21 Apr

Prison Update #2

Here is the update Ken sent last evening.

FYI: Kenneth, Simon, Darrell, and possibly Duane plan to visit Ken this evening.

April 20, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters at Pilgrim,

“Verily, Verily I say  unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his  life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (John 12:24-25)

There is always an indefinite time between spiritual corn-planting and the harvest. If that time could somehow be compressed or removed and we could immediately see the glorious reward of “dying”, wouldn’t we all choose to give up our lives? But that’s not how the universe works. “When the days were accomplished,” Mary brought forth God’s Son. “When the days are accomplished”, our spiritual harvest will be gathered. It takes a process of time.

Our problem is often spiritual short-sightedness– in truth, a lack of faith–which results in the inability to “see” the fruit that will come from “hating our lives in this world.” If we focus on the short-term inconvenience and pain of giving up our own desires and ambitions, we’ll likely draw back, forgetting that preserving our lives now means sure death later.

May God give us a vision into the future harvest, a vision which will inform our decisions in the present. “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

It’s hard to know what all I should write. So much has happened in the last two weeks or so.

I’ve settled into somewhat of a routine, by God’s grace. I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to a new cell 2 days ago. this meant leaving an 18-man dorm for a 4-man cell. I love the change. It’s much quieter and much more peaceful. The vulgarity and profanity at the larger dorm was almost unbearable at times.

The bunk I had was an upper bunk with springs. Depending how you roll around, the springs emit a sickening “crunch.” One is always concerned about dropping pretzel crumbs or other undesirable material on the man below. Plus, with my length-challenged legs, I always had to strain to get myself up off a chair at the end of the bunk, up over the end rail, and onto the mattress. Getting down was even worse, especially in the early morning darkness while the men around me were still sleeping.

Now, in the new cell it’s much more convenient. While it’s not the Ritz Carlton, I do have a bottom bunk which eliminates the need for advanced gymnastic skills. My bunk has a sturdy steel frame which means the man above me doesn’t shake the whole bed as he moves around. The cell even has a tiny sink which is usable and a toilet which is not.

My cell mates are Don, Luke and Adar. (Not their real names.) They have built up a reputation for keeping their cell “ship-shape.” So much so that when it comes time for the bi-weekly inspection, the unit leaders often show the inspector this cell as a representative cell. So I have a high house-keeping standard to live up to. Even leaving your Bible lying on your well-made bed goes against protocol. I learned that the hard way already.

But the guys are super nice and hardworking. Adar is on the cleaning crew for this unit and buffs the tile floor in the hallway every three days with windex. The floor in here SHINES. I’m sure this has helped propel ancient Richmond Hall to the top of the inspection list, a fact all of us are quite pleased about.

Please pray that God would help me be a faithful representative of the invincible, irrepressible life of Christ, wherever He puts me in here.

The other significant blessing: I was given a job on the landscape crew–the job I wanted. I started yesterday, and for the last two days actually managed to get some dirt under my fingernails again, as we cleaned up flowerbeds and trimmed shrubbery around the compound. The best part is being allowed to get outside into the sunshine and fresh air while doing something useful. Like every other aspect of prison life, one has to adapt to a different set of expectations. Let’s just say, I know from personal experience now, that private enterprise is far more effective than state run systems!  For every hour “worked” we might actually WORK for 10-15 minutes. Hopefully I will earn my pay, the grand sum of $20 monthly.

The other big news this past week was the 36-hour power outage here at Petersburg Low. There is no back-up power. So tempers were fraying a bit by the time the power came back on. We were locked inside our building (Richmond Hall) during that time except when we went to get our meals and during a fire drill. For two days we ate peanut butter and jelly and bologna sandwiches because the kitchen was out too. Amazingly I still like peanut butter.

The outage was reportedly caused by someone unthinkingly turning off a steam condensate return value, which shunted all the condensate from the massive steam system here into a basement enclosure, filling it with three feet of water and burning up a main transformer, which strangely, is still installed in that basement. I talked with one of the maintenance fellows who was on the steps starting down into the water to turn off that value. Suddenly, they heard popping electrical noises. “Stop!” yelled the supervisor. If they had gone in, the maintenance man told me, “I’d be lying in the morgue today.” Praise the Lord for His protection over those men!

I praise the Lord also, for all your care and prayers!

Love in Christ,