July 24, 2011
A SPECIAL LETTER FROM AN INMATE TO A SUNDAY CLASS
I’ve been involved in the Prison Pen Pal Program since 2004. I write to several guys that are incarcerated. Through this amazing ministry, God has blessed me in countless ways. I also handled the miscellaneous mail that comes into Willow Creek Community Church from the prisons and jails. One of the letters I received had a heart shaped necklace with a cross in the middle of it, along with a request for a faith based non-fiction book.
One letter lead to another and this particular one to a group of girls in a Sunday class at Willow, by an inmate in Texas named, Clifford. He made each of them necklaces which lead to many questions from the girls. They wanted to know his story, and he was gracious enough to write them this letter. It touched my soul and brought tears to my eyes.
Later each of the girls in the group wrote him a thank you, many accompanied by a hand drawn picture. Each heartfelt, filled with compassion. God truly blessed several lives in what started out as a simple request for a book to grow ones faith.
To my young friends at Willow Creek Community Church. Hi from Clifford the cross maker in Liberty Texas. First let me say that I am very happy to hear that you like your crosses so much. I had fun making them for each of you. Let me know if you would like another one, okay.
I hear that you are about eight-years old, maybe nine. I guess you know that I’m in jail. The reason I’m in jail now at the age of fifty-two is because of decisions, mistakes, and wrong choices that I made when I was nine-years old, your age. Hard to believe that the choices we make at such a young age can have consequences that last a lifetime.
Are you working what I could have done at your age that could cause me to be in jail? I was warned by my mother and father not to do it. They had some special classes and films at school too. You are all very smart and I know that your parents and your teachers have told you the very same thing that mine told me when I was your exact age. Now you will all have to make a decision and a choice just like I did. I’m taking about drugs. I wish I could find just the right words to tell you how bad they are and not to ever try them. It’s even worse today than it was when I was your age. They are everywhere. I let an older friend of mine talk me into smoking marijuana. He said it wouldn’t hurt me. I wish I would have said no. I did at first but I was curious and it didn’t seem to be hurting him so I tried it. That was the biggest mistake of my entire life, a mistake I made when I was nine-years old. A mistake that has cost me everything, broke my mother’s heart and put me in prison.
It doesn’t happen all at once. At first it was fun. It didn’t seem as bad as they say. I lived in California back then and had a real nice family. I started playing guitar on Christmas day when I was seven-years old. I loved my guitar and still do. It was so much fun. I loved it. I hung around with older guys that played guitar and they would teach me. They were all using drugs so I did too so I would fit in. Little did I know. As I grew older I started playing in bands at different places and everywhere we went there were drugs and beer and alcohol. It took some time before all the bad stuff started happening. It tricked me. Before I made it to college to be a guitar major, several of my friends had died from drugs in car accidents, but that still didn’t stop me. In college there was even more drugs.
Suddenly I realized that I was addicted to different drugs and couldn’t quit. If I didn’t have them I would feel really bad. They made me do things I knew I shouldn’t do but I wanted the drugs so bad. That was a terrible feeling and I got scared and didn’t know what to do. I was afraid to tell anybody the truth. Afraid to stop and afraid to not stop. Before I knew it, drugs took control of my life. I had to quit school because I couldn’t think and do all my homework. I was failing. I quite school and joined the Navy. Thought if I moved and quit playing my guitar that would fix things but it didn’t.
I started playing guitar in the Navy band and made two trips to Europe, France, and Italy, all the while in the band. Everywhere I went there were still drugs. I got worse and worse. It was horrible.
I had two bad car wrecks and by a miracle, didn’t die. Then I woke up in a hospital and didn’t know what happened. They said I almost died from too many drugs. For some reason God had saved me. But He didn’t keep me from jail. I have to pay for my mistakes. He kept me alive though. Maybe it was just so I could write this letter and tell you about a bad choices I made when I was nine-years-old.
“God, I pray that you will let these special young people learn from my mistakes so none of them will ever go to jail or prison or die from using drugs.”
Thanks for letting me share a little of my story. I don’t want to leave you feeling bad or sad though. I’m doing really well here. I’m not on drugs anymore, have a job here and lots of friends. My mother is still alive and lives in Oklahoma. We write a lot and talk on the phone. We have been through a lot together. I told her all about ya’ll and that I got to make you some cross necklaces.
Thanks again. I would love to hear from you. I will be here for awhile so let me know if you want more Heart Crosses. Oh, I learned how to make them in jail.
God Bless all of you,