April and May 2013
P O Box 14953,
Odessa, TX 79768
KEEP LOOKING UP!
Over 28 years have passed since I walked into the Big
Spring Federal Prison Camp to facilitate a weekly Bible
study. I was totally unprepared for what I was about to
experience. Standing at a podium, lecturing on some
Biblical truth was not to be. It would, indeed, be a
study...sleeves rolled up; point and counterpoint; give
and take; back and forth...and extremely profitable for all
who weathered the first volley.
In these first small study groups were three particular
guys that befriended me and helped me learn my Bible.
Let me insert here that I did not want to do this prison
Bible class "thing." I agreed to it, more or less on a
temporary basis and felt it certainly held nothing for my
future...or so I thought. These three guys would,
individually and collectively, change the rest of my life. I
met Greg Carson from Kansas first. He was the orderly
in charge of the chapel where we met and he showed
me around. Greg introduced me to a fairly new guy from
Seattle, Washington, Terry Read, a former infidel. Terry,
in turn, introduced me to a newer guy just starting in the
class, an ex-atheist, named Tomas Reyes, from Puerto
Rico by way of New York.
Each of them had been saved while incarcerated. Each
of them were fairly new Christians. What made them
stand out was their hunger to study the Bible. Bible
study seemed to absorb them and they seemed to
absorb scripture. They weren't interested in my opinion;
they wanted to know what verse it was in! They loved
talking about what Christ had done, was doing and was
going to do for them. Their zeal and dedication was new
to me and it was contagious. Friday night became the
highlight of my week. Tomas told me once after his
release that he studied and prepared the whole week for
our Friday night groups.
Here were three guys with diversified backgrounds; no
religious background to speak of, who were affecting the
entire prison camp. Jerry Scott, the prison counselor I
worked with, can attest to what I am saying. They were
released at different times to different places, but they
all stayed in touch. Terry went back to Seattle with his
new wife and started a criminal justice ministry. Tomas
went back to Puerto Rico to teach in his church and
work on his doctorate, which he attained. Greg stayed in
Texas awhile, then to Kansas and Indiana working in
mission work. Each of them had some bumpy roads,
suffered some heartaches and shed a few tears along
the way...but Jesus Christ remained their Saviour.
A few weeks ago Greg called to tell me that Tomas had
passed away. A day later, Terry called with the same
information; then Tomas' daughter called to give me the
information. Tomas was in Puerto Rico, Terry was in
Seattle and Greg was in Dallas, but their brotherhood
centered around God's throne of grace. Tomas'
reputation had been a bad one, but when Christ saved
him he was one of the most soft spoken and kind men
that I knew. I could not picture him being the guy they
said he used to be. I got to meet his wife when she
came to the states to see him. Later on he sent me
pictures of his beautiful family. I did get to see him again
when we had a "Con-Vention" in Dallas a few years ago.
It was a joy to hug "Dr. Reyes" neck! It was a reunion of
our Bible class that the Lord blessed us with for six
years. Some of my greatest friends today were spawned
from that class. Every Friday night we got together. We
walked together through the loss of loved ones, divorces,
heartache, sickness, sorrows and disappointments.
Those times made us stronger.
The Lord called Julie Read home and gave Terry two little
girls (ages 2 and 4) to raise alone and raise them he did.
He home schooled them until high school. He was a full
time dad and full time in prison ministry. He brought up two
fine young ladies today. Quite a chore for an old drug lord,
Greg is now residing in Dallas, married and doing well.
Hopefully, he, Terry and I will get to visit when we have our
LOOPS Board Meeting in Dallas next month.
Why am I talking about these guys when you do not know
them and probably never will. Let me tell you why.
Somebody went into a jail and told Greg Carson about
Jesus Christ. Somebody else miles away went into a prison
and told Terry Read about Jesus Christ. Somebody else
had the courage to approach an angry atheist, tell him the
story of Jesus and watch Jesus transform another soul.
Who could have known that three guys from miles apart
could get saved and end up in the same unit in a small
West Texas town studying together. These were hard men
that Christ laid His hand on and broke their hearts for others
and each other. These were men who had been greedy and
selfish, who cared only about themselves and profited off
the trouble of others, who now sacrificed and gave of
themselves to see people saved. What an "about face."
What an one-hundred-eighty degree turn! Are they perfect?
Not for a moment...and they would be the first to tell you
that. Have they struggled with their faith? Yes, often...and
they would tell you that, too. Are they still God's children?
Yes, for all eternity!
It was an honor to have been associated with Tomas. It is
an honor to be associated with Greg and Terry. We have
some precious memories...and we are still making them.
Thank God for "jail house conversions." Praise God that
some folks got some "jail house" religion!
Keep Looking Up!