This past week the Captain of the guards met with the men and told them they have to stop fighting when they come out. They want programming to start back but the hostilities must end. Tonight they experimented with a slightly new format. I still did 10 cell-to-cell visits but there were also about a dozen guys who were out in the main area of the cell block. I met with some of them individually as well. Eventually I may do cell-by-cell visits and then afterwards meet with a small group in the multi-purpose room of the cell block.
I met several men who were new to the unit.
One man asked for prayer. As people moved in and out of the courtroom there were fights breaking out between members of his family and the family members of his victim. We prayed for peace and reconciliation.
The next man described his life as going 100 miles an hour and getting nowhere. In his recent encounter that landed him in jail he had been shot at 24 times. Since he survived that he figured God must have a purpose for him. He had been raised in the church and was able to fluently use church phrases as he spoke. We discussed the ease of serving “Jailhouse Jesus” vs. a life transformed.
Another man was wrestling hard with his addictions. He is 25 years old and his addictions have nearly destroyed his liver. I listened at length as he told me his story. Up to now his life has been controlled by aimlessness, alcohol, and drugs. He had recently seen friends die in their addictions. He was now seeking meaning and purpose for his life. I’d like to listen in on the discussion that he may have with the other man in the unit who is trying to overcome 44 years of addiction.
A few other men shared heartbreaking news with me. One of the guys who had been released a few months ago was now in a coma – there were conflicting stories about the cause. He was one of the first men I’d met here when I started two years ago, and I’d grown to like him. I was hopeful for his success on the outside. Several of us prayed together about his situation.
It can be discouraging at times. Before tonight’s visit my prayer partner had already contacted me to meet and pray. Support systems make a difference particularly in times like these.
I live in a state where 65% of those released from prison return within 3 years. Not everyone who is released will be successful. Not everyone who goes to drug treatment will find recovery their first time through, or their second time, or the third, or the fourth…
Recovery programs often say, “it takes what it takes”.
“Every person’s journey is unique, and the experience that provokes transformation is unpredictable. A young person gets drawn deeper into the violent, chaotic, and self-destructive habits of gangs, or someone develops a pattern of drug or alcohol abuse that becomes absolutely ruinous to mind, body, soul, and relationship. Eventually, the person reaches a point that seems beyond any capability of returning. And then something happens that causes the person to want to change, to yearn for a different life more than anything in the world. That’s the moment when the hard work of recovery begins.”[i]
Father Greg Boyle said, “I’m not the one who saves people; God does that. I simply point to the door and say, ‘I believe that if you go through that door you will live a happier life.’”
Romans 8:19-25 (NIV)
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.