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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ Letters of Faith ~

You may or may not have visited the "Prison Ministry" section of our web site. "Prison Ministry" typically evokes images of people volunteering to mentor and teach prisoners about spirituality and the salvific way of Christ. That is an important mission but naturally is not relegated to prisons, but to all sectors of society including those that attend church services. Underlying assumptions include the notion that almost all prisoners are guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted and almost all are in need of spiritual teaching and have little to teach us about faith and the way of Jesus.

We dispute those assumptions and can effectively document how they are erroneous. Christ is present in our prisons and in many of our prisoners and can (and wishes to) teach us through them. This Weekly Reflection is dedicated to our marginalized and imprisoned brothers and sisters with prayer for their freedom. Please ponder the excerpts below from some of their letters to us.
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This prisoner is the first in New Jersey to have an Appellate Court order the Superior Court to give him the opportunity to exonerate himself with DNA evidence. He was in state prison since 1987 facing a life sentence and was released last August (2005) when the DNA forensics did indeed prove his innocence. However, he remains on bail waiting retrial.

...John, for a few days I was deeply troubled as to "why this; why me?" What caused this? What makes a man threaten another without cause? Instead of worry and stress I asked the Lord God "why am I here?" Early the following day a still voice said "I'm purging you." ..."Every branch that bears fruit He prunes it that it may bring more fruit" (John 15:1)... 
...In God's word it has shown me that all people that were used of God to do extraordinary things were separated for a season from family, country, loudness of the world, etc., and I share it. Sometimes God separates us so we can hear Him...to get our attention... 
... Be it God's will it shouldn't be much longer before all of us can celebrate my long awaited freedom. The director of the Innocence Project, asked me Thursday if I was ready to go home when the evidence returned that it wasn't me. I told him "no doubt!!!" :) I was ready to leave this place yesterday...I pray that all of you will continue calling my name before the throne of grace as I will yours... 
...The Lord rebukes anything that comes against you for His word says "touch not my anointed nor do my prophets any harm" and that "no weapon formed against you shall prosper." Remember the word tells us "That those who keep their minds on Him, He shall keep in perfect peace." Look not on your situation for it is only temporary....Just remember you can write me anytime. I'm settled for a little while. :)...The will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us...

I know you heard it said that a man can have everything today and tomorrow have nothing. The same is with trials, testings, afflictions and tribulations. They're here today and gone tomorrow. It's not about the unjust, lying and corruption of man. Instead it's about the fulfilling of God's will. Continue in the Lord and be not weary. "Fear them not, therefore; for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hidden that shall not be known" (Matthew 10:26-28). "Blessed are you when men persecute you. Pray for them that persecute you" (Matthew 5, 11-12, 44). ...I certainly hope the Lord will use my case to expose, tear down and destroy the wickedness that exists...So my brother, be of a strong faith and of good cheer. I'm here to encourage you in the Lord and inspire you to continue your work for the gospel's sake...

I do pray that the Lord God has all of you in His Hand doing swell as all of you abound more and more in His Word and grace. By His mercy and grace we're all doing well, my family and I, as we both await this soon court date and the Lord's coming...This letter will be mailed on July 5th which means I have only 24 more days to wait before being released. Romans 4:17: "...Speak those things that are not as though they were." ...It will be so good to become accustom to Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter once again. Hearing birds sing early in the morning, smelling flowers, trees, rain and watching a garden grow, seeing the joy and happiness on a kid's face or seeing people smile, oh yes, going to the supermarket seeing all the different kinds of fruit, and the soothing experience of the quietness of the woods as you sit on land or a boat to fish. Life and living is so good. So many things I took for granted, but never again. It's a blessing being able to get up in the morning and walk, talk or sing. Truly God is good and worthy to be praised...

From O, innocent and in state prison since 2000 facing a life sentence. He is working hard in developing an outreach ministry to people in and outside of prison.

Once again I realize how unjust man is. Still, I thank the Lord for this experience, and I am learning a great lesson through it...I just can go back to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for me. Surely He has borne my grief and carried my sorrows..."He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." Going through this situation I understand more of Jesus' love for me. He took my place. He laid down His life so that I may live..."Greater love had no one than this, to lay down one's life for his friends." Jesus' love is immeasureable, beyond my understanding!
...When I think about this word, freedom, I don't know how to react. One thing is true, I am an oppressed prisoner. I have tried hard enough even to shed tears in prayer before God, asking Him to enable me to get used to this place...I keep praying, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." (Ps. 55:6.)
...As to my case, I am resting...Resting in His arms. He holds my future. My days are in His hands. I am still waiting to see the salvation of the Lord.
...After receiving the news that my appeal had been denied...the Lord took me to the book of Daniel where it says, "Sadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.'" Truly, my resolve and faith in God is the same as these men. I know, deep in my heart, that the God I serve is able to get me out of this place, but even if He chose not to, I will still serve Him and remain faithful to Him. I will not bow to the gods of unbelief and disillusion.

From T, innocent and in state prison since 2000 facing a life sentence.

In my lifetime, I always tried to do things with my own strength. My life had come to an end, as I knew it, when I was arrested for a crime I didn't commit. After being totally stressed for several weeks, I found myself on my knees asking God to help me and that the stress has become too great for me to handle. After saying my prayer, instantly the stress had left my body. It actually felt like someone had lifted a thousand pounds off my shoulders, and I knew from that point on that the true and living God was with me...

Sometimes God brings us low to raise us up for His glory, so we can be equipped to do His work, like sharing the Gospel to those who are lost, those who have become conformed to the worldly things. So I truly thank God today for revealing to me the truth of His word through Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God. And for allowing me to become an heir to the throne of grace. So, without a doubt, I know I am blessed!

Thank you for all of the reading materials that you have sent me. Since my incarceration, I've become an extensive reader...One gains the attribute as a wise person not only in age but through study...God is perfect and is the maker of all wisdom, and He has given that power to men and women, the ability to be just and true rulers of the earth. (Genesis 1:26-30.)..."Happy is the man that finds wisdom and that gets understanding: for the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver and the grain and fine gold" (Proverbs 3:13). Also, 4:5-7, "Get wisdom, get understanding; forget it not, neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not and she shall preserve you; love her and she shall keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom and with all your getting understanding." ..."Who is as the wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed" (Ecclesiastes 8:1).
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The Prison Ministry section of our web site has been updated, namely the "Letters of Faith" and "Legal Updates" pages. Please visit that section for many more letters and updates on our brothers' cases, to learn from them, and to be inspired to pray for them.


John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~
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Spiritual Resource Services  © September 29, 2005
 

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