Showing posts from July, 2012

Guest Blog: Thoughts on July 24

From Matt Tjapkes, Doug's son: I always liked July 24. Of course, it’s my birthday, so that’s pretty normal. But 2004 was a bit different. Probably for the first time in my life, my birthday wasn’t the big deal on that day. Celebration was on the agenda, but for a far better cause. It was finally the day that Maurice Carter would be free once again. A large group of supporters headed to Jackson the night before, because Maurice would be released early in the morning. There was a lot of excitement in what was about to happen. Everyone was ready to celebrate, but after watching my dad work for 10 years to make this day happen, I don’t think anyone was truly ready until the moment we saw Maurice outside the cell. Could you imagine what it was like on his end? Nearly 30 years of incarceration, knowing the whole time he did not deserve it. Struggling with illness, his day had finally come. And what a ride on the way out - A luxury motorhome! The last time he had really seen an a

Sweet freedom

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 pr

You're the only Bible

I heard a country gospel song the other day that may not make it to the top of the charts, but had a profound message. Here's the opening line, as I remember it: "You're the only Bible a lotta folks are gonna read." As a musician, I couldn't imagine how they were going to fit this into the metric structure of a tune and how they were going to fit the statement into lyrics that would rhyme. But I quickly abandoned those thoughts to consider those words again. That's a pretty profound statement. Reminds me of the old saying, "Your actions are so loud I can't hear your words." A friend told me the other day that she was driving down the highway and apparently did something to enrage another motorist. The driver passed her and gave her the finger. As the car got ahead of her, she saw a bumper sticker that said, "Honk if you love Jesus." Which message was loudest: the action or the words? All of this leads me to the prison w

Making music with my friends

The Gaithers have penned a wonderful little chorus: Loving God, loving each other, Making music with my friends; Loving God, loving each other, And the story never ends. Music has been a part of my life since I was an infant. As a musician, my life has been brightened by making music with my friends starting when I was a kid, and it has never stopped. Most recently, my physician friend John Mulder---a professional musician in my opinion---has joined me in making music as a fund-raiser for HFP. It all began a year ago at a funeral, when the two of us sang and played some requested old gospel songs for the memorial service of a friend and co-prison worker. A supporter of HFP suggested that we keep this going to raise support money. The rest is history. John wholeheartedly agreed, and suggested that we include more musicians: our son-in-law Lee Ingersoll, singer and percussionist; Cal Olson, singer, whistle-blower and bassist, and David Mulder, cornetist. And so last su

Lord, listen to your children

I'd like to introduce you to Laura. Actually, I cannot introduce you in person. She and I have never met face to face. She's in the State of Washington. I'm in the State of Michigan. But our friendship is a thing of beauty. Far more important than that is her beautiful contribution to HUMANITY FOR ongoing, never-ending contribution. Laura prays. This relationship began in April of 2007, when Laura sent an email to me asking for a copy of a devotional booklet that HFP offers to all who ask, inside and outside of bars. Our conversations continued, I sent her a copy of SWEET FREEDOM, and our friendship took off from there. But back to the valuable contribution of Laura. In our conversations I learned that Laura could not be a financial supporter of HFP, but she could be a prayer warrior. Others have said they will keep us in their prayers, but here was a person who was making it a mission. Says Laura: "I've always believed in interce

When God's people pray

I have left Parole Board interviews feeling utterly useless and totally ineffective. The Parole Board interview, an integral part of the life of a prisoner, can strike terror in the heart of the inmate. A woman formerly behind bars told me that the PB interview was worse than her trial. I think some Parole Board members delight in making prisoners sweat, squirm and weep. I'm not sure why...perhaps, just because they can. I tell you all of this as a long introduction to this blog entry. I have been steeling myself for a ten-year Parole Board review of a lifer. This prisoner and his parents approached me some time ago to ask if I would be willing to serve as his representative. I immediately agreed, for a number of reasons. I almost always agree to do it, regardless of the prisoner, because I cannot stand the thought of an inmate going there alone. But in this case, I happen to believe that the man, in for life without parole for first degree murder, is innocent. And

on feeling the heat

Heat is a hot subject these days. I'm the first to admit that heat and I don't get along very well. And I've felt real heat. I've been in blistering conditions in Viet Nam, and in Haiti. People in those parts of the world really deal with heat. But right now, in our own nation, people are suffering. Because of a brutal high pressure system, and the ravages of storms, heavily populated sections of our country are not only experiencing high temperatures, but are doing so without electricity. People there have no air conditioning, and as we hear these news accounts, our hearts go out to those who must deal with this. But I must confess that today I'm really feeling guilty. Temperatures are supposed to soar to near 100 degrees again today, and I have air conditioning, in my house and in my car. I am blessed, and I will not suffer. But yesterday I received a telephone call from James, in the Thumb Correctional Facility. You may not have known this, but our

America: the greatest! ?

I love early-morning coffee time. I enjoy my first caffeine rush of the day in a glassed-in room surrounded by giant oak trees in the developed dune land a mile offshore from Lake Michigan. It's heavenly. On the morning of our nation's birthday I cannot help but reflect on this country and its amazing attributes. I'm not willing to give in to the opinion expressed this week on a new cable TV show that America is not the greatest country. I love this country. I'm grateful for the opportunities I had, and I love the opportunities that lie ahead for my kids and grandkids. But that doesn't mean I have to love everything about this great nation. You can't be pleased about our rate of incarceration...far higher than that recorded by any other country. You've gotta be alarmed when people involved in our Innocence Projects project that up to 10% of those persons in prison may have been wrongly convicted...especially if that person happened to be in you


Christians have a difficult time agreeing on many issues. While they are certain to agree that Christ is Lord, from that point on it gets pretty difficult. We not only disagree on the weightier subjects of theology, but we have a difficult time deciding which hymnal is the best or what kind of church music pleases God the most. And so it should come as no surprise that our opinions on the issues we deal with on a daily basis at HFP might differ sharply with those of others. There will be honest differences of opinion, for example, from victims of crime and their families, and from police officers. All may believe in the same Lord, but you can bet their opinions will vary. Well, that's what happened in our weekly Saturday gathering of Studebaker drivers and friends over burgers and suds. This is an unusually electric group...a cross-section of many facets of society. Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz was talking about the recent Supreme Court ruling that it is unconstit