Stories from Behind the Walls
There are six buildings which house the inmates at Riverbend Prison. The general population resides in units five and six. These units are referred to as the “low side." Buildings one through four (the “high side”) contain the men who are considered more dangerous and are kept under strict surveillance. Unit two is reserved for those men on death row. Unit one is the most highly guarded section and the men have little freedom and very little living space. It is not a friendly place!
Each Christmas season various local ministries (including HPM) provide all of the inmates with individual gift bags. Unit one is not allowed any of the materials in the bags but we are able to provide them with a bag lunch from Popeye’s Fried Chicken. Last week we distributed the chicken to the men and we placed their bag in a metal slot which the guards opened for them so that they could receive their meal.
The men enjoyed their meal but we weren’t able to communicate well because of time and safety constraints. I was quite surprised to hear one young man yelling to me as I gave him his chicken. I went back and saw him and recognized him as one of the men who had been in my “Sermon on the Mount” class only two weeks before. He told me that he let his anger get out of control and, as a result, was placed in the worst part of the prison. He also asked me to pray for him and told me that they let him keep his copy of the book which we are using and that he is reading it daily.
My emotions really had a field day that afternoon. He had only been to a couple of my classes when he was in Unit five and I didn’t even know his name. I did remember him, though. He was quite young and I was struck by the realization of his predicament. One week he was in a somewhat “safe” environment and the next week he is practically in solitary confinement. Is there hope for him? The world says NO, but someone who entered this world two thousand years ago says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
It’s our joy and privilege to go to Riverbend and Special Needs prisons to take this good news to “the least of these.”
May our great God and King bless you this season and the New Year.
Rick and Richard