It's Saturday morning. I have the day off to relax and catch
up on some chores.
The prison has a laundry area with huge industrial washers
and dryers and a team of inmates to operate them. But this laundry area is for wasing one's bedding and a few hard to clean
items like socks.
However, all other clothing items must be washed by hand. I
launder most of my clothes one item at a time in a 3 gallon plastic pail.
Depending on what I have to wash, I could use either powdered
detergent or Woolite. Both products are sold at the prison's commissary.
Then after I let a particular item soak for awhile, I dump
the dirty water into my toilet. I then take my pail to the first floor of the building to a tiny closet with a deep sink for
washing mops as well as one's clothes. Then I take my pail to the first floor of the building to a tiny room called a "slop
sink". This is simply a utility closet with a deep sink for washing mops as well as one's clothes.
I have to rinse out the clothing item in this sink. Then I
wring it out by hand to get out as much of the water as possible.
And once this is done, I return to my cell and hang up the
wet piece of clothing on a small string line which runs near the ceiling on one side of my cell.
This clothing item will, once it's hung on the line, have to
dry naturally by whatever air manages to circulate, and by the building's internal heat.
For example, it may take me one full day to wash and dry a
pair of pants. If I hang the wet pants on my clothes line at, let's say 3 o'clock in the afternoon today, I am hoping they
will be completely dry by this time tomorow.
I ususally try to wash as many clothes as possibe on Saturdays.
But I also try to wash at least one piece of clothing every day in order to keep up.
March 5, 2003
ELLEN WENT HOME
Shortly after one o'clock in the morning on March 3rd, my dear
sweet sister and friend in Christ, Ellen Curtis, went home to be with the Lord.
Ellen had been suffering from ovarian cancer for quite some
time. Now, however, her suffering is over. Her pain is gone, and her race is done. She has crossed the heavenly finish line
Ellen often told me that she longed to see her Messiah, to
give the Lord Jesus a big hug. And several days ago she finally got the chance.
I will miss our letters, visits and phone calls. I will miss
her laugh and her sense of hmor. She always had a word of exhortation for me, too.
Her husband Nicky, is alone now. But I will do my best to keep
And while Ellen was on this earth, she was like an angel to
It was Ellen who journeyed to my Mother's grave in my behalf.
She went in my absence.
Ellen made sure that my Mom's gravesite was cleared of weeds,
and that it was tidy. She would also, in accordance with our Jewish tradition, leave a small stone on the top of my Mother's
headstone in remembrance of each visit, and as a symbol of the resurrection to come.
My spiritual sister was an encourager. She was a gift from
I will see her again, however. This is a promise from the Lord
(12 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
March 8, 2003
This evening I got to speak with my Christian brother and friend,
Nicky. I called Nicky to encourage him and pray with him as he struggles to cope with the loss of his beloved wife, Ellen.
I shared about her death in my journal entry for March 5th.
Reflecting on Ellen's passing, however, has caused me to think
a lot about my Mother, Pearl, and how much I love and miss her, and how I long to see her again.
I was fourteen when my Mother died from cancer in 1967. Although
she left this earth thirty-six years ago I miss her tremendously, Not a day goes by that I do not think of her.
I had a great Mother. But I was too immature, and I had to
many inner struggles and emotional problems back then to really get close to people, even to my own parents.
I was a moody and aloof child. I had caused my parents much
grief by the way I had misbehaved, and by the way I treated them. I regret this so much.
But now that I was finally able to grow up--and this was when
I was already in prison--I have been able to see, understand, and deeply appreciate the wonderful worth of my parents and
the depth of their love for me.
My Mother was a priceless treasure.
March 15, 2003
This has been a splendid day! For the first time in many months
I was able to feel the warm rays of the sun upon my face, even though there were mounds of snow all aroud me.
Here in New York the winter has been exceptionally cold, snowy
and brutal. It snowed so much that at times I thought this winter was never going to end.
This morning, however, as I walked in the recreation yard,
the sun was shining brightly and I felt its warmth. It was wonderful.
