Showing posts from July, 2022

…in the same way you judge others, you will be judged. Matthew 7

S he wasn’t the best singer in the choir. To the frustration of the choir director, her attendance was uncertain and irregular. Her voice of marginal quality and her dismal attendance record prompted other singers to grumble behind her back. Through it all, however, they tolerated her participation and she remained a choir member for several years.   That was long ago, according to the choir’s librarian, with whom I recently spoke.   Apparently, while still a member of the choir, the woman had taken some music home with her and neglected to return it. My friend was asked by the choir director to pay a visit to the former singer and get it back.   His lack of enthusiasm for the task took a dramatic turn upon his arrival at her home.   The former choir member promptly retrieved copies of the anthems, but wanted to chat. She couldn’t stop talking about how much that choir experience meant to her. No one realized that she was going through a most difficult time back then…loss of hu

July 24: A special day!

College student Matt Tjapkes had a great topic for his speech class, back in the late 1990s. His father, Doug, was trying to free a Black man who claimed wrongful conviction. Matt’s opinion was correct. His professor gave him an A.   The paths of Maurice Carter and Matt Tjapkes would continue to cross.   After graduation, Matt would become a sports writer for the Grand Haven Tribune. When his father was able to persuade famed prize fighter Rubin Hurricane Carter to come to Michigan to raise awareness of the Maurice Carter scandal, he arranged for Matt to get a personal interview with the internationally known pugilist. That made for a great newspaper exclusive.   Then, on July 24, 2004, when that very same Maurice Carter was released from prison, having served 29 years for a crime he did not commit, Matt’s story made the front page of the Grand Haven Tribune. His photo of Maurice holding his freedom papers later appeared on the cover of a book, written by Doug, that told the Cart

Ignoring the poor? Better watch out!

In my daily feed from Frederick Buechner, the famed theologian was talking about Dr. Luke’s gospel in the New Testament:   Luke makes sure that nobody misses the point that Jesus was always stewing about the terrible needs of poor people. He is the one who tells us that when Jesus preached at Nazareth, his text was "he has appointed me to preach good news to the poor" from Isaiah (Luke 4:18), and whereas Matthew says that the first Beatitude was "Blessed are the poor in spirit," according to Luke it was just plain "Blessed are the poor" period (Luke 6:20). He also recorded some parables, like the one about the rich man and the beggar, that come right out and say that if the haves don't do their share to help the have-nots, they better watch out, and he's the only one to quote the song Mary sang that includes the words "he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich has sent empty away" (Luke 1:53).   I found his thoughts exce

What do you do? Not always a simple answer.

So, what do you guys do at HFP?   A short answer is elusive, even for our workers and board members.   We generally respond by saying we help residents of our state prisons with non-legal problems and issues when they don’t know where to turn.   It’s so easy for you and me to solve a problem. We have Wikipedia, we have Google, we have cell phones, Siri and Alexa. Our incarcerated friends have none of these resources.   HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS receives about a hundred requests for assistance a day, via telephone, email and snail mail. Just for the heck of it, I grabbed ten of those today.   Client #1 requested assistance in filing an application for commutation of his sentence. Client #2 needed assistance in filing a Freedom of Information Act request. Client #3 asked for some specific information from Wikipedia. Client #4 claims actual innocence, and needed some legal suggestions and ideas. Client #5 is having a terrible problem with staff. Client #6 has an important

On planting seeds, and who makes them grow

S t. Paul said : I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.   I’m reminded of that verse in First Corinthians as I’m preparing remarks for a luncheon meeting. I’ll be enjoying lunch with the surviving members, and/or their spouses, of the original HIS MEN male chorus. The tiny Christian male chorus was organized exactly 50 years ago.   About a decade after we started singing, world hunger hit a terrible peak. Ethiopia's food shortages and hunger crisis from 1983 to 1985 led to an estimated 1 million famine deaths.   That’s when 2 little guys got together to plant a seed.   I was the founder of HIS MEN. Jim Franks, who attended our church, was the founder of a world relief agency called INTERNATIONAL AID. Our minds were on world hunger one Sunday morning. Jim came to me and said, “I need an idea for a world relief benefit.” And I said, “I’ve got an idea for a benefit concert.” We sat down a talked.   From that conversation came an amazing concert featuri

Why “You Matter” matters!

In his new best-seller, Sparring Partners, John Grisham tells the story of Cody, who committed a crime at the age of 14 and was handed a death sentence. During his many years on death row he never had one visitor. BUT, something very interesting happened.   A dear old lady in another state, as part of a mission project in her Lutheran church, chose his name to establish a pen-pal relationship. Not only did she send letters and cards, but she sent the inmate a book every week!   Fast forward to the day of his execution. She paid him a visit in her wheelchair.   Remembering that first letter, a tearful Cody said to her:   I read your name and I couldn’t believe it. Somebody out there knew my name, knew that I was on death row, and wanted to do something nