January 1, 2001
A NEW YEAR, A NEW MILLENNIUM
As I begin this New Year, I pray that, with God’s help, I can continue to touch
lives with His love, grace and compassion. I pray with all my heart that someone
will be encouraged by what I have to say either by video, radio programs, or by my written testimonies and other writings
It is my calling, just like that of any other Christian, to spread the Good News that
Jesus Christ forgives sins, and that he heals brokenhearted souls. He sets captives
free. And He still reaches out to the outcasts and to those who think they have
I pray that God will continue to use me and that the enemy of my soul, Satan, who
is always seeking to destroy me and to somehow discredit my testimony will be bound by the power of God.
And I pray and thank God for all my Christian brothers and sisters who have, over the
years, given so much of their time and effort to help me through letters of encouragement and by their prayers.
I am so grateful and I am continually amazed at God’s mercy towards me. Looking back over the year 2000, so much has been accomplished to further the gospel. And the best part is, I believe, that God isn’t finished with me yet.
January 3, 2001
To everything there is a season, and a
time to every purpose under heaven.
REACHING OUT TO THE VICTIMS
One thing I hope to see
accomplished, and something I have been fervently praying for, is the healing of those whom I have hurt in the past,
the victims of my crimes. They are the survivors of this horrible tragedy.
that I would do everything within my power to go back and change things, to have prevented what happened. I cannot
do this. No one can go back and undo their mistakes.
Yes, I have
much regret, grief, shame and sorrow, over my past actions. Jesus Christ knows that I am fully confident in His
that He has forgiveven me totally
And I no longer have to be eaten away
by these feelings.
The Lord has given
me His peace. His peace is not something that I deserve. I do not deserve it and I never will. But the Bible assures
me that God's peace is available to all who put their trust in Him. and this includes me.
has shown me over time
how to take the painful feelings of regret,
shame, and sorrow, and turn them into positive
things. In every TV or radio interview I was able to give since the INSIDE EDITION program of 1993, I have always
expressed my remorse
and sorrow for what I have done.
And thank God for the opportunity to do this.
In every possible
way, I have publicly expressed my shame, sorrow, and regret. I have
said that I am sorry again and again.
And this year, I hope to be able to reach out to some of my victims, as the Lord makes a way. I want to express
to each family (privately) my apologies, and to ask for their forgiveness.
A minister from
a large church in Brooklyn, New York, has offered his help in reaching out to these crime victims. This is a sensitive
and delicate thing, which not only requires much prayer, but also much wisdom. I am waiting for the right time.
There were times
when I wanted to do this several years ago. But then came the hindrances.
Such as the "Summer of
Sam" movie, and the related media publicity, which went to humongous levels. Old wounds were re-opened.
So all I could do was to keep waiting.
far I have already written to one party. My letter was well received. This is a miracle and I truly believe that
God went before me to open their heart. It does not mean they have forgiven me, but it is a start. And even
if no one forgives me, I will still be thankful for the chance to have shared my sorrow and remorse with them. I know
this is the right and honorable thing to do.
is all I will write for today.
January 4, 2001 (continued)
I feel stupid for
allowing myself to be controlled by thoughts that I am now convinced were not all my own.
I know some people will see this as a “cop out” or a state of denial.
They can think what they want. But over time as God began to heal my mind,
I began to understand these things.
What I am saying is not crazy stuff. Any
Christian who understands the things about God will tell you that what I am saying is correct.
Even Dr. Billy Graham will state that the Spirit of God is fully capable of speaking to a person’s heart and
mind. Christians all throughout the world will attest to hearing the voice of
God speaking to their spirit and also, at times, being able to know the mind of God.
In any event, over time God has spoken very clearly
to my mind and He has indeed revealed these things to me. Thanks to Him, I have
a better understanding of what had happened and how this “Son of Sam” tragedy all came about. It is too painful to dwell upon and I seldom think about it anymore.
I am only going over these things at this time for this journal, that perhaps others may better understand the powers
of darkness, and hopefully even better appreciate God’s powers of love, forgiveness, healing, and hope.
And I want to end today’s entry with a short prayer:
“Lord, I ask you to continue to bring healing into the lives of those whom I have
hurt in the past. Touch them with your love and help them to cope with the pain
and loss and grief that never seems to go away. Thank You, Father God. In Jesus’ Name, amen.”
