Letters From Prison 2006 #2- “The Christians”

“The Christians”
by Steve Clemens. FPC Duluth. Maundy Thursday. April 13,2006

"We're a Christian room," I've been told several times. It has always been accompanied with an offer or two. A guy dropped by my room today and asked how my 'first night' had been. When I told him it was my second night and it wasn't the best due to the vertical pipes running under the bedspring of my upper bunk to give added strength, he said, "We need to find you a better mattress. I'll keep an eye out for one when someone leaves."

When Christianity comes with a servant attitude, I'm much more open to any follow-up "message." My first night in the 211 ("Superior") dorm included a visit downstairs to see "the Christian brothers." I was escorted downstairs by the son of a friend from the Twin Cities. His mom told him to look me up and within a few minutes he inquired about what we might need. Donnie was out of his room but his roommate Mike (?) was in and he said "the Christians" wanted to help out with tennis shoes and shower shoes. "They've all been washed in bleach so they're safe." "You gotta wear shower shoes so your feet don't rot off in here." The shower shoes were new ("Praise the Lord," Mike added). "We live off donations. There is no charge. Of course, if you are a millionaire, you can pay us back--otherwise we're happy to get any donations people are able to make."

Tom got me a soap dish and new bar of Zest soap. He also loaned me an alarm clock when he saw I had no watch. When Donnie returned, he added a toothbrush holder, a half bottle of shampoo ("it goes farther that way—you don't mind if it is in a pill bottle, do you?" John didn't mind at all!) Some writing paper, a map of the grounds, 2 stamped envelopes. "It will hold you over until you can get money on your books" (commissary account).

And after the "service," a brief message: "There is a good Bible study in the chapel almost every evening at 6. We have a black preacher (he's good) and a great choir Wednesday evening. We have videos you can watch at the chapel. We'd love to have you join us."

Personally, I'm hesitant to go around proclaiming my identity as a "Christian." There is too much cultural and civic-religion baggage attached to it. I'd prefer to quietly share with those who may ask "for what reason I have hope within."

But at least I must tip my hat to "the Christians" who have made the transition from the “outside” to the “inside” much easier than it might have been.

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