In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tidbits from class at CRC

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Photo from The Preacher's Word
One of the things that really blesses me at CRC is the young men who are so eager to change. Who are trying to learn what being a new person looks like in day to day life.  Who want to have better lives and are working to make that real.

There was a discussion during part of the break out portion of class this week that I found interesting.  One African American man who looked like he was 15 years old (but he had to be at least 18 since this is prison), who I'll call K, asked me some questions. Another couple of African American young men who I'll call E and T joined the conversation. E and T seem to be in their mid twenties. The conversation went something like this:

K: Does it always pay to be a nice guy? I mean, do you really do better in life or do people just take advantage of you?

Me: Wow, that's a great question. Because you know, sometimes it doesn't seem to pay off; not in the short run.  Sometimes it does seem like  you do all the right things and don't look like you prosper.  But since you asked me, I'll tell you what I believe.  I believe that whatever  you put out there in life is what you ultimately get back.  As Christians, we call this "sowing and reaping", Hindus call it karma.  But, whatever you want to call it, it is a true phenomena.

E: Didn't say anything but was watching me very intently as I talked about this and was nodding in agreement. 
 
T: I know that's true because when I was on the outside, I tried to be generous.  Once my girlfriend and I saw these homeless people and I gave them money.  I saw that they didn't have any shoes so when I got some new shoes I brought them my old ones.  Sometimes I'd bring them food. During that time I got a good job and made lots of money.

K: But what about the guys here who're always up in my stuff? Who mess with me.  Do I have to be good to them?  Won't they just take more?

Me: Have you taken the boundaries class yet?

K: Shakes his head  no

Me: That class will last several weeks and I think you'll really benefit.  In it we talk about ways to be a good person but set boundaries in our lives. Being kind and good does not mean letting people get over on you or take advantage.
 
E: Oh no, you can't be letting people mess with your stuff up in here.  There are some people who if your soul was a real thing that you could put in your pocket, they'd even steal that.  You have to have boundaries and guard yourself and your stuff. [On an aside note, isn't E poetic with that whole thing about if you could put your soul in your pocket, they'd take it.  That's profound.]

T: Looks directly at K and smiles.  Now I know what you're talking about.  That's something different from doing right and being good like we're talking about.  Those types of guys, you can't let them mess with you or take your stuff.  You only have your little bed and your few things, if you let them start taking stuff from you,  you'll have other problems. 

Later during this break out session, as we were going over the homework we came to a section with Bible verses where the guys were supposed to look them up and write about what the verses meant to them.  The verse was Romans 13:1. This time T and E had these things to say:

E: When I read that verse I thought about how it means that God has let every authority be here.  That means that since God has let me be in prison, that even the warden and the guards and the rules, God wants me to obey them. [If you understand prison culture, you'll understand that this is a huge revelation for E.  In prison culture the warden & guards are "the man" and looked at as the enemy.]

T: Yeah, like doing good at my job IS about working for myself to pay my rent and put food in my refrigerator, like I talked about earlier.  But it's also about doing good for God.  He's our boss over everything and all the other bosses.

Me: I so much feel that way T.  I've had jobs where I've worked real hard and the owner didn't appreciate it at all.  But I would remind myself that I didn't really work for the owner, that everything I do is for God.  Because He's been so good to me and given me so much.  I can never be anything but grateful.

E. Me too.  God's done so much for me.

I'm just so blessed by these young men's hearts.  The culture of people who end up in prison is called anti-social.  Anti-social culture is all about yourself, looking out for number 1 and not really respecting anyone or anything.  Rehabilitation programs try to teach what is called pro-social behavior; behavior that a person engages in to benefit both themselves and others.  Pro-social behavior respects authority.  Those who work in the criminology field know that changing anti-social values and mind set is not easy.  That's a huge part of why around 70% of released prisoners end up back in incarceration within 3 years.  It's such a blessing to me to watch God working in some of these young men's hearts.  To see them change and grow.

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