Kevin, I really enjoyed the post about the debate. Although reading up a little about the attacks on Kent Hovind made me rather low-spirited. It was all just so petty and ugly. The account of the debate reminded me of the few debates that I went to at St. Andrews, particularly the one between a prominent atheist and a well-spoken nun about the existence of God. It was always a well attended topic the students said. The pastor of St Peter’s church in Dundee (where I attended) once stood in for the theistic side and gave a lively account of it. I was struck by the cheers and banter from the audience on both sides. Of course, the British have a lively tradition of debating–as reflected in their Parliament which is more vigorous sounding then our Congress with frequent cheers, jeers, and feisty hoorays. Anyway, it was good to read about Kent Hovind doing such a good job.

This Saturday I went in with the prison fellowship team from our church for the first time. It was just myself, the elderly woman that heads has organized it for many years, a worship leader, and one of the elders who gave the message. I had never really been in a setting like that before. It was sobering in some sense. I was struck by how generally old and rundown the facilities were as well as by how strict the security was. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I guess that the worst that I have ever had to go through was getting into the White House or onto a plane after 9/11. Here they even searched my mouth for bubble gum. At first they wouldn’t let me in because my name had been stapled onto a second page of the list and that second page had evidently been lost. So it was arranged that I would wait 30 minutes or so to see if the chaplain showed up and could verify my status. I waited on some wide wooden pews where people sat while they listened for their name to be called from the other side of a big mechanical steel and glass door. While I was waiting, I watch people go in and out. One young woman was trying to get in to see her husband who had only been in there for a few days. They were telling her that it took a few days to process his paper work and that, until all his paper work was finished, he couldn’t have any visitors. But she had called that morning and been told that today she would be able to get in. . . . No such luck. At another point, a well dressed family of at least three generations came out of the doors with a sprightly grandma at their head. As the doors rolled closed behind her, she shouted in a voiced that carried well, “Praise the Lord, I’m out of prison. My, how I hate to be locked up! I don’t know why all those boys choose to go to jail.” The guard who had searched my mouth and pockets was a large slow-moving woman who didn’t look like she had too much fun at work. But she enjoyed that grandma’s sentiment with a broad grin and a loud laugh. A little girl was sitting behind me and I heard her tell her mother, “What that lady said wasn’t funny!” Her mother answer, “Yes, it was. It was very funny. You just aren’t old enough to understand.”

I was within a few minutes of giving up the wait when they beckoned me over from inside the large glass both where they kept they issued guns and handcuffs to the guards and checked the visitor’s paperwork. The chaplain had not shown up, but I guess they must have called him because they gave me a tag to where and told me I could go through the door. I said I had no idea where I was going and they said they would radio ahead to the guards along the way who would give me directions. So I walked for quite a ways in and out of buildings from guard to guard through something like a university campus with a very low budget landscaping contract. When I finally made it to the chapel, there were about 20 men in attendance. I learned afterwards that most of them were regulars who had been attending for several years or months. One young fellow was there for the first time, but he went to the chapel service every Sunday he said. Much of the time I was struck with a sense that my life and Christian faith were rather flabby compared to what these men were up against both in and out of prison. Anthony Swon gave a strong and simple message about discerning the will of God, and we spent a lot of time signing before and after the message. One of the men brought me several drinks of cold water in a Styrofoam cup covered over with a brown paper napkin. At one point sheets were passed out and there was a slight misunderstanding when a man who had given his sheet to someone next to him asked for a second. He was told at first that he only got one, but then it was sorted out by someone else who seemed to be overseeing the distribution and collection of the sheets. At Geneva College we got “chapel credits” each time we attended chapel and a certain number were required to graduate. If you were at all sly about it, it was possible to pick up someone else’s chapel credit form and turn in more than one. So I thought perhaps there must be a similar system in place at the prison. There wasn’t much time afterwards, but we greeted most of the men, and passed out books before leaving.

Well, I had no intention of writing so much, and I better get on to some of the other things I planned to do this evening. &#74 You are all in our thoughts and prayers.

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