The note in my pocket calendar on this date consists simply of two names---Matt and Maurice. Both family members.
Matt is our youngest son, sometimes referred to as a tag-along because he came along so much later that his three older siblings. He was born in 1978 when his parents already had passed the age of 40. Today is his birthday.
Maurice’s full name was Maurice Henry Carter, an indigent black man from Gary, Indiana, who also became family to us. He was a wrongly convicted Michigan prisoner whom I met back in the 1990s. Today is the day he walked out of prison, in the year 2004, after serving 29 years for a crime he did not commit.
As Maurice’s closest friend, I was there to walk out that prison door in Jackson with him. As a cub reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune, Matthew was there in Jackson to cover the story. In fact, it is his photograph that appears on the cover of my book which tells the Tjapkes/Carter story, SWEET FREEDOM. Maurice is clasping his freedom papers in his upraised hands.
It’s fitting that Matt and I take a moment to reflect on this day, not just because we celebrate his birthday and the three months of freedom that Maurice enjoyed before we lost him, but also to marvel how God took the life of that dear man to shape the future for father and son.
It’s easy for me to see, in retrospect, that my careers as a radio broadcaster/journalist and then as a church organ salesman, were merely preparation for my final and most important occupation as an advocate for prisoners. And it’s fascinating to see how, thanks to Maurice Carter, Matt’s career path made some zigs and some zags and he landed right here in the same business: helping prisoners!
Together Matt and I handle communications with and requests from prisoners on a daily basis, 7 days a week, in addition to raising funds to support our meager budget, maintaining daily entries on social media, writing and publishing a monthly newsletter, coordinating efforts of some 50 professional people who serve us regularly in an advisory panel, and just plain working hard at touching the lives of Michigan prisoners one at a time in the name of Jesus.
On July 24, 2015, I am so thankful
-that Matthew became a member of our family
-that Maurice entered the lives of our entire family
-that the legacy of Maurice Henry Carter lives on through the vibrant ministry of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, with father and son at the helm!
Some son, that Matthew!
Some guy, that Maurice!