January 8, 2001
“Rejoice with them
that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
Jack* died today.
He had been in prison for maybe fifteen years and he was in his 40s. It
As far as I know he was not a Christian, and during our many talks, he always insisted
that his help was coming from the “Hindu goddess Kali” as well as the “Virgin Mary”, and his “Santeria
Jack was a jailhouse lawyer and a fighter. I
watched this stubborn and strong-willed man waste away, his skin covered with brownish-colored open sores. It was gross to look at.
I met Jack several years ago in the “Big Yard.” He used to watch the Christian brothers walk around with our Bibles.
During the warmer weather the open yard was a place for some of us to meet impromptu.
Whenever a Christian showed up he hung out with the other brothers. And
of course inviting some unsaved men to pal around with us was the common practice. And
so here came Jack.
When I worked in the chapel as a clerk, which I did for several years. Jack would almost
always drop by for a discussion. He worked as a porter in the same building complex. Naturally I witnessed to him many times, and so did many of the other Christians.
Jack was so stubborn, convinced he could solve life’s problems and
lick AIDS by “thinking positive”. But he did go to a number of our
services, sometimes on Sundays and at other times when various ministries would come in.
I wish I had some kind of confirmation in my heart that Jack turned to Christ and received
Jesus as his Savior before he died. I watched him get sicker as time went on. There would be weeks when I would not see him because he was in the hospital. He went on many medical trips for treatments.
He battled his sickness every step of the way.
Last week, I heard that, once again, Jack was admitted to the prison hospital. As with many who have the virus, (or as it is nicknamed, “the Monster”), they make their trips
back and forth to the hospital. But as they each get sicker and weaker there’s
that one “last trip.” This one was his.
He never returned. Quietly a few corrections
officer went into his cell in the housing unit he lived in, and they packed his things.
This is how everyone knew that Jack won’t be back.
He was well liked and respected among the inmates.
So everyone in the prison was talking about it. When I got the news I
wept silently for him and I will remember to keep his family in my prayers.
I don’t know who or where they are. But
within the next several days or weeks someone from his family will have to come and claim his personal property (which is
now in temporary storage). And they will have to claim his body for private
However, if no one claims him, Jack will be in our Potter’s Field. Every maximum-security prison has a Potter’s Field. It
comes with the territory because not every inmate gets out of prison alive, and not every inmate has a family.
In fact, even some who do have families, they have the option to refuse to get the remains. This sometimes happens, either because of no
money or no interest.
I hope that my friend Jack gets a decent burial, at least. But most of all, I hope to see him in heaven one day.
*Jack is not his real name
January 11, 2001
I have not made many entries in my journal of late. I started
off this new year physically tired. So I have tried to slow the pace down to
get refreshed physically and spiritually.
I’ve been busy going to chapel services and Bible studies, answering letters and
writing messages. The Lord has opened many small doors for me to share my testimony
with young people. Mostly the crown that is confined to juvenile detention centers. You know, the teens who are one step away form either going to prison or to an early
Christ can give them hope and turn their lives around, if they will let Him. They need someone like me who’s been to “hell and back” (so to speak) to let them know
that “sin” is not “in”. It’s dangerous!
I tell them in the written messages that God truly loves each one, that He has a plan
and purpose for their lives. That there is hope in Him. This is the gist of it.
January 12, 2001
A few days ago I received
a letter from a friend in Connecticut who shared how their church services have been going so well. They were so happy, and
I was glad to hear this.
Here is a portion of the letter I wrote back to them this morning:
“I’m glad to hear how well your church services
are going and that many people have been drawn to the warm and loving fellowship. It
is encouraging to get “good reports” about churches and what God is doing in them.
“I’m tired of hearing about all the negative stuff, the scandals, the splits,
the “moral failures”. I know these tragic things do happen. But God is greater and bigger than all of this.
We are always in victory when we are walking with Christ.”
January 13, 2001
Several days ago I received
word from a friend that a minister from Florida viewed THE CHOICE IS YOURS video and will be taking one or two copies with
him when he goes to Taiwan, which is now part of China.
Well here again is another answered prayer. The
youth in China who live in the big cities almost all speak English as their second language.
