"Did you go to church before you were put in jail?" I asked over the phone, through the glass window between us. Roy* responded, "No, but I did accept God at the worship service the Gideons have here every Saturday. I am reading the book of Proverbs in the King James Bible they gave me, though it is hard to understand."
I asked, "Would you like to pray?" He said, "Sure." I then led us in a short prayer time. I shared with him about the different pieces of peacemaking literature I had brought for him. I knew he had some interest in that because we had met the first time at our weekly peace vigil some three years ago.
Upon arriving for my next visit, the jailer told me, "Roy's visiting time is nearly up. Go right in, so you can have a minute or two with him." Again through the glass and phone I said, "Well, we don't have much time. What would you like to talk about?" To my surprise, he said, "Let's pray." At which point he began to pray.
I then left a copy of The Message, a Bible translation in contemporary language, with the jailer for Roy. I also tried to leave two magazines about the good works that Mennonite Central Committee is doing around the world, to help through his boring times. To my surprise, the jailer said, "Sorry, no magazines. They are against the rules".
I found out that the Sheriff makes these jail rules, so I went in to see him. I asked, "I would like to give these magazines to Roy. Is there any possibility of getting these to him?" Sheriff Thompson responded, "Sure. I will see that they get to him."
I then asked him, "Do you know what I do?" He answered, "No I don't. What do you do?" I explained about my peacemaking with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Colombia, and that I do slide presentations as a way to make people aware of some of the peacemaking that is happening in the world. He responded, "You know, that would be a good thing for the inmates to see. I will talk to the chaplain and maybe you can show it to the inmates."
So last Tuesday I gave a presentation to about a dozen inmates. Most of them seemed to be surprised and keenly interested in the CPT peacemaking. One fellow asked how he could get involved in CPT. I encouraged him to begin by cultivating a regular quiet time, with reading the Bible and attending a church. His girl friend was pregnant and due in December.
Another fellow said, "I have a wife and four children in diapers at home. I did not do what I was charged with. I was doing too much partying. Say a prayer for me if you can."
Thinking of these fellows' situations the next day, I found myself quite depressed. They have some very challenging patterns of bad choices they need to break out of. It seems our society's solution of just locking people up falls so short of truly helping them.
I don't feel I have the know-how or the time to give them the help they need, though I am grateful for the opportunity to visit them. As my wife said, "Your just being a friend in that time was worthwhile to them. Keep that in mind."
Thanks be to God for this opportunity to visit with Roy and the other inmates.
For Roy and the other inmates as they try to get their lives back on track.
For someone to help at translating my letters to Spanish.
*Roy's name has been changed.