This past weekend we took 13 guys into three different prisons in and around Columbia, SC to play softball against the inmates. We have been doing this for 9 years now. It’s an amazingly simple and yet incredibly effective way of reaching a seemingly forgotten portion of our culture. Almost all of the 13 guys that went had considerable softball playing experience and we all love the game. In fact, several said how much they enjoyed combining their love for the game with their love for Christ. Despite these 13 having never all played together, we finished 9-0, winning by a combined total of 154-28. I almost felt guilty…almost! I didn’t feel too guilty because when we are at our lowest we most see our need for Jesus. I am not saying that because we won, these guys were at “their lowest”, but there was definitely some humbling that took place. There was not a shortage of machismo as we started playing in each prison!
In the middle of all the testosterone, we witnessed a powerful example of humility. His name was “Truck”. We had played three games Saturday morning against the guys from one of the facilities, and as we always do after we finish playing, we gathered everyone together to share with them the real reason we were there. The softball is fun, but we could do that at home. We came to share the Truth with them. As you might imagine, despair is pretty common in prison. We came with the message that God still sees them. He still knows them. He still loves them and wants to have a relationship with them through His son Jesus.
Of all the things I have seen God do in my travels around the world, seeing a tough, hardened, burly inmate begin to weep at his recognition of his need for Jesus is one of the most powerful. This particular morning, seven of the 47 men gathered together surrendered their lives to Christ! As awesome as that was, what happened after that was even more so. A middle-aged gentleman, aptly-named “Truck”, stood up in the middle of all of the other inmates and declared his love for Christ and how he had chosen to follow Him after landing in prison. He told how he had found freedom in Christ and was now a new man. Truck, without hesitation, went on to say that he wanted all of those who had just given their lives to Christ or those who were still wrestling with the idea to come find him soon. Truck said, “I will drop whatever I am doing and speak with you. I will answer any questions you may have, or work to find the answer if I don’t know it. This is a tough place to follow Christ and you will need the fellowship of your brothers in Christ.”
As inspiring as that stand was, the inspiration increased later as I found out that Truck was new to this facility. He had only been there a few weeks. As you might imagine, prison is a fairly sedentary place. Things don’t change much, and you don’t do much to rock the boat of the sub-culture that exits there. And yet, going against the “social norms”, Truck took a stand and unashamedly expressed his love for those new brothers, not because he was “weird”, but because he now knows how to love. I saw the words of I John 4:19 come to life, “We love because He first loved us.”
We all can learn something from Truck. One of the most seemingly obvious lyrics I’ve heard in a song in the past few years comes from Kristian Stanfill. He says, “I’m not ashamed of the One who saved my soul.” When I first heard the song, my thought was, “Well…of course not! Why would you be?” But how often do our actions show the contrary? Truck is not ashamed of the one who saved his soul. I don’t want to be either. Thanks Truck for inspiring me!