Thursday, August 6, 2015

Stories Worth Reading — True Stories from Inside California Prisons

Everyone likes a good story. Especially ones with a good ending.
Each month Christian Science Chaplains around the state write stories about their ministry work with inmates in prisons, jails and youth facilities. The stories they submit tell of inmate’s lives. Their sorrows, regrets and triumphs. They also tell of their constant battles to spiritually reform their lives—and in some cases even their willingness to risk death by severing connections with former gang members.
No one who hasn’t spent time in a prison or jail can know the mental anguish and physical challenges of incarceration. Prisons can be dark, lonely places. Yet our chaplains volunteer their time to bring the light and joy of the transforming Christ behind their walls.
Of course not all the stories I receive have happy endings or outcomes. But most do. And it is a privilege to share with you these stories of victories won.
And while we don’t mention names or facility locations in order to maintain confidentiality, we hope you can picture the immense joy and peace that comes from the interactions between these dedicated volunteer chaplains and the men, women and youth they serve. We hope these stories touch your heart.If you’d like to post comments just scroll to the bottom of this column.
Thanks for reading,

David Fowler, Editor - Healing our prisons and those in them

In Their Own Words…

In each upcoming email I’ll share something inspiring that a chaplain writes in his or her own words, like the following…
“On my visit to an inmate in late January, (the inmate) was complaining of the inability to eat food without feeling intense stomach pain.  In addition, some of the guards were hostile towards him and kept his cell door window covered so that he could not see out. 
“We spoke about the nature of God and man and how it applied not only to him but to the guards as well as all the other inmates in his building. We also spoke about the importance of reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, and thinking about the ideas presented.  I read some passages to him and he wrote down the references to study. 
“On my next visit, the inmate was full of smiles and happy.  His stomach pain was gone.  The cell door windows were no longer covered, and a new set of guards were assigned to his building that were more caring and respectful.  He felt freer and had a positive outlook on his immediate experience and was looking forward to the future and what he wanted to accomplish when he is released from prison.”

Short Stories & Good Endings

See if these abbreviated stories of spiritual transformation and resulting healing, (submitted by chaplains), don’t make you smile…
  • Following prayer one inmate reported the disappearance of what one prison physician suspected was breast cancer.
  • One inmate desiring to commit suicide abandoned the idea when realizing that death would not bring God’s answer—but that character growth would.
  • An inmate reported he was healed of inflamed kidneys.  He prayed for himself for four days but didn’t eat anything. Others said he would die. The man felt the problem was related to stress. Now he says he feels great. This was his first healing and he was thrilled! A second inmate who was watching what the man was reading, (Christian Science literature), asked if he could see a Christian Science chaplain too.
  • One man, a prior gang leader, separated from his “home boys” in prison to study and practice what he is learning from the weekly Christian Science Bible Lessons; he is now an encouraging spiritual influence and prays to end conflicts in the prison yard.
  • An inmate had been trying to process paperwork through the prison and became frustrated and angry with the bureaucratic prison staff and the rules. Shortly after he became physically sick. He said he soon realized he himself was creating all the suffering and just as Jesus told his disciples, he too threw his net on the right side, letting God guide his thinking. Very quickly he was well again.
  • A man who suffered from headaches, says that now after studying Science and Health the headaches are gone.
  • A man who has spent over 20 years in prison says that Science and Health has saved and changed his life. Now he to be released soon and inquired if there was a church in his hometown that he and his family could join. The chaplain found the address of the church for the man.
  • An inmate who the chaplain has never seen before came to the service waving his arms, speaking loudly and greatly agitated. As the service went on the man calmed down. At the end of the service the man was completely calm, and he told the chaplain that he was “a completely different man” at the conclusion of the service.
  • One man came to a Sunday service having a severe migraine headache and could barely hear. The chaplain prayed. At the conclusion of the service the man was much better. The chaplain continued to pray. When the chaplain visited the next week the man said the next day the migraines stopped, and haven’t returned.
  • One inmate had hearing difficulty and had to use a hearing aid. After praying over a period of time his hearing returned and he no longer needed the hearing aid.
  • An inmate with allergies (by coming in contact with a certain substance) was healed. She had also been a diabetic for 40 years and had progressed spiritually to where she had not had to take insulin for over a year now.
  • A young women told the chaplain she felt Christian Science would be able to keep her from doing what has been bringing her back to jail. The chaplain asked why? She said she felt loved by God for the first time in her life; that she could go to Him and always get help. She depended on drugs to be happy. Now studying Science & Health she said she can trust God to give her everything. “I can’t believe I found God in jail”, she said.
  • An inmate had an infected finger that wasn’t healing and she was concerned it was a staph infection. She and the chaplain prayed to see that she “lived and moved and had her being in Spirit”, and that the only environment was the consciousness of God’s presence. Her finger healed.
  • An inmate who had been meeting with a chaplain for 3 years realized that if he was going to progress spiritually he would have to get rid of anything getting in the way of this progress.  First he cut off his valued ponytail that made him feel “unique and cool”; then he removed the porn that had been on his walls. The inmate said if he was honestly to make progress spiritually he needed to let go of anything that would impair his spiritual progress.
  • One inmate was falsely accused of fighting and beating up another inmate. The accused inmate had been scheduled for release, but due to the alleged incident, her release was denied. Much resentment and tears were shed. However the inmate continued to read the Bible lessons and prayed for the truth to be revealed—which defends all. Soon the other inmate retracted her charges and apologized for the false accusation.
 Have you known anyone who spent time in prison and had a transformative experience?  How do these stories make you feel?  Leave your own comment or story to share with others here: