A Christmas Blessing in Prison, by Mike Powers

 

I was on the chain again last week for my first followup visit after my surgery for hammer toe. With my usual
 luck, I managed to draw an appointment that took me on my travels (or should I say “travails”) during one of the most notable cold snaps this region of Texas has had in years.

Folks, there’s a LOT to complain about in here, and some times it’s easy to loose sight of the fact that, yes, there are much worse places to do a prison sentence. (It’s just that most of the worse places are in third-world countries!) I’m not wondering if I’ll freeze to death this winter like those North Koreans who are imprisoned, not for crimes they have committed, but because they love Jesus Christ. I won’t wonder, as I enjoy my “holiday meals”, if I’ll starve to death before the end of my sentence, like those wasting away in Chinese cells for calling for free and fair elections. So, with this in mind, and remembering God’s command to stop the murmuring and complaining, I’ve really tried 
on these recent medical chains to travel with an attitude looking for things to be grateful for, and the search was not fruitless.

This last trip was taken in the cold. I was more fortunate than most, because I had “thermals”, or as we used to call them in my house, “long-handles”. My shirt and pants over these thermals kept me mostly warm, especially on the bus. Once all the bodies are stuffed in there, it’s easy to get warm unless a knot-head opens a window because he’s “too stuffy”.

I’d seen on the local news that snow and rain mixed were forecasted for the San Antonio area, but it is not unusual 
for San Antonio to get inclement weather that never reaches Cuero, even though we’re only about 85 miles away. The coast gives us a little insulation from the bad stuff as far as northern weather goes. I got to Darrington on Wednesday morning, as usual, and spent the day waiting in the dayroom 
for my cell. Turns out, they must have remembered that I 
was the guy on crutches, because, I kid you not, they put
 me in THE very last cell on the run. When I got there, there was “another” human being all wrapped up in a blanket like 
a burrito, and I soon found out why. It was COOOOOLD! They 
had the fans running on the run instead of the heater, and along with so many of the window panes busted out, it made
 for a chilly night. I’ve never heard it that quiet on the Darrington transit wing. Everyone was hiding under every
 stitch of clothes and linens they could find. I followed
 suit, bundling up under my sheet and blanket. Since I had
 only one of each, I decided to sleep right on top of the
 mat and use both for covers. I also left my shoe on, but 
the operated-on foot was still exposed, and my little tootsies were freezing. I remembered that I had a brown paper sack that our lunch johnny had come in. So, I came out from under the covers (brrr) and swiped that bag onto the end of my foot. It worked like a charm. Fifteen minutes later, I was snoozing in warm comfort.


That’s what I’m talking about. There’s a lot of negative stuff there that I could haye focused on and gotten very discouraged. Instead, I tried to remember that, hey, at 
least I had a blanket and I was dry. At least I had a johnny sack which meant food and that little sack that I needed to stay warm. Those were genuine blessings.

The next morning was even colder than the first, but the officers on the travel crew kept us inside until all our restraints were fastened, sparing us having to wait outside until they could be done up and checked over. In my case, since I have only one foot to hobble on right now, they let me board the bus before putting me in cuffs. The seats weren’t over-crowded, so it wasn’t a bad trip. In fact, I really enjoyed motoring down Highway 6, looking 
at all the shopping centers decorated for the holidays. 
I also like the cold, anyway, in general. I’m just not a big fan of BEING cold. But at least when you’re cold, you have the option of putting on more clothes. If you’re too hot, there’s only so much to take off before you land yourself in here with me!

Once we arrived at John Seely Hospital in Galveston,
 we were herded into the sally port to wait on processing
 and going up in the elevator. Once we got off, we were taken straight into the “strip room”, which is their standard procedure. There’s 20 or 30 men on one side of a blue cage wall, and once everyone is naked, they start running all through the cage door to the other side of the room. We’d arrived at the hospital during count time, so we were stuck in the strip room.

The last time I made this trip, there was a large black man that asked for everyone’s attention while we were stuck in this room, and when they looked at him, he began sharing the gospel message. I was amazed at his courage and pluck. Since I already have a relationship with Christ, I prayed that his message would penetrate their hearts, and that they would accept Christ as a healer and savior.

