every day for long periods of time, clearly stressed.
Then, with just a few days left until he paroled, Sean got the devastating news that his brother had succumbed to his illness and passed away. Those of us who knew Sean well tried to give him space to grieve, but there isn’t any privacy in our open-living dorm housing format.
I went over to his bunk that first evening and told him with tears in my eyes that I was so sorry about his loss. I just said, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, Sean. I’m so sorry. I’ll be praying for you.” He thanked me and told me he loved me, too, when I told him I love him.
A couple of nights later, just last week, Sean was saying his goodbyes. He saved me for last, coming over to my bunk to talk. He told me Prince’s funeral will be held soon, with over 700 people—dignitaries and celebrities included—expected to be there. Prince’s wife told Sean that everyone wants to meet Prince’s younger brother he was always talking about.
While in prison, I’ve had many opportunities granted to me by the Lord where I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was placed in a man’s life for this particular moment to speak a particular word to him. And this moment with Sean, standing beside my bunk on his last night in prison, I knew that God wanted to speak to him. I knew that the thoughts coming to mind were from the Lord, and He wanted them to be shared with Sean because of God’s compassionate heart for him.
I told Sean that he has a decision to make as he leaves this place. God is gifting him with an opportunity, and it is up to him whether or not he chooses to receive the opportunity. It is up to him to either take what God is giving him and use it wisely, or let it pass him by.
“The way I see it,” I told Sean, “is that God is granting you a fresh start unlike any I’ve ever seen before. God has opened your eyes to the things that matter most. You used to look forward to the day when you could pursue women again and live the fast life. Now, He’s turned your heart toward your family.”
I told told him he needs to stop telling people he can’t be his brother or he can’t do what his brother did. “Look,” I told him firmly, “everybody knows you aren’t your brother already. But they worked with him, and now that he’s gone, they’re saying that they want to work with you. You don’t know what it even is. You don’t know if you’re capable of it or not. Let these friends of your brother’s help you.”
I could see Sean noticeably relax. He asked me, “What happens when they notice I can’t do what my brother could do, talking in front of groups and meeting with important people?”
I smiled. “Then they’ll get to see all of your strengths God has given you! Your brother has given you the gift of his legacy. What do you think he’d want you to do at his funeral?”
Sean looked down, shaking his head and smiling, “Geez, Christopher. I know exactly what he’d want. He’d want me to meet people and make connections and jump right into serving our community like he was.”
I didn’t have to say anything else. I could sense God at work in his heart, preparing him, as He does each one of us, for all He plans to do with our lives … if we would just be open to Him, willing to sacrifice selfish ambitions for His glory.
Thank you for praying!