So taking the videos to evangelize will definitely work. Praise the Lord! God is faithful!
And a few weeks prior to this there was yet another small victory. My brother, Jess Craft, gave a missionary couple a copy of the SON OF HOPE video to take back with them
to the Solomon Islands when they return. They want to use it.
The Solomon Islands are in the Pacific Ocean. According
to the prayer handbook, OPERATION WORLD, many of the churches on the islands are strong and healthy. English is the official language, and there have been a lot of successful evangelistic outreaches among
the high school students. This is encouraging news!
January 18, 2001
“Six Months to
I cannot even begin to tell the public how much misery and self-inflicted suffering I
have seen in prison over the years. These prisons are places of so many broken
dreams and lost hopes. In here one can clearly see the high price tag that each
convict has to pay for committing crimes and, as we Christians would say, committing “sins”. I’m surely an expert in this area, now having spent almost half my life incarcerated.
Today I was once again in the infirmary where I took my wheelchair escort to pick of
his daily medications. While I was waiting on line another inmate who I knew
casually, having taken a behavior modification-type class with him several months back---the class was required---came up
to me to ask for my prayers. His name was Jim*.
Jim shook my hand and started to cry. He
did not look healthy at all. I thought he was going to tell me that he had gotten
bad news from home. Little did I know until he started telling me his problem,
that he had gotten bad news from a doctor a few weeks prior.
The doctor told Jim he had six months to live.
I was stunned. He seemed fine when we attended that class. But a lot can happen in two or three months. Now the
happy-go-lucky guy who loved to tell jokes while we were sitting in that classroom, was told that he has hepatitis. His liver decided to stop working. Jim’s body was now
being poisoned by toxins. He was dying.
I’ve never seen Jim in church before. When
I would see him in the hallways, he was often carrying around athe latest lusty novel.
Like many prisoners, Jim loves to read. But now he was asking for a Bible. Funny how “bad news” can serve as a wake-up call. The game is over and it’s time to get serious about life. But
poor Jim is in his fifties!
My heart went out to him. We were only able
to speak for a few minutes because he had already picked up his medicine. The
rules are that, once you get what you have to at the medication window, you do an about face and walk out the door. But he did manage to linger and talk
I promised Jim that I would pray for him, and I urged him to go to the chapel when he
had the chance so that all the congregation could pray in his behalf.
Jim lives in a different cellblock than I do. Not
only have I put him on my ever-growing prayer list, but I will try to send over some Christian literature like the Guidepost
or the Billy Graham Decision magazines, which we have in the chapel in abundance.
“Please, Jesus, touch this man’s life.
Grant him a desire for repentance and the faith to believe the gospel. Help
him, dear Lord!”
*Jim is not his real name
January 19, 2001
Sin, sickness, pneumonia, hepatitis, tuberculosis, cirrhosis of the liver, AIDS…the
very common ailments of many prisoners. The Angel of Death never lacks for clients
But God is ever merciful to hold out His hands to offer forgiveness. I am thankful that there is Light in the darkness. Jesus says
He is the “Light of the world.”
I am the light of the world. He that
followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
January 20, 2001
“For the wages of sin is death…”
Today I happened to see an inmate who was with me when I was living at Clinton Correctional
Facility in the tiny town of Dannemora, New York, near the Canadian border. I
left Clinton almost fourteen years ago.
I did not know this fellow very much back then.
He is just a familiar face. But I recall that for awhile we had lived
on the same tier. When I saw him, he was hard to recognize at first. AIDS!
Fourteen years later I was seeing a walking skeleton.
Although he’s about 6”1’ tall, he could not have weighed more than one hundred pounds. Rail thin, he looked like a concentration camp survivor.
And while he was walking normally and was obviously managing okay, I know that he is
one bad cold or flu attack away from death. He’s the type I’ve seen
so often over the years. A bad cold quickly becomes pneumonia. Having trouble breathing, they go to the infirmary. Because
they are HIV positive they are quickly admitted, and they’re never seen alive again.
Once pneumonia hits, it’s the final knock out punch. There is nothing
left in their bodies to resist.
