Standing Firm

solid groundI was awakened at 1:30am on Tuesday, March 4, to make my treck to Yazoo City MS, the federal prison I was assigned to. After spending the last 3 weeks in the Oklahoma Transit Center, it was time to start my prison ministry for God. I had 30 minutes to pack up my temporary cell. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take anything with me, so I had to tear up all my letters, including another blog that I wrote but was unable to send out. I left behind all the devotional booklets I received from Lutheran Hour Ministry and pray that they will be put to good use by someone and not tossed out.

After being released from my cell I was sent to a holding area with 40 other inmates that were being sent to Yazoo as well, including Rail, a Christian inmate that I’ve traveled with since Chicago. We were told we would be taking a 530 mile bus ride to Yazoo City which would take about 9 hours. Ugh! The seats were at least padded, but there was no headrest so sleeping was not an option. Our hands and feet were shackled the entire ride, so it made for some ideal, comfortable, riding conditions. Ha! We pulled out at 4am and started the journey. I sat right behind Rail so I had someone to talk to along the way. But basically everyone just killed time by looking at the farmland as we traveled through Arkansas and Mississippi. We stopped at three places along the way but were not allowed to get out. We were given food on the bus and there was a bathroom. We arrived in Yazoo at 2pm. There were 21 of us that went to the medium security and the other 19 (which was Rail) went to the low and minimal facilities. It took approximately 5 hours to fill out forms and take care of all the administrative paperwork required and then we were shown to our units and cells. There are 12 units at the medium facility with approximately 140 guys in each one. When walking across the compound to go to my unit I noticed that it was bigger than I expected and actually nicer looking, too. It reminded me of my college campus with everything connected and a huge courtyard in the middle of all the buildings. When I arrived at my unit the cell I was assigned to was occupied, so I had to look for another cell on my own. Immediately a Mexican guy motioned to me and said I could live with him. Of course I had all sorts of anxiety going through me the entire time since arriving.

Now there aren’t a whole lot of Caucasian people at this prison, so when I got to my cell the white guys immediately flocked to me. I was bombarded with many questions and was told the rules and the likes of prison life by all of them. It seems there are more politics that go on inside a prison than all the politics that happen in Washington DC. It’s crazy! I immediately was asked to join a gang, but I kindly declined by saying I was a Christian and that I just wanted to do my time in peace with the Lord. They didn’t like to hear that but I held my ground and continued to say No Thank you.

It was almost lock down time when I arrived at my cell, so I couldn’t familiarize myself with anything or take a walk around. I had about a million questions to ask my cellie that night, and he was kind enough to explain the ropes of everything. The next morning was the true test as to where I was going to sit in the chow hall. The Caucasians wanted me to sit with them, but I found the Christian table and was drawn to them. I got to know a few of them which was a relief but remembering and learning faces and names would take some time. I had many things to take care of and get familiar with that first week, such as the items I needed to buy on my own through my commissary account and to locate the chapel and meet the chaplain. I was able to take care of those things the first day in Yazoo. Throughout the first week things went smoothly in regards to taking care of all my needs and things I had to get done. One thing I noticed is that the people here are a type of people I’ve never encountered before in my life. Yea, I know it’s prison, but it’s like I’m in a whole other world and I’m stuck in it. There is more gossip and secretive talking going around than a middle school full of kids. The maturity level is very low so it makes 12-yr-olds outside of prison seem like adults. The inmates want to get in everyone’s business. I’ve had a few confrontations throughout the week that people want to start with the new guy (me), with all of the confrontations being started by the whites. I guess Christians will always be persecuted for as long as we live and I surely feel persecuted in this setting. But God is good and He will deliver us when we stay focused on Him. When confronted with antagonism I would walk away. I know God is watching out for me. I keep to myself quite a bit; I listen to K-Love, a Christian radio station, almost non-stop and am constantly in God’s Word. Yes, I do feel like a loner right now with evil all around me and probably will until the confrontations stop and I get to know the other Christians. As far as this first week goes, I’m just trying to survive with my life.

One person that I have been talking to a bit is a Jehovah’s Witness. Good guy….and he loves sports, too. He mentioned that he admired the way I stood ground about my faith, so that felt good. My cellie is not a Christian, so perhaps God can use me in some way towards him. I certainly don’t want to be here, but feel that God has me here for a reason and a season. This is just a bump in the road of my life, and in a few years I’ll be through it.

One final thought taken from Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them. For it is the Lord God who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” No matter where you’re at in life, God always has your back. Believe me, I know from experience inside these walls. He will never leave your side; He will never leave MY side. Whatever you’re dealing with in your life, God will get you through it and will make your life even better. There is nothing to fear with God on our team.

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