Notes From Death Row

Prisoners set free on death row

Letters from prison are always sobering; letters from death row even more so.

Over the last 3 years, GoodSeed has received occasional letters from an inmate on death row. Having committed a crime punishable by death, he went looking for redemption and found it in Jesus. GoodSeed’s book, By This Name, helped him see his need to put his faith in Christ. Since then he has written about reaching out to others.

Recently we received another letter from death row at the same prison, this time from a different inmate. Though it’s hard to know, we wonder if the first prisoner’s efforts are bearing fruit. The second inmate requested a copy of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, apologetic that he could not pay for it: “I’m poor as they come sadly.”

How true—of us all! Pray with us that as he reads, he will see beyond his financial poverty to his spiritual poverty and that he’ll turn to the One who can make him rich.

Can there be hope for such a man?

Storm and glassSometimes we are tempted to view certain individuals around us as “lost causes,” too far gone or too hardened to ever be reached by the gospel. Charlie* was such a man. Hearing how his life has played out, one would be tempted to think that there was no hope for him. He was a drunk and suffered from depression. Occasionally, he would explode into a fit of angry violence. And he was serving a long, long sentence in a maximum security prison for a double murder. Can there be hope for such a man?

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Prison ministry: I know I’ve broken all ten commandments

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Chainlink Fence

As Philip* walks down the corridor lit by harsh fluorescent lights, he quickly prays to prepare himself for what lies ahead. The prison guards are expressionless as they check him and his belongings. Satisfied that he is clean, they open the heavy gate and let him through.

Another guard leads the way. Philip knows his way around the prison but understands this is protocol. In this higher security facility, Philip is not allowed to bring in any books, papers or visual aids. All he has is what’s in his head and the set of DVDs he is carrying with him.

He is ushered into a spartan room with tables and chairs. At the front is a TV set and DVD player which he quickly sets up. Before too long, a door on the far end of the room opens, and inmates shuffle into the room. Philip looks up and smiles broadly at them. They smile back.

“Hello again,” he greets them. “Shall we continue with our study?”

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Stitching together the story of hope

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Quilt StoryStacy* looked around the room. It was filled with women who were recovering addicts. Behind the expectant faces were stories of poor choices, wrong turns and heartaches of every kind. Stacy wasn’t sure why each of them had ended up in this room with her. But each lady had before her scraps of cloth, thread, and other materials. Today, they were gathered to learn quilting. As well, they were about to learn what God had to say about life, death, and life after death.

About four years earlier, Stacy had attended a GoodSeed TERM Seminar. There, she had been thrilled to learn a simple, clear and effective way to share the gospel. She had journeyed through By This Name and, since then, had been waiting for God to show her how she could share the good news with others.

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An ambassador in chains

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SunriseRick* has been a believer for many years and he is serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. But Rick is not letting his time in prison go to waste. Rather, he has led a number of fellow inmates to faith in Christ and is currently discipling a group of men. As he actively engages others in conversation who are struggling with complex questions and issues in their lives, Rick has been on a lookout for materials that will enable him to give clear, biblical answers. Most of these men know very little about the Bible and some also struggle with learning difficulties—adding to the challenge facing Rick.

His sister Justine* recently attended a TERM Seminar. She began sharing with Rick how GoodSeed tools were designed for those who were biblically illiterate. She also described how visual aids were a significant part of the teaching and how their use would help those with learning challenges grasp the central message of the Bible.

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The gospel smashed into my heart

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Photo credit: Willem van Bergen on flickr

Out of the blue, we received a phone call last week. It was from a gentleman named Manuel* who lives in the US. He said he was prompted by God to share his story with us.

Manuel related that he became a believer 30 years ago but his life took a dramatic turn when he attended one of our TERM Seminars in Idaho. He was brought through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus and he said he really “bumped into the meaning of God.” He fell in love with the book and sought to use it to explain the gospel to others.

His first two students were his mum and dad. They were impacted by the message. His dad said the gospel “smashed into my heart” and made him realize how much of a sinner he was.

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