That was LAST time, though. Who would share the message with the men stuck in the room this time? I looked around at 
the different faces, waiting to see if God would raise some
one up to share. It was very quiet. No one was even talking to their neighbors or complaining about the wait. I felt the Holy Spirit urging ME to share. Aaachhh! ME!? Surely, there’s got to be someone else, like another BIG black guy, not some measely, balding, old white guy with one good leg! Nope. God wanted me to do it. While I was arguing with Him, everyone suddenly came alive and started talking with one another. Schew! “They’re not paying attention, now, Lord. It’s too late.” All of a sudden, and for no good reason, all of the conversation died away again as quickly as it had started up. I was shocked. No, “abhored” is more the word. So I bowed my head again. “Me, Lord? Of all people?” I heard the Holy Spirit whisper His scripture in my heart. “If you are ashamed of me before men, I will be ashamed of you before my Father who is in heaven.” That did it!
I definitely didn’t want Jesus to be ashamed of me any more than He’s already had to be in my lifetime. I screwed up my courage and spoke out.
”

Excuse me, fellows. The last time I was in this room, there was a man who got everybody’s attention and told them about how Jesus Christ is more than a savior, and more than a faithful friend. He’s also a healer. Now, most of you are probably in here today for something a lot more serious than some nappy toes. In fact, there may be some of us that don’t even leave this hospital again. But, I want you to know that today can be the day that you get someone on your side that has beaten all the odds ever set against Him. He even overcame death and the grave. When the last man prayed for my healing in this room, I wasn’t supernaturally healed, but I haven’t had any complications, and I’m telling you truthfully that, as bad as it looks, it hasn’t hurt me one bit. He used the doctors to bring my heailng. I’d like to pray with all of you, and ask Him to do the same thing for you, here, today.” Then, I prayed
 for the men, that they would be healed, and that if they
 didn’t know Christ as savior, that they’d start a relation
ship with Him right then. The guys seemed to get a real
 blessing out of it. Many even came up afterward and expressed their thanks for the prayer. One or two even shared more specifically what they were up against, and asked for continued prayers. You can help me pray for a man named Mike. He was diagnosed with cancer in his pancreas and told he wouldn’t live more than 6 months. There’s only one thing worse than living in prison; it’s dying in prison. Pray God spares him from this terrible disease.

The rest of my day at the hospital was unremarkable, except that I got the bandages off my foot and got to see up close and personal just how ugly the sucker was. I look like I have a purple football attached to the end of my leg, complete with not one, but TWO sets of stitchings. BUT, it’s getting better. Also of note was that I got to watch two of my favorite movies while in the waiting room for nine hours: The Godfather II and The Godfather, back to back in reverse order. (I don’t know why the cable stations do that with sequels. It must be part of the contract they sign to be able to air the movies.)

Well, slowly but surely, the day came to an end, and
 we were taken downstairs to board the bus back to the Darrington. We’d been up since before 3 AM, and now it was almost 9 PM. We were exhausted, and the bus ride back was very quiet. Everyone was trying to get a few minutes of sleep. Also, because it was so cold outside, the windows were all fogged up, and we couldn’t really see out, anyway.

The bus broke its usual routine, and went to the Darrington Unit without making any other stops first, which was a huge relief for those of us headed that way. We were back on the unit a little over an hour after we left the hospital. We went through the usual routine, getting our check up from their medical department. When we were done, they gave us a johnny sack with supper and a bed roll and sent us to our cells. We were VERY lucky to get a blanket and a sheet again. I Usually, when you’re coming home from the hospital, you don’t get a blanket because they’re all gone due to the lateness of the hour. We sure were happy, because it was again very cold. Blessing followed upon blessing. Yet, the biggest surprise of all was still to come.

Once again, I was in the same cell at the end of the run, and although they’d changed out my cellie sometime during the day, there was still someone with me in the cell. He was also, apparently, a night owl, because he stayed up all night. I didn’t care. I was wiped out, and could have slept through a storm. Which, as it turn out, is exactly what I did, although a most unusual storm for the coastal area of Texas. When I woke up, my cellie said, “Hey! Look outside!” The high-pressure gas lights on the outside of
 the building lit up the yard, and it was covered with snow. It was beautiful! I’ve been down in Cuero for almost 11 years now, and I’d yet to see that much snow stick on the ground.

While I was excited about the snow, I was aprehensive about the cold. Nevertheless, when we went out on chain, they kept us inside as long as possible, so we didn’t get too cold. And then a miracle happened.

As many times as I’ve been on the bus in the TDCJ going here and there and everywhere, I’ve absolutely NEVER got to sit in the front seat. Most often, I’ve been tossed like old litter into the back and good iuck to you finding a place to sit. But the officer on this trip put the hobbled ones on first, and specifically said, “You sit here,” and pointed to the front seat, right behind the first cage. What this meant is that, unlike any other seat on the bus, I could see out the driver’s window. What a view! The trees all had “Christmas flocking”. The ground was blanketed in beautiful white stuff. People were bundled up against the cold. It was a regular winter wonderland. As I sat admiring all of God’s handiwork, I heard Him say, “This is what I have for those who do my work.” Boy, did I feel like a good kid! Prison is bad, but my Father in heaven is good.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez