October 2, 2008
Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Letter #57: Special Day, Special Visitors!
Greetings! I pray all is well with you! God has brought about some interesting changes that I believe will be good for our church here. We no longer are able to have Spanish services on Thursdays (with choir practice), due to the Wiccans needing that time to meet. Every group that holds a service in the chapel has to be “sponsored” by a “free staff” member or volunteer. Our chaplain is considered “free staff,” since he is paid by the State of California.
Wednesdays were led by Terrell, a volunteer, and Thursday Spanish services were led by a father-son Hispanic duo. It turns out that the devil-worshiping Wiccan group was using our chaplain as their “sponsor,” since they’d meet while he was in his office. A couple of meetings later, he figured out what they were doing and protested, backing out. They appealed to the “powers that be” and took over our Thursday time slot, using someone else as their sponsor.
On “A” Yard, the pagan groups are growing in popularity, and it’s having an influence here. (“A” Yard is a Level 4 yard, mostly Lifers who “PC’d Up”—went Protective Custody status—when these yards switched to Special Needs Yards—“SNY”—in order to stay at this prison. They have the “mainline” mentality still. When their points drop them down to Level 3 status, they come to “B” Yard.)
I’m proud of our chaplain for taking a stand, though it cost us Thursdays. Now, the Hispanic father/son duo will lead Wednesday services, alternating the weeks with English (weeks 1+3) and Spanish (2+4). Translations are done in all services.
On the months where we get a fifth Wednesday, we’ll have baptisms! I can’t wait. Terrell will be coming every other Monday, 9–11 for open-questions Bible Study, the alternating weeks used for choir practice. The Sunday schedule changed too! (Are you still with me?) 1st Sundays: Spanish service; 2nd Sundays: Chaplain Young (our chaplain); 3rd Sundays: Terrell; 4th Sundays: Jim Romig; 5th Sundays: Inmate Preaching.
Already, I love the consistency of the services, instead of them being so hit-or-miss, as they were before. The main reason for that is that the volunteers (Terrell and Hispanics) just got their “brown cards,” giving them access to any area of the prison yards without the chaplain or another staff member being there! This has greatly helped and expanded what the limited resources of these four godly men are able to do. (We had Terrell Monday from 9–1 p.m.!)
I’d invited my floor cop, Kuscmitz, to hear me play in the chapel sometime (he’d seen me come in with all my piano books). He has Sundays and Mondays off, so that left Wednesdays. I encouraged him to drop by, if he could. I struggled a bit inside, because I didn’t want to give the appearance to him or anyone else of kissing up to him or trying to befriend him, though he’s been only encouraging to me in every dealing I’ve had with him.
He really has a heart for the men here and wants to see them won to Christ. Putting aside the stupid, discouraging thoughts, I went up to him at the podium in the dayroom, just before heading over to the church on Wednesday. I reminded him of my invitation to hear a little of choir practice, and he said he’d try to stop by before heading home at 2:00.
After an hourlong choir practice at 12:00, I was asked to help lead worship from the keyboard for the service at 1:00. Normally, after the worship part of the service (whether English or Spanish), I chug down the hallway to the chapel library to practice with the choir (English) or band (Spanish) rehearsing during the opposite group’s chapel (make sense, still?).
Yesterday’s service was still going (I even sang a solo—“Enough,” by Chris Tomlin, and led the guys in singing after me) strong at 2:00, when Kuscmitz walked in the back, as the pastor was having the guys meditate as I played, just before the altar call.
When Kuscmitz had specifically called me back over to ask me (at the podium) if his entrance would “be a distraction,” I’d lied: “Of course not!” Everyone turned around—the pastor paused his message—but Kuscmitz just went and sat at the back.
A man came forward; the pastor and others prayed for him as we all sang “Soon and Very Soon, We Are Gonna See the King.” Higher and higher I took it, with each verse, the guys clapping along. Praise God! It was awesome.
As everyone was seated, the pastor and I noticed someone come in the back whose visit called for a bit more of an interruption. Turns out, Kuscmitz had asked his permission to drop in on our chapel, and he thought he’d see what we were up to as well. Not a Sergeant or Lieutenant, but B Yard Captain! God used my little invitation to make yard history—a reminder to just do what He prompts you to do!
Next Letter: I’ll send you the notes I took of the speech the captain made impromptu when we asked him. 🙂