Thursday, September 7, 2017
Prison Renewal, my surprising second career
I preach three times on weekends to about 240 individuals in attendance total at one of the three services. So three fourth of our spiritual population are Bible studying Christians. I have baptized over 100 men and though we see some continue to struggle with the patterns in their lives we also see so many so full of joy and habitual change that any doubts I may have about spiritual transformation are put to rest with living proof each week.
Most crime involves alcohol and drug abuse, and the result of being raised in severely dysfunctional families and continuing to replicate the lifestyle in their own lives. There are innocent men in the system, and many who would better serve the public by paying restitution rather than this penal systems incarceration. There are evil men here who will not break with the criminal mentality that brought them here. There are many finding ways to continue the insane use of drugs to find short periods of the high that seems to give them meaning and purpose. Drug dealers are willing to lose money supplying prisons because they know they will one day be in, and they can keep users who will one day get out and return to the lifestyle. Its all sad and tragic.
But....while I have strength, I see them as human beings, I look into their eyes, remember their names as more than numbers, and offer hope, forgiveness, strength through the practice of spiritual disciplines, and grace, grace and grace that is greater than our sin.
I am respected, protected and as safe as one can be in a place of keys and button pressing doors and sliding gates and managed movements everywhere. I love encouraging the young officers who are making decent money to put up with the daily chaos of prison life. I enjoy the teachers and drug counselors who have the same joy in seeing men fall in love with learning and find pride in obtaining goals in education. I enjoy the professional leaders with years in prison management try to create a human and safe environment while these men pay their debt for crimes they have committed.
I enjoy watching men set new career goals and create dreams of new life when they get free.
I enjoy getting a paycheck every two weeks at age 67, getting up at 5 am and seeing awe inspiring sunrises on back country roads in my commute to Eloy AZ and back.I enjoy the precious time with Laura after a day at work and the bliss of my two days off each week. I enjoy knowing that the years of study and developing a winsome style of teaching are being used in this strange new second career.