"An Inside Perspective"

April 2009

My dear family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! As a Christian man, my experience and perspective of church has been very limited. I have never been to a church outside of these walls as a saved man, nor have I ever been able to decide for myself where I wanted to worship, or more importantly, where God would have me to serve. All of my service and worship experiences have been in prison.

In any particular prison there is only one Protestant church with one Pastor. We either go to that church and get involved or we stay in our cell and worship. I have always believed the Lord wanted me to stay involved, even if I didn't always agree with everything being said and taught from a theological standpoint. Infiltrate and be a godly influence; befriend the men and disseminate the truth has always been my doctrine. It hasn't always been an easy road for me but the Lord has always kept it paved with His goodness and mercy. It is written, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life "

I grew up as a Catholic. If someone asked, I would say I was Catholic, but that had about as much meaning to me as telling someone I was Irish. I remember being witnessed to for the first time at the age of twenty-six. I don't remember ever even seeing a Bible before that, much less reading one. During that time of being evangelized, I was pursued by a very sweet, gray-haired, Baptist woman named Jane Frank. Then, at thirty-four years of age, having run from the Lord for eight years, I was mercifully saved in one of the darkest recesses of prison; the hole. To accomplish this feat, the Lord would use a flaming Charismatic man named Tony who fancied himself a prophet. I was then discipled by a Charismatic, tongue-speaking pastor and then later I would serve for 10 years under a fervent Pentecostal pastor.

Next, and much to my delight, I "found" myself sitting under a wonderfully conservative Reformed Pastor for two years and finally, I am now sitting and serving under our new Pastor, Larry Akins here in Rahway. He is a Bible believing Baptist preacher and teacher whose over-riding desire and God-given mandate is discipleship. So, as you can see, I have an interesting spiritual pedigree. You would think that after having dined for eighteen years on this spiritual smorgasbord I would be a theologically confused mess. But in view of God's sovereign hand working all things in my life together for good, it's been a divinely orchestrated, spiritual adventure! It has been invaluable preparation for my current calling to disciple believers under the leadership of our new Pastor. The Lord has used all of my past to help me now as I teach the Word and help the men in here apply it to their lives. I am much better equipped to understand their perspectives and where they're coming from theologically. Because of that, I am better able to meet their needs. I believe that in order to teach a man properly, you must first understand his theological perspective because that's the lens through which he views everything.

Now, I share all that to say that the same thing has happened to me musically! I learned the guitar as a teenager in the late sixties and early seventies when my sister left her old one laying around. I played rock and roll and country. I never took a lesson or even thought about it. If I had to do it over I would surely choose to sit under the best of teachers. Not too soon after that, I adopted the banjo and played bluegrass. I know it is an odd pedigree but that's the road that brought me to my Savior and now I play for Him only.

After I was saved and I went to Trenton in 1995, Sister Debbie and my sister Kevy bought me a guitar when I joined Trenton's famed Freedom Choir. Now, fifteen years later, I am a proud member of Rahway's New Life Choir. I have been exposed to a plethora of musical styles over the years and I have gleaned much from all of the many talented men whom I have played with. Through this entire process, my guitar has taken a tremendous beating yet it continues to sound God's praises. This guitar has been through innumerable shake-downs and searches, completely abused by the system, not quite unlike myself (smile), and finally, it is now barely standing on it's last leg.

In light of this, Sister Debbie has graciously offered to open a special account to raise money for the purchase of a new guitar. I know that these are financially difficult times but I also know that the Lord's economy is not dependent on this world. I am humbly asking anyone who is able and of a willing heart to prayerfully consider a donation to this account. If you are willing and able, please attach a note with your gift simply stating, "guitar fund." It is my pledge and promise to be a good steward over whatever the Lord provides. It is written, "Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with ...