A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from a man I hadn’t seen for almost twenty years. He left a message. It was someone I had met when I was serving as a volunteer chaplain in State Correctional Institution Graterford. The last time I had seen him was when he and his wife stopped by our house on their way through town.
I returned the call. His wife answered. She apologized that he was not there, because he was in prison. For a moment my heart sank. She continued, “He is in there at least three times a week. I’m not complaining. It’s a good thing! He can call you back after he gets home about 3:30.”
Allen called me and we talked for about an hour. He told me he just wanted to call to say thank you for my service to him and the other guys at Graterford more than twenty years ago; and to let me know that it had borne fruit with him.
After he got out, he married. They lived in Maine. He got involved in prison ministry there and has been volunteering in prison ever since. He also started a food bank in Maine that he entrusted to another ex-offender when he and his wife moved to northern South Carolina, after he suffered disability from a motorcycle accident.
Allen told me that one Bible lesson that I had taught had a particularly profound impact in his life. I was teaching on 1 Timothy 2:1 about how we are to pray for all men everywhere. I told the men that there were no pre-conditions put on this admonition. We should pray for anyone who comes to mind or whom the Lord lays on our heart, whether they are alive or dead; even if we don’t know whether they are alive or dead. Our God is not bound by time or death, and he has asked us to join with Him in the mystery of prayer.
Allen took that to heart and began to pray for his dad, whom he had never seen. He prayed that someone would share the Gospel with him and lead him to faith in Jesus Christ. Some five or six years later, Allen is in Atlanta, GA, for a prison ministry conference. On a whim, he picks up the phone book and looks up his own name, and finds it! Now Allen is a junior. He prays. Then he calls the number. A man answers. He asks him, “Did you and your wife have a son on Feb. 23, 1948 and name him after you?” His dad said Yes. They both were thrilled!
Allen went to his dad’s place and got to know him. They were amazed at how similar their life’s choices had been; up to a point. Allen shared with his dad his story of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
After a time, his dad turned to the Lord and was baptized. Allen’s dad passed away several years ago. Allen was at his bedside reading John 14 when he reposed.
He also mentioned to me how our daughter Hilary, who was only 4 or 5 at the time, used to write him and send him pictures she had drawn, telling him that she was praying for him. Allen just called to encourage me and to thank Hilary for her prayers. I’m sharing this with you to encourage you.
Another thing that Allen told me is that there is no better life than one spent doing the works of the Lord! We agreed about how frustrated we get when people make a big deal over what we do, because they just don’t understand how much fun we are having. There is no more interesting life than one spent serving the Lord. Jesus Christ doesn’t lie and He said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”