"An Inside Perspective"

October 2009

My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Once a year we have a visit here that is called Family Day. Our families are allowed to visit every weekend, but on this particular day they set up tents, barbecue pits and all the works. The visit lasts for five hours and the rules are relaxed a bit. The prison band plays music and it is a much appreciated time with our families. Family Day is designed to foster an atmosphere of freedom which we rarely, if ever, experience throughout the course of the year.

Debbie usually comes with a host of volunteers for Family Day, but this year she is in Costa Rica. I was therefore invited to go out with Carlos' family and boy, did I have a ball. Carlos has two little sisters, Jessica who is six and Veronica who is four. I spent almost the whole visit playing with them. Honestly, I don't know who wore out who more! When I finally left, they were both passed-out on the chairs from all the shenanigans and food! Carlos has an wonderful family and we are busy working on them all for the Lord. He and I also had a good chance to share Christ with his niece Karina. She is thirteen and has an ear to hear, so please, pray specifically for her and all his family to know the fullness of the Lord.

You may have never considered it but we never get to see children in here, let alone have interaction with them. There have been two families though, who over the last nineteen years, have shared their children with Carlos and me. One is the Nelson family whom I love as my own. I met Barbara while I was still in the county jail. She had no children yet. I was a brand new Christian and she was zealous for prison ministry. Later, she and her husband Glenn determined in their hearts that they would share their children with me. I have watched, prayed and participated in their growth from the womb up to their eventual adventures on the mission field. What a delight for me to be a part of this godly family! May the Lord forever remember them!

The second family is the Brewers. Debbie's sister Beth and her godly husband David also visited me early and often, and always with their precious girls Judy and Rachel. When we met, Judy was a baby and Rachel was still yet to come. Oh, how I love those girls! What little treasures they have been to me. By the grace of God, they are forever a part of my life and testimony in Christ. David, Beth and the girls aggressively embraced me in my new found salvation. With great joy, against the world, and sadly, even many in the church, they stood with me and helped me to grow. These two families are exceptional families of God and I want to sing their praises! My heart wells up with gratitude even now as I speak of them. The children are all young men and women of God now. They have learned how God uses the prison system for His purposes. Bless the Lord, now they will always have a heart for prison ministry because of the faithfulness of their parents.

Now back to Family Day. As greenhouse workers we were asked to put out an assortment of plants to beautify the visit area. We scattered around some lemon trees, various colored celosia feathers and a few Boston ferns. It looked nice and took some of the hardness out of the visit area.

All the plants were in their different pots but they are mainly warm weather plants and my concern was for the temperature that night. That evening, while on my bed, I found myself being very concerned for the plants. I thought, "How am I ever going to get the police to unlock the chain on the gate to get the plants back inside the greenhouse before they are harmed?" I found myself restless and even overly worried for these plants. They were after all my responsibility, were they not? I was to care for them and watch out for their well being, right? It was at that very moment that I heard a still small voice from the Lord. It was as if He said, "You are awfully concerned about the well-being of these plants, aren't you Philip?" I thought, "Yes Lord, I am." Then, as a hammer hitting an anvil, it was as though He said, “Should you not be much more concerned about the well being of the souls of men than for these worthless plants? Ought they not to be your focus even as they are Mine? Do you stay up and fret about souls of men, Philip?"

I stood rebuked. What I should really be concerned about is how to get Satan's spiritual chains of bondage off the hearts of men! My mind went immediately to Jonah's gourd. It is written, "Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should not I spare Ninevah ... "

Sometimes we just need to be rebuked of the Lord to refocus us on His purpose for us. Our jobs and responsibilities are fine but let them not usurp our quest for the souls of men. What is it in your life that now usurps your calling? Do you hear the rebuking of a . . .