I recently learned of the passing of an old friend. His name was “Pops” to those of us who knew him in prison. Pops and I lived in the same housing unit for the last year and a half I was incarcerated. When we met he was in his late 70s. He had been an upstanding member of his community, an active church goer, and after retirement he made one poor decision that resulted in him being sent to prison for the first time in his life.
In prison he was active in the Protestant All-faith service, chaplain programs, Keryx, and led a Bible study almost every day in the housing unit dayroom. He was not shy about sharing his faith with those he came in contract with. He was a mentor to me in my own Christian walk. It was Pops who gave me the title “Warehouse of Lost Souls” from the poem on the front page of my blog as a way of describing prison.
Prison was not easy for him. Being a senior citizen meant that he was a frequent target by those looking for an easy victim. He regularly showed the Christian characteristics of turning the other cheek, forgiveness, and loving his enemies. He sought to live in peace with all men, including the young kids who showed no respect for their elders.
Pops wasn’t in bad health for a person his age, but he did have the usual aches and pains. Prison medical being what it is didn’t do much for him. He was deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other, so after years of waiting the MDOC gave him one hearing aide. Then he found out he could have had hearing aids sent to him from an outside source. His greatest fear was of dying while in prison. Fortunately, he did make parole. He was received into the home of a friend where he lived until the time of his untimely death.
When I started my ministry of writing letters of encouragement to prisoners, Pops was on the top of my list. Even though he said he wasn’t much of writer we did correspond back and forth. After he paroled, I continued to write to him. I was able to talk with him on the phone a number of times and even managed to spend a day with him. It was good to see someone who came out of prison with a thankful heart instead of bitterness. He fully intended to live his remaining years as a free man walking by faith.
He was not one to minimize his crime, but fully accepted responsibility for it. In his testimony he spoke of how God worked through his situation to not just save him but transform him into a new creation. In prison his life was a light shinning in the darkness. Pops was well educated and well spoken, and he could talk to anyone. He boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Christ in both words and deeds.
Pops truly enjoyed mentoring young believers by opening up Scriptures using an inductive bible study style that encouraged them to read the Word for themselves in order to grow in their faith. He prayed boldly but spoke gently. He modeled Christian character and lived a lifestyle that was beyond reproach. He did his time by helping others use theirs wisely.
He touched many lives including mine and we are all the better for it. He is gone but not forgotten. I know that Pops is in heaven singing with the heavenly choir. While I grieve for the loss of my friend, I know that some day I will see him again and will rejoice in that meeting.