More than a decade ago, as I was struggling with the difficult questions prisoners raise, I asked my preacher friend Al Hoksbergen if he would share some words of wisdom. Hence we published the little devotional booklet called WHY?
Since that time our office has mailed out hundreds of copies to inmates around the country.
Two things revived my interest in the booklet this week: We said “goodbye” to Al in a memorial service yesterday; and we received another question “Why?” from a defeated and depressed inmate yesterday.
Dodie doen't belong in prison. She's been there for nearly 30 years, doing her best to survive. She worships regularly, directs the choir, gets involved wherever possible, and would make a wonderfully productive citizen if returned to the free world. But this week, instead of having an opportunity to meet with a member of the Michigan Parole Board, she was abruptly informed by a counselor that her file had been closed. “The PB had no interest.” The news was heart-breaking.
I looked into our devotions booklet for some words to offer her.
I must paraphrase using a different name, but here's what Al has to say:
Dodie may not be a good candidate for the Parole Board, but that doesn't mean that God has no use for her. And who knows, one day she may yet be free. But in the meantime, she has an opportunity to do wonderful things in an environment and in a community that is too often forgotten.
Jesus said the world often gropes around like a bunch of blind folks trying to find their way out of the darkness. Therefore, Jesus calls his followers to be like lights in the world. What a privilege to be one who bears the light of God in a world where darkness often settles in. Sometimes I am grateful to know that God called me to be a light in the world. But there are also times when I am an embarrassment to others and myself by walking around as though I have no idea where the light switch is.
I bet it can be very dark in prison at times---maybe even most of the time. But Dodie knows where the light switch is. There will be times when she may need to hunt for it. But she has friends on the outside who are remembering to pray for her and to ask God that she will be a light from God shining in a dark place.
Amen, Pastor Al. Amen.