To a small band of supporters, July 24 is considered something special, not unlike a holiday. This is the day that Maurice Carter walked out of prison in the year 2004.
As I reflected on that momentous occasion this morning, I concluded that this indigent African American from Gary, Indiana, wrongly convicted here in the State of Michigan, probably influenced my life more than any single individual.
I now feel certain that I wasn't placed on earth just to be a broadcast journalist, even though radio was my first love.
I wasn't placed on earth to sell church organs, even though I immensely enjoyed my second career and found it most satisfying.
I'm not here just to serve God's people with my music. I'm the first to recognize that it's not perfect. I also know that I couldn't live without music, and that it provides uniquely intimate moments for me with my Lord.
I'm here to follow the mandate of Matthew 25. My job is pure and simple: love prisoners, and care for them. And it's the last thing I had in mind for the final career of my life, when I was reporting local news, and when I was helping churches in the purchase of a new organ.
All of that changed when I met Maurice Carter.
He always said that, from the day of his arrest, "the wheels of justice ground to a halt."
And yet, he decided that anger and bitterness would get him nowhere. He was treated shamefully and with disdain by people in the judicial system, yet he responded with kindness and a gentle spirit. He was offered freedom in exchange for a confession, but he refused to compromise his integrity. His example made a profound impact on me, and would permanently change my direction.
A relatively small crowd was there to greet him in Jackson, and a nice group of people came to his freedom reception in Spring Lake...but the number of lives that this simple man touched can never be counted. It's certainly in the thousands. He and his story continue to touch lives today.
Maurice would say that because of me, he found new faith.
I'm here to say that because of him, I found a new life.