November 23, 2008
Sunday, 5:00 p.m.
Letter #64: Great Encouragement from Captain Munoz
Much has happened this week for which I’m grateful—not because it was all good, but because I know that God is using all of it, both good and difficult alike, for my benefit and His glory! I’m guessing you’ll want the “bad news” first, so I’ll keep it short:
My cellie, Lorenzo, is supposedly headed back to court someday soon on his appeal. The attorney general has run out of extensions to delay the appeal hearing, and the date for the hearing was a month ago today. I wrote a letter for him to his lawyer, requesting an update. Meanwhile, he’s getting irritable and generally difficult to live with—common traits of someone who expects to leave soon. Except this has lasted for three months already. Please pray for patience and longsuffering for me.
Trinity is about to leave to be closer with his family, and I certainly would prefer to move in with his cellie, Keith, but I’m torn! I know that the kindest thing for me to do would be to wait it out with Lorenzo until he leaves, so that he doesn’t have to endure the hassle of a new cellie who may not be so understanding or patient with him. The trouble is, Lorenzo has no idea how long he may be here. I just want God to work it out in His timing! So, that’s it. See? That’s not so bad, is it? Mommy got the gripey version during her surprise visit with me today. I took advantage of a sympathetic ear. 🙂 Please pray.
Wednesday was awesome. The choir director had to wait in a line to get his package, so I actually got to run choir practice on my own, finally utilizing to its fullest my austere position as His Excellency the Most Honorable Assistant Choral Director and Worship Leader. Or something like that.
With five guys to work with, instead of the usual eight or so, I just determined to get as much accomplished as possible. We ran through seven songs, perfecting three, including one to sing on Sunday. The practice went so well! God blessed it, the guys were cooperative, we got much accomplished, and I felt as if I’d really helped.
Then, halfway through practice, we had an unexpected visitor: Captain Munoz walked into the small chapel library and shut the door behind him. Yikes! The top man on the yard! (Rank is Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Warden, Warden. Captains are over each yard—mine is “B” Yard.)
The captain asked us to sing something for him—which, gratefully we’d just practiced to perfection. He picked up one of my music books and sat down next to me and asked me to play a couple for him.
He then told us he’d just returned from a Youth Pastors’ Conference in Sacramento, where he was inspired by the testimony of a 20+-year-old, Matthew Barnett, Tommy Barnett’s son, who planted a church in the inner city of Los Angeles. In the process, crime in the church’s neighborhood dropped 73%. However, he said when the young white kid first arrived, he felt completely out of place in the predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood. He knew he couldn’t relate to their pain, their needs, or their problems.
Captain Munoz related how Matthew Barnett finally realized, as God used him to touch lives over and over again, that the people in his new neighborhood weren’t looking for someone who could identify with them or speak their language. They were looking for someone different—someone with real answers. (This testimony is, of course, encouraging to me, as I often feel like a fish out of water in this environment.)
I told the Captain about all that God did at church last Sunday, with the dynamic outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the passionate time of prayer. He was grateful to hear it, asked me how many guys were in attendance (100+), and commented that that’s around a tenth of the men on the entire yard. He thanked us for being so committed and for making such a difference on the yard. He said there is a noticeable difference and that the men need a relationship with God for there to be a real change in their hearts and lives. (Amen!) We were all so encouraged!
Then, the Captain opened the door and called out to a “Mr. Grounds” (I think), a tall, middle-aged guy in a suit and tie. He, too, joined us and stayed in after the captain walked out to give us some encouragement of his own. He urged us to stay strong in our faith, to reach out to others, and not give up, saying, “This prison needs what you’re bringing.”
We thanked him for his kind words and finished up the practice on cloud 9. I found out later that Mr. Grounds is the Associate Warden of our prison. Wow. God is good! Friday, Captain Munoz saw me on the yard* and asked me how I was doing. I’m grateful for godly leaders here!
I know God is poised to do great things in our midst here. I’m thrilled to be here at this time and place—“for such a time as this!” May God gain great glory in my life!
*I’ve only ever seen the Captain five or six times in nine months here. Twice in one week was unusual.