When many of the HIV’ers first start getting their array of sicknesses, most bounce
back again and again because of the treatments. But each time they go into the
hospital, they lose some weight. I almost never see the weight come back. And with each bout of sickness, they get thinner and thinner, like the prisoner who
passed me in the corridor.
He’s too thin now. I know it’s
almost over for him. He’s got one trip left. When I see him again (if I do) I want to tell him my testimony and what Jesus Christ did for me.
This dying man needs to know that God has something wonderful to give him—the gift
of eternal life. It’s free, and it will last forever.
“…but the gift of God is eternal life through
Jesus Christ our Lord.”
January 23, 2001
This morning at about
11 o’clock I took my wheelchair escort down to the infirmary to see the doctor
while in the waiting area I again ran into Jim, the man who told me last week that the doctor gave him six months to
live. Today he told me that he was down to five.
Personally, it looks as if he’s down to two months.
I thank God for the several minutes I got to speak with him. He looked awful. When I saw Jim last week, he wasn’t
anywhere’s near as bad. Now his face had sunken in noticeably. His ankles were very swollen and his stomach was protruding far beyond his waist, as if he were trying
to hide a basketball under his sweatshirt.
Before the hepatitis began to destroy his liver, Jim was on the slim side, although by
no means thin. Now he looked sickly and pregnant, with a bleak yellow coloring
to his skin. He was also groaning in pain.
Naturally our conversation centered around the health of his soul and of receiving Christ
as his Savior. Jim told me that the Catholic priest had already given him his
last rites. “What’s the rush?”, I thought.
I told Jim that Jesus Christ loves him
and died for his sins. He insisted that he knew all this having been raised in
catholic schools. I was gentle and never pushy.
But I did encourage him to pray to God and to ask Jesus to help him.
I assured Jim that in this afternoon’s prayer meeting is the chapel, the brothers
will be lifting him up in our prayers. He seemed to appreciate this. However I can see a big stronghold with his inability to repent and fully trust in Jesus. He needs to be born again, and a lot more praying on my part
needs to be done.
January 24, 2001
I just got back from this morning’s prayer meeting, which was very spiritually
fruitful. I have been strengthened and encouraged in my mind and in my soul to
continue to press on by God’s power .
Every Tuesday afternoon from 1 to 3:35, and every Wednesday morning from 8:45 to 10:25, we have prayer meetings in the chapel with a handful of Christians who do not have
specific work or program assignments at these times. Our chaplain supervises
I can make it most Tuesdays after I drop off my escort at his classroom. And on Wednesday mornings when I do not have to take my escort any place such as the hospital, I have free
time to go the prayer meetings, although I am still “on call” for him.
It would probably blow peoples’ minds if they could see a crew of convicted felons
gathering with a prison chaplain to fervently pray for everything you could possibly think of.
We pray for our church and for churches everywhere.
We pray for other inmates and their families, the guards and their families.
We pray for America and for our nation’s leaders. We also ask for
mercy for other nations, for those who are living on Native American reservations, and for kinds who are in every form of
sin and bondage one could think of, from drugs and poverty to loneliness and suicidal thoughts.
I thank God that those whom society casts off as useless garbage and refuse, the Lord
is fully able and willing to take, clean up and use for His glory.
January 30, 2001
For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying
unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
Where would I be without the Lord’s help?
What would my life have come to if Jesus Christ had not intervened? I
am quite certain I would be dead, a case of suicide. Surely if I were alive at
this time without God in my life, I would be a bitter and sour man, angry at the world, hating others, hating myself.
So often I realize how helpless I am without the Lord.
I am really like a little child tagging alongside his father. Yes, God
is holding my hand. Forget being a macho man.
Without God I am nothing. In my own strength I could never have survived
all these years in prison.
Moreover, although I know that the Lord has healed my mind and filled my life with peace,
the fact is, I am still in recovery. There are still terrible memories buried
beneath the surface. Maybe it is best that for the most part they stay buried. But
from time to time, the bad memories do resurface.
I am still learning to forgive myself. I
have completely and fully renounced my affiliations with Satan. This is not as easy as it sounds because the devil, who is a spirit being, is still active in this world and he tries to attack again and
again. Every Christian recognizes and knows this truth. He must daily be resisted
as we draw near to God. The closer we Christians are to the Lord, the further
we are from the devil.