Showing posts from September, 2019

A famous athlete takes on injustice!

Boy, does that sound a lot like the Maurice Carter story! National basketball star Maya Moore, of WNBA fame, is in the news these days. She shocked the basketball world earlier this year when she quit basketball, saying she wanted some time to pursue “criminal justice reform.” But it’s more personal than that. The real reason is making headlines right now, just in time for the observance of International Wrongful Conviction Day. She’s doing her best to free a prisoner who has served nearly 23 years for a crime he did not commit. The man was arrested for a non-fatal shooting. After meeting him, hearing his story, and digging into his case, this basketball superstar is flabbergasted. “No physical evidence. No DNA, footprint, fingerprint,” she exclaims! Yep. Sound familiar? Granted, Doug Tjapkes was no superstar, but at the turn of the century, he did almost the same thing. Starting in about 1995, I became aware of this black dude who claimed he was innocent, and had alr

You'd better listen to a whistle-blower!

Some readers are going to accuse me of being very political with this piece. That’s your call. The topic of “whistle-blowing” is big news today, because it involves the President of the United States. Regardless of your political affiliation, I have something to say to you: You’d better listen to a whistle-blower! I go back to the year 2014, when MDOC personnel at our only prison for women, Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, were accused of mistreating and abusing mentally ill inmates in the acute care section. There were charges of hog-tying, tasing, excessive use of pepper spray, and food and water deprivation. We’re talking about the treatment of human beings here, not animals in the dog pound. We could do nothing about this without the help of whistle-blowers. And yes, they came through! I had in my possession a stack of affidavits scribbled out on scrap pieces of paper. Prisoners don’t have access to legal pads, and all the other paraphernalia that we might

Parking at the four-way stop isn't very smart!

As I headed into town this morning, a well-meaning driver about ruined my day. As he approached a four-way stop, he made the decision that this was BE KIND TO DRIVERS DAY, and so he just sat there. He let all other cars go first! Of course, that didn’t work. The result was not a "kind" thing at all. It gummed up the works! People stopping, starting, pointing, gesturing. The four-way stop can be a well-oiled machine, but it involves heads-up participation by every driver. Each has a responsibility. On Facebook one day some contributor allowed that a very Christian thing to do, that day, would be to let the other guy go first at a four-way stop. No! No! No! That has the opposite effect. Very un-Christian words get uttered in cars approaching that intersection! I see that as quite symbolic of all of life. You can’t go to your church and just sit there, letting all the others go first to sing in the choir, serve on the council, volunteer to be an usher, teach Sunda

Kindness begets kindness evermore. Sophocles

HIS MEN, the male chorus that I founded in 1972, is no more. While the music has stopped, my memories continue. We liked little things! While other Christian groups seemed to thrive on performing in prominent venues before large crowds, our most meaningful experiences were in circumstances exactly the opposite. We performed an entire concert for an ailing missionary on the Haitian Island of La Gonave. When we were traveling in the “hollers” of Kentucky, we sang for a little old lady who wasn’t well enough to come to the concert. We performed in the back of a pickup truck down her little two-track road. An audience of one. I’m reminded of that today as we prepare for a HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS Board of Directors meeting. For these quarterly sessions, key people in our team are asked to prepare activity reports. Our kind and caring Medical Director, Dr. Bob Bulten, reported that in addition to answering more than a couple hundred email messages related to prisoner medical iss

Time to get your hands out of your pockets!

The late Tony Wolf, missionary to Haiti, was a guest on my radio talk show, telling about a young Haitian woman who gave birth to a child while riding in his Jeep. “I decided it was time for me to take my hands out of my pockets,” said Tony. Still good advice today. I’m reading Sister Helen Prejean’s life story in her new book: RIVER OF FIRE: MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY. I guess one might have predicted that this vivacious Roman Catholic nun, who appeared in Grand Haven as a guest of HFP last year, would go on to greatness. And that, at age 80, she hasn’t even begun to slow down. One might have guessed that just by watching her jump out of the family station wagon, as a teenager, ready to begin her new life in a convent. “I’m here,” she proclaimed. “I’m here to become a bride of Christ!” As another active octogenarian, I’m constantly amazed at the number of my peers who are sitting around doing nothing. Many are in good physical and mental health for their age, yet they rema

Good for Lester! Good for HFP!

I hope you’ll be watching upcoming TV specials when NBC’s Lester Holt focuses on mass incarceration. May God bless his efforts to bring public awareness to this terrible blight on our nation. As I’m watching and listening, I’m excited and impressed all over again about the niche that HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS has found under this same umbrella. Because of the uniqueness of our work, I see a critical need for its expansion into all states. As it stands right now, the HFP team is on target to respond to 1,000 calls this month! The total in August was 949. While it’s terribly important for NBC and USA Today to focus on huge incarceration issues, it’s equally as important for someone to help the individual behind bars experiencing little, daily problems that he or she just cannot resolve without outside help. This is also true for family members and loved ones. -A senior inmate is told not to worry when his heart keeps acting up. He contends health-care doesn’t want to spend mon

A soft answer vs a harsh word: Prov 15:1

Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.   - Yehuda Berg The church music staff was a bit short-handed Sunday morning…it was Labor Day weekend. I was the organist on duty. I love the “king of instruments” and do my best to use its capabilities to enhance the worship experience for those in attendance. But I wasn’t prepared for this compliment, warmly handed to me by a guest following the service: “ You filled the room with the grace of God!” Nine little words, and they made my Sunday! That simple act of kindness served to remind me of the role our HFP team members play every day. We’re interacting with prisoners at a record pace. And when we’re so rushed responding to email messages and phone calls, it’s easy to be curt with our answers and short with our responses. Yet, it’s important for us to remember that, for incarcerated men and women, kind and gentle words are foreign. Their world is