Blessings at Boyd

A thin ribbon of dawn sliced the eastern skyline in glorious splendor but what drew our attention was the stark, sharp concertina wire forming a deadly lace of metal on the outer fence of the Boyd Unit Friday morning as we waited to enter a series of gates, check points and searches to arrive at last to a gym that was transformed into holy ground.  In my devotional reading I had somewhere come across the phrase, “whenever someone new enters a room, Christ comes in. But oh, he comes in such disguises.” Sunday night I returned exhausted and elated from a 4 day Karios at the Boyd Prison Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections.  In our last small group gathering (the “family” table of St. James) the inmates (or “brothers in white”) asked us (the 3 free-worlders) what we got out of the Karios. My answer was simple.  I received blessings at Boyd.  The greatest of those blessings was to see God at work in transformative power.  I was blessed with new friends.  I was blessed by the Spirit far beyond what I had hoped.  The list goes on.  I do not do it justice but write in awe of the power and presence of God at Boyd through the work of Karios.  I also recognize the great battle that takes place daily in that location between good and evil. Abstract theological concepts like sin and salvation, repentance and redemption, take on flesh and blood form.  They hurl about the room explosive charges of energy and anger, regret and renewal.  In a population where respect, love, and care are rare commodities, the gospel is truly good news.  We free-worlders are careful to honor the humanity and privacy of the brothers-in-white.  An unwritten but firm code is that one does not ask what action or sentence placed an inmate in prison.  We do not seek how long they have to serve.  Respect means willingness to allow a brother in white his privacy. They share but only when they have reached a point of spiritual development and trust.  As I grew in my own journey (blessed by the  brothers in white) the phase “there but for the grace of God” took on new depth. Forgiveness is taken seriously here.  Anger is strong, and grace is not cheap.  They wrestle hard with the Lord’s Prayer, especially the phrase “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.”  Some already profess Christ as Lord and Savior but face the reality of a deep failure to live the Christian life.  Others reject God.  Still others have readily given themselves over to the worship of other (false) gods including Satan and evil.  They make much of the distinction between being a Christian and being Christian!  I think we in the free-world can learn a great deal for them.  I know I have. The inside team (brothers in white) who have been through Kairos, committed or recommitted their lives to Christ as Lord and Savior, and who are giving genuine evidence of walking in newness (righteousness) of life, were awesome sacrificial servants. I encountered two of the greatest missionary evangelists I have ever met at Boyd on the inside team.  One African American, the other Anglo American, they reached across gang, racial, ethnic, religious and other lines risking their own safety to share Christ in ways that truly put together love, justice, mercy and evangelistic passion. One of them was known simply as Demon before his conversion to Christ.  The other was someone who went around beating up people.  They are now living a level of sanctification that I hope in my better days to merely immolate. I thank the men of Boyd for the blessings they bestowed on me.  I thank also my fellow team  members - both those on the inside and outside team.  They are heroes of the faith, not perfect, just walking in the way of faith.  I will write more in the next blog.