"An Inside Perspective"

July 2007

My dear family in Christ,

Ever-precious greetings in the name of our LORD Jesus Christ! By the grace of God, I would like to honor a saint that is very dear to my heart. It is written, "Let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth; a stranger and not thine own lips."


This month I want to give accolades to my beloved friend, brother and fellow soldier on the battlefield of the Lord. When I arrived in Trenton State Prison in the summer of 1994, as a Christian, I was told by everyone that I needed to see the "Rev." I assumed it was the prison's official Reverend, placed there by the State, to serve the needs of the prisoners. I was wrong. Who I did find though, was a wonderfully humble Godly man that loved the Lord with all his heart! Much to my surprise he wore the same Khaki browns as I. Yes, he too was a prisoner!

Howard had already been in Trenton quite a few years and was an instrument in the hand of God in the Christian community there. He immediately received me with open arms and we began to serve together. It was a delight to submit to him and to call him "Rev" because it was so evident that the Lord's hand was on him. I liked to call him Pastor Howard and he liked to call me Philemon. We rejoiced together through many trials. He walked me through the loss of my Dad and my two grandmothers.

He also served as the unofficial assistant Pastor and worked tirelessly amongst the men, always, "about his Father's business." There was a unique dynamic in effect because of the fact that Howard was "one of us." It is one thing to received encouragement from the people who come in from the street, but deep in your heart you know that they go home at night and are not able to really identify with you completely. We bless the Lord for prison ministries and by no means do I want to sound ungrateful, but bless God, He has made Howard, one of us.

Therefore, Howard is able to identify with our real struggles. He lives our pain. He knows our suffering, albeit for our own sin, it is nonetheless real. He locked in when we locked in. He once washed my feet! When we were stripped naked and stood there with dogs snarling, Howard stood with us, always with a Word of encouragement on his lips to keep us focused on the Lord.

Howard also sings like an angel and is very gifted at writing worship songs. I play the guitar and we wrote many songs together. He spent many years trying to squeeze the country "twang" out of my guitar playing but to no avail. It became a running joke between us, although the Bible does speak of a Heavenly "country" you know! (smile) Lord willing, one day we will sing those songs together to the Lord Himself!

Howard is blessed in the preaching of the Word and also in teaching Bible studies. He has the gift of administration and did his best to keep everything in order. He founded the Freedom Choir and also created a Protestant Council, a group of elders that dealt with all the issues of the Christian community.

One of the main things that I learned from Howard was how to use all the gifts in the Body. He used to say, "I have all the gifts, because I have Darrell, Willis, Roger, Bobby, Marco, Philip, and all the other brothers. He delegated work according to the gifting of others.

When I arrived at Trenton, Howard was there to receive me. When I left, Howard was there. He will forever be known as "Howard of Trenton State", the "Rev" after God's own heart. He is no doubt the glue the Lord has used, and is still using, to keep that community together.

Eventually, the Lord blessed Howard with a wonderful godly wife named Barbara, herself, a jewel in the hand of the Lord. I was also blessed to be at the service when Howard was honored by Bishops and Reverends from the street who came into the prison to officially ordain him, "Reverend Howard."

It is my prayer that the Lord will release Howard sooner than he thinks and establishes him with a church on the outside to the glory of His name! Lord willing, I will visit him with great joy, guitar in hand, to once again sing the songs of Zion!

Even as Howard was a prisoner and dwelt among us enabling him to speak uniquely to our hearts; so also, I am reminded of Another who became as we are. Yes, the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us. Bless God, He made Christ one of us! Do you have a Howard in your life? Honor him, he is God's gift to you!

"To God be the glory for Howard of Trenton State!"

Joyfully in Jesus,
Fisherman Philip