February 1, 2002
They look more like young Army recruits fresh out of high school and just
getting ready to begin basic training than convicted felons facing long prison sentences.
Yet this is the type of inmate I am seeing more and more of behind these
walls. They look angry and bewildered at the same time. In the neighborhoods each of them grew up in, they lived by a code
of violence, and yet they seem to have retained some of their childhood innocence and naivtey.
This younger generation of baby face criminals seems so out of place in
However this is a different generation than the one I was a part of. But
I can relate to them Because they're travelling down the same road I had travelled on more than two decades earlier. This
is the road of sin, sickness, sorrow, misery, and ultimately death.
The Bible says, "There is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
So it is of no surprise then that the road I took is still well travelled.
If I may say so, this well trekked road of ruin is the broad highway which
Jesus spoke of that eventually ends at the mouth of Hell.
The Lord Jesus said, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate,
and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and
narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:13,14).
February 2, 2002
YOUNG PEOPLE AND GUNS
Several years ago I was watching a TV program that was discussing youth
violence. There's been a great deal of focus on this subject ever since the Columbine High School shooting back in 1999.
Anyhow, the "experts" were sharing their various theories as to why kids
carry guns. While watching the program I pulled out a pen and paper and jotted down a few of their ideas, and I put down a
few of my own.
Today I believe that there are generally four main reasons why young people
carry guns or other weapons: 1) protection, 2) Power, 3) Self-respect, 4) Criminal Intent.
From what I know by being in prison for the past 25 years, and by talking
to so many men from all walks of life, expecially younger men who seem to be the ones who are committing a bulk of today's
violent crimes, most of them grew up in neighborhoods that were filled with violence. There were lots of weapons around, too.
For most of these men, carrying a gun or some other kind of potentially
lethal weapon was considered normal behavior.
And while they all knew it is illegal to carry such things, all felt that
a weapon of some kind was necessary.
In areas of the country where there is so much violence, carrying a weapon
gives one a sense of protection. Some felt power knowing that they were carrying an implement that can, if need be, end the
life of another person like a real or imagined enemy.
For others, carrying a weapon was a statement of personhood, and individuality.
Lastly is criminal intent, when a man or woman carries a weapon wilth the deliberat purpose of robbing or hurting someone.
February 3, 2002
MORE ON YOUTH VIOLENCE
Today I feel led to continue to discuss youth violence and crimes by young
I believe that teenagers, for example, do not have the professional training,
self-discipline, maturity or common sense as to how and when to use a firearm or other weapon. So during a time of anger,
frustration or daring bravado, they act out their false sense of masculinity--the warped idea that a man proves his worth
by doing acts of violence and by striking out at others.
I believe that when a teenager pulls out his gun and shoots someone, he
is acting both as an adult and as a child. He's at an age where he is grown-up enough to be held responsible for his actions.
Yet he is not mature enough nor is he emotionally developed enough to fully grasp the long term impact and the consequences
of his actions.
Simply knowing right from wrong is usually not enough of a check to stop
a young man from committing a crime of violence. Furthermore, he has little abililty to fully comprehend what a "life sentence"
means or even the death penalty: the full and final end of his life, forever.
A teenager really hasn't lived long enough on this earth to get a sense
of what 25, 50 or more years are as a future prison sentence. These years are beyond his ability to measure in the limited
time frame of his own life.
This is a sad and tragic situation. Most prosecutors and other law enforcement
personnel see the "lock them up and throw away the key" concept as the main "no nonsense" way to get a violent teenager off
the streets and away from society for as long as possible.
I do not blame them for thinking like this because it is, on the surface,
the most basic of reactions to this frustrating poroblem. However, as a Christian, I believe that this is more of a spiritual
problem. So it requires a spiritual response and solution.
There are no simple anwers. Yet we Christians should realize that the gospel
we're supposed to be sharing with others is powerful. We are the ones who must take the Word of God to this lost generation.
I know that the Lord can rescue young people from their self-destructive
ways and their out-of-control behaviors. Jesus can make the difference in a person's life.
So I believe that, in the times we're now living in, the church needs a
new vision, a deeper hunger, and a fresh call to reach out to people from all walks of life.
We can have a positive impact on so many kinds, keeping them from ruin.
Not that the church can reach all of them, for we may never accomplish this.
However, maybe by helping some of these youth to lead better lives and
hopefully stay out of prison we can even prevent others from being their future victims.
And while not everyone will respond in a positive way to Christ's message
of salvation, we can be faithful to His mandate to "go into all the world." We need to share the love of Jesus with as many
as we can.
February 11, 2002
It is oftentimes a difficult and risky thing to talk about Jesus Christ
with the prisoners who are Muslims. In here the number of Muslim men outnumber those of us who are born again Christians.
But in any event, this month the Lord has allowed me to share about Jesus
with him for now. He's been sharing many things about his life, expecially his struggles and dissappointments. I'll call him
"Talmeek". He's been in prison for ten years, with a long time to go.
Talmeek seldom hears from his family anymore. He had been lamenting about
this, feeling that he's a forgotten man. I know without a doubt that it is the light of Jesus Christ in me that is drawing
him in my direction.
He said he finds it so amazing that I am at peace and have such joy as
well as an easy going attitude, even after being locked up for almost a quarter of a century. He knows that bitterness has
been poisoning his soul. He's admitted this to me. Yet he has been mentally contrasting my life with his, and I know he feels
very confused and unsettled right now.
I told Talmeek in no uncertain terms that it is Christ who gives me inner
peace as well as a reason to live. I've been showing him some of my photos from Africa. Talmeek has been amazed. He finds
it surprising that a white man who's in prison would have so many friends in Africa.
I explained that Christians are really one big family, that our love transcends
all human boundaries and colors. We are one body in Christ.
February 12, 2002
SHARING WITH MUSLIMS
Yesterday I shared about my Muslim neighbor, Taleek*, and how the Lord
has allowed he and I to become friends.
I was also encouraged when, earlier this month, another Muslim inmate,
Abdul,* sat next to me in the class I attend on weekday afternoons. He began asking me about the book I had on my desk, MORE
THAN A CARPENTER by Josh McDowell. This is a "classic" work well known to many Christians. Josh McDowell specializes in the
field of "apologetics", where he vigorously explains and defends the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I felt led by the Holy Spirit to ask Abdul if he would like the book. We
had been whispering. I saw him look around the room to see if anyone was watching us. When he was satisfied that no other
prisoners were paying us any mind, he told me yes. I gave him this little book which he quickly stuffed into his school bag.
I know Abdul will be reading this in secret, and God is going to speak
to this man's mind and heart. A seed will be planted.
And still another Muslim, Hameed*, came to me and started asking questions
about what I believe in. We had a good conversation. My heart was pleased when he told me that his sister attends a large
evangelistic church in Brooklyn. I know she has been praying for him and his heart is already being softened, although he
doesn't know it.
*The names of these thee men are fictitious in order to protect them from
any retaliation from other Muslims.