Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"What the..."

I get into the jail through Good News Jail & Prison Ministry. They offer individual Bible study lessons for inmates to work on while they're incarcerated. The Bible studies take you through most, if not all, of the New Testament books. After an inmate finishes a lesson, he turns it in to be graded by a volunteer, and receives the graded work back. He then moves on to the next Bible study lesson. If a person goes through the whole curriculum--not a small feat--he will receive a brand new leather Bible.

When I walked into the jail today, I saw a young man sitting down and went over to talk to him. He introduced himself as "George" and asked me if Good News still handed out the Bible study lessons. I told him that they did.

"I've been in here a couple of times before," George said, "and both times I did the Bible study lessons."

"Oh, really."

"Yeah. In fact, I earned two leather Bibles from when I was in here before."

I'm thinking to myself that this guy must hold some kind of record. So I ask him what his story is.

"Some guys start praying and stuff when they go to jail, and then forget about God when they get out. I just do these lessons to kill time while I'm in here. I'm not really religious or anything."

"Do you think you'll work through the lessons again?" I ask him.

"Yeah," he says convincingly, "What the f***; it can't hurt anything."

That last line sort of hung in space for a few seconds. It was sort of a comedy and tragedy moment for me. I didn't quite know what to say after that, so I just shook his hand, smiled and bid him farewell.

Looking back on that incident now, I'm reminded of when Jesus said, "'You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life'" (John 5:39-40). I pray that if/when George goes through the Scriptures again, that his eyes would be opened to see the beauty and majesty of the Lord Jesus, that he would repent of his sins, and put his faith in Christ. May he no longer study the Scriptures in vain.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Nia said...

Brian, I happened upon your blog while looking for a church for my friends and I to attend while we are completing a Medical Research Internship in Rochester for the summer. I really don't know what else to say other than I think that what you are doing is amazing. I wish that I had found your church earlier (we have been here for a little over a month now), and I hope that you continue to be a blessing to others as you are obviously blessed yourself.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Hi Nia,

Thank you for the encouraging words. I hope your internship is going well. I met someone not too long ago who told me they were doing medical research. It's going to drive me crazy because I can't remember what their research was about or where they were doing it.

We'd love to have you and your friends come to visit us sometime. There are a few medical folks--doctors, nurse, hospital staff--that attend Rochester Vineyard.

May the Lord richly bless you and may your research be very fruitful and rewarding!

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Nia said...

Brian,

Actually, to be completely honest, while I am interested in visiting your church, I also have some reservations. I am going through a lot in my life right now and I am just not feeling 'into' my faith, which is really strange for me because my faith has been my whole life. Being a young person these days (I'm 20) is just getting harder and harder.

Be blessed.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Hi Nia,

Yeah, I can understand not being "into" your faith. A few years ago, my wife pointed out to me one of my "blind spots." Although, in reality I can't call it a blind spot because I knew good and well what I was doing was wrong, but I didn't want to stop.

Anyway, I got mad at her and I got mad at God. I entered into a real desert time in my spiritual life. Everything was dry: prayer, worship, reading the Bible. I didn't want to talk to God. This lasted for almost a year. I still went to church--I figured it was the thing to do--but it felt like a wall between me and God. Like being in the same room with someone, but you're avoiding interaction.

I can't remember what finally brought me out of the desert, I just remember that I was at church when it happened. I let go of stuff I hadn't wanted to let go of. I cried a lot. It was like finding an oasis. I could literally feel the dryness going away--like when Jesus was talking with a woman about living water which would quench her thirst (John 4).

Twenty can be tough. I was a very insecure junior at UCLA at that age. I did the guy-girl relationship thing badly. My roommate was a pretty strong Christian, but I was embarrassed around him. It had nothing to do with him; I was basically embarrassed about being a Christian. (And I think I was one then.)

Really, when I think about all the stuff I went through/did, I have to say God had a lot of patience with me! The Father really is full of grace, mercy and love toward His children. I know that you will discover that for yourself.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Hi Nia,

Right when I was out of college I went through a period where I was just not "into the faith" as well. I remember it clearly-I was angry with God because I didn't like the way my life was turning out. ("I thought you promised me better than this, God.") It was really hard. I think that one of the main reasons that I came back to the faith was because, during that time, I still regularly attended church (who knows exactly why-it might have been the routine of it? worry of what people would think of me if I didn't go?) In any case, I'm so glad I did-and it was the Rochester Vineyard that I was attending at this time. The people there supported me while I struggled through this period. I'm honestly afraid to think where I would have ended up otherwise.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Hi Brian,

I was reading over comments on my blog recently when I caught yours, so now I have been catching up on your ministry updates. I'm amazed at all the stories here-God is really working there. It must be such an awesome experience.

Here in Chennai, I've been attending the Madras Vineyard. (I think they haven't changed their name to Chennai.) They have started a live music facility and school here in the city called the Unwind Center (www.unwindcenter.com) but I don't think the church has a separate website (at least I couldn't find one as I was reasearching before I left.) I ended up contacting the pastor directly after getting his email from the people at the Marietta Vineyard. The hard part is getting involved and getting to know people there, since I'm normally working a night shift. Sometimes getting up in the daytime (morning especially) and knowing that you have to face haggling with the autorickshaw drivers just to get there is an overwhelming thought. Please pray that it will get easier as the time goes by and I get more settled in... :)

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Nia said...

Hi Lori and Brian,

Thank you both for your responses. It is just hard because I feel so abandoned by God at times. I have one more weekend in Rochester and I hoping to be able to attend Rochester Vineyard on Sunday. Just in reading Brian's blogs and about the faith community in general, it seems like a wonderful place to go for support. I do not attend church as frequently as I would like, but I try to go at least once a month (it gets kind of hectic with classes and studying). It is just hard to find someone who is grounded in the faith, willing to listen, and who understands (even in the least) what I am going through. I am just struggling to find, and hold fast to, my faith in God and in myself as his child.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Hi Nia,

Hope to see you, too. This being your last weekend in town, it'd be nice to send you off with a blessing.

Most of the people who attend don't bite...at least not hard enough to leave teeth marks :-)

1:36 PM  
Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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4:52 PM  

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