LET ME TELL YA ABOUT GEORGE
My first letter from George is dated October 4, 2018. He starts that letter with, “I understand that you don’t know me. But here in jail someone tell me that you will help anyone that need help. I am 59 year old and don’t have nowhere to go when I get out of here. I go to court on Oct. 15th and I know God will go before me. If it is His will I will be release then. I am not from this state. I did 17 year in Louisiana State Prison and when I get out all my people did passed away. I hope you can come up to this jail in Staunton Virginia and see me.”
I didn’t change any of the wording in that paragraph because it reveals something important about George. George has had almost no formal education. That leaves one to wonder, how can that be? He’s 59 years old. That means he wasn’t born in the 1800s or something. How is it that he has almost no education?
I replied to that letter right away, as I do with all mail that I receive from inmates. I told George about the “Turning Point” class that I conduct there at Middle River Regional Jail and asked him to sign up for the course. He did but there has always been a long waiting list of inmates who want to get into that class. While he was waiting to get in he and I exchanged several letters which allowed me to get pretty well acquainted with him before I ever met him face to face. (Volunteer Ministers at the jail are not allowed to be on an inmate’s visitor list. Strange rule but that’s the way it is).
During that time I told George about myself and my own time in prison. A little at a time George told me his story: He was born in Louisiana in 1960. His mother was an addict and lived with a man who wasn’t George’s real father but he knew no other. At age 7 George’s mother was shot to death by drug dealers in some kind of argument. The “dad” told the court that George wasn’t his and that he couldn’t care for the boy. So George went into foster care. He ran away. Again and again. Finally, at about 8 or 9 years of age, a gang on the streets of Baton Rouge took George under their wing. That was the end of George’s education and life lived in homes. As he grew older, doing the bidding of the gang, he was in and out of reform schools and finally in jails and prisons. George literally grew up either on the streets or behind bars. He has only very vague memories of ever living in a house or eating with other people at a table in a house. He has no idea of what it’s like to have a parent or siblings. Over the years he did find out about some relatives and visited with them some from time to time when he wasn’t incarcerated but never lived with any of them.
After a couple of months George was finally able to get into the Turning Point class, we were able to meet and our relationship grew stronger. Even though we were able to meet face to face every Tuesday evening at the jail, George continued to write. In fact, for the last year and a half now, George has averaged sending me three letters a week. At first I could hardly read them. He prints but even that is so poor and his spelling and use of words is so different that it took a long time for me to just be able to sit and read one of his letters. I would even have my wife, Cathy, to help me decipher what he was saying. And I would tell George some of the kind words she would have for him. Then, about six months into the relationship he started referring to me as “Dad.” And then started calling Cathy, “Mom.” At first we didn’t know what to think of that. Coming from an inmate – it was even a little frightening. We prayed about it and talked about it and pondered on it for a long time. I finally talked to George about it but that’s when I knew it was ok. The tears in his eyes told me that we had nothing to fear from this almost 60 year old man. He was experiencing real love and acceptance for the first time in his life. We didn’t stop him from calling us Mom and Dad.
In that first letter to me dated October 4, 2018, George closed that letter with: “I am a man of God. I have been save two year now. Well, till I hear from you I will end this letter. May God be with you.” And he signed his name. George is a man of God. He loves Jesus with all of his heart. When he got into Turning Point he began soaking up everything we were teaching and, as most inmates do, took each lesson back to his cell and continued to study it all week until the next class. Early on I gave George a good Bible. George is in prison now. Still writes to me about three times a week and is always talking about the Lord, his Bible and calling me and Cathy Mom and Dad. George has about eight years to go and I’m eighty now. I hope I live long enough to see George a free man. If I am I have promised him that I and New Leaf Inmate Ministries will help him find a job and a place to live. And that we will take him to church with us. He’s really looking forward to that. He already calls the church we go to, Church United in Staunton Virginia, his “church home.” He has never in his memory had a place he could call home. He has never been to Church United but he calls it “home.” And Cathy and I are “Mom” and “Dad.”
May I ask you to pray for George. And may I ask you to see into this far enough to realize that our little ministry is touching many lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t get a stack of letters from inmates all over this state and even one from a Federal Prison in Ohio. None of them except George call me “Dad”. But all of them call me “Brother” and all of them express their love and appreciation for our love and genuine concern for them.
Clint Webb, President