My friend Alan and I spent the 1 1/2 hour recreation period
together. We walked around talking about the Lord, and simply enjoying each other's company.
Alan is in his 50s. He is well educated, and he is also doing
a life sentence.
Alan is one of my "prayer partners." We've known each other
for a handful of years. He teaches one of the Bible study classes in here (every Sunday afternoon), and he loves the Lord.
I feel refreshed and re-energized.
March 16, 2003
This morning I was the worship leader for our chapel service.
I had not been asked to do this role for quite some time. Usually our choir director (who is an inmate like I am) handles
this. But today, however, the pastor asked me to begin the service.
So I stood up before the congregation, and after a brief introduction,
I called the men to praise and worship. Then after a period of praise I was able to give some words of exhortation to encourage
It felt good to be able to worship the Lord with about fifty
to sixty men. We shouted many halleluiahs together as well as poured forth many words of love to Jesus. It was refreshing
to release all the feelings of adoration for God that was in my heart.
Next I had to lead in our prayer time. This was then followed
by an approximately seven minute exhortation.
I read a Scripture passage before the congregation which the
Lord had given to my spirit earlier this morning at sunrise: John 13:34,35.
In this passage from the gospel of John, the Lord gave His
disciples a "new commandment" that we are to "love one another." That all people shall know that we truly belong to the Lord
because of the love, kindness and compassion we exhibit to others.
I told the men that this love is the only way for the church
to grow, as hurting and troubled people will be drawn to Christ when this love is clearly displayed.
Then I introduced another inmate who gave his testimony. This
was followed by the choir. Finally it was time to bring on the preacher, a minister who came in from the "outside". We had
an awesome altar call. Our altar was packed with prisoners who were crying out to the Lord.
March 8, 2003
Last night I listened to the speech that President Bush made
warning President Saddam Hussein that he has 48 hours to get out of Iraq. So at this juncture it seems that war is inevitable.
I only hope it is over quickly with a minimal loss of life.
My personal feeling about the Iraq situation is that Saddam
Hussein is a very wicked man. His is a ruthless ruler. And Saddam definately hates the nation of Israel. Like many of the
leaders now in pwer in the Middle East, they want to destroy the Jews.
At times God does allow wars to happen in order to remove from
power those rulers who do evil. This is a hard concept for many to understand. But in many places in Scripture war was used
as a vehicle of chastening and punishment. It is not a good thing. The Bible never says that war is good. It is, however,
used to overthrow diabolical regimes and remove from power those who are cruel tyrants.
I hate the thought of war. I don't want to see anyone die.
Yet I do believe that whatever weapons Saddam Hussein has hidden away would eventaually be used against Israel, especially.
So when his is removed from power, which may be very soon,
this will be one less threat against Israel. The Bible says that "He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps"
Let me say that God has not been asleep while Saddam was building
up his arsenal, or while he was ordering the torture executions of many of his own people.
The Lord has been watching Saddam Hussein's every move. God
has been keeping score all along.
March 21, 2003
Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, life
in the United States has changed a lot. And the prison system has changed too.
One would ordinarily think that men and women who are incarcerated
in correctional facilities in New York State, would not be affected by world events as far away as Iraq. Wrong. We are very
Now, because of the war in Iraq and the possibility of more
terrorism in America, the entire nation has been placed on a "Code Orange" alert status by the Homeland Defense Ministry.
This heightened level of alertness certainly seems logical
and justified at this time. However it has impacted my life as well as the lives of the other inmates.
Effective Tuesday morning, March 18th, all civilian volunteers
were once again banned from entering on to facility grounds (see my Journal entry for February 11, 2003).
Because of this new Code Orange alert, all the Christian ministers
and Bible teachers are not permitted to come into the prison. So all of our civilian run services and Bible studies have had
to be cancelled.
Fortunately we had our Monday evening worship service. The
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening Bible classes were cancelled, however.
I do not know how much longer this higher livel of nationwide
security will go on--probably not until the war in Iraq is over.
But God is watching over us in here. We Christians have been
meeting and praying in our respective cellblocks. All is well at this time.
March 24, 2003
As are most Americans, I have been following the war in Iraq.
Many of the inmates here have been watching CNN's coverage from the dayroom televisions. I have my radio on much of the time,
and I can get several "all news" stations out of New York City loud and clear.
The Christians at Sullivan Correctional Facility have been
praying for our nation, our leaders, and for those who are serving in the military.
We are also praying for the war to end soon, and for the cruel
dictatorship in Iraq to be dismantled. That the Iraqi people will one day lead better lives free from fear.
Yesterday during our morning worship service, my Chaplain once
again led our prayers for these things. And this afternoon when the mail was passed out, I received a letter from a friend
of mine who lives in upstate New York. He asked me to pray for his son, Brandon. He is serving in the United States Marines.
Brandon is presently somewhere in Iraq where his is assiggned
to a combat unit as a "front rim machine gunner in an assault vehicle", according to his dad.
His father asked me to write to Brandon. I just finished a
letter in which I tried to encourage this young man to continue to trust in the Lord. I gave him some Scriptures to read (Psalms
27 and 91.) And I let him know that I am praying for him.
I told Brandon that I was proud and thankful for his service
to the United States of America. That he would never give up or becoame discouraged. And I told him that I hope he comes home
Please pray for Brandon Alexander.
March 27, 2003
HARDSHIP AND GROWTH
God never allows me to go through more than I could bear. Yet
at the same time He stretches me beyond my present limit, so that I get "pressed out of measure" in order for my faith to
grow to new limits.
You see, the life of a Christian is a tough one at times. Many
Christians do not like this kind of talk. But God's word says to "endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy
The fact is, there are times when this walk with God gets hard,
real hard, I know it. I have experienced it. And the Lord is not finished molding and making me into the person that He wants
me to become. So I know, too, that even more hardships and growing pains are still ahead.
Of course lots of Christians nowadays do not want to know about
this. But I believe that God will never be able to use any of them other than to a minimum.
They are like the faithless Israelites who went a certain distance
with Moses in the exodus out of Egypt, but at a cerain point, they turned back.
As a result, they lost everything that God had in store for
them. They never made it to the promised land. They never obtained the glorious victory God had planned for them.
And today's church folks are no exception. Many of us will
never go deeper with the Lord until we learn how to endure all things, to suffer with joy, and to expect and anticipate all
kinds of hardships; not to run away from them.
I believe that what made saints like Job, Joseph, Jeremiah,
the apostles John and Paul, Ruth and many others so noble, was their ability to go through their respecteive trials and suffering
without losing faith.
March 31, 2003
I have been sharing God's word with an Italian man who killed
a police officer more than 20 years ago. I will not mention his name, nor will I even invent a pseudonym.
This inmate is known throughout the prison system for his propensity
for violence, mostly intense punch and drag out fights with other prisoners.
Yet the Lord seems to have arranged it so that this man is
often sitting next to me during the mealtimes.
Today he told me that lately he has begun to read his Bible.
He expressed great interest in the life of Job.
And because of the crime he commited, he realizes that, more
than likely, he will never be released. Over the years the two people who were close to him, his Mother and Grandfather, both
died. Other than a male cousin, he has no one else.
Then as he and I were eating across from each other this afternoon,
he unexpectedly and suddenly blurted out that he was sorry for taking the life of that policeman.
I was stunned. If anyone knows this man, one would know it
was nothing short of a miracle for him to utter such words. For he has been an angry and defiant man for more than two decades.
He has often exhibited high levels of rage against the system.
Over the years I have heard some of his threats and seen some of his fights.
Today, however, when he said this, I looked at his face and
I noticed that his eyes were wet, as if he was almost ready to cry.
True it was only a tiny fraction of remorse, but I saw it.
And I know that God is behind the scenes working on this man's heart. Something is changing inside him. He doesn't realize
it yet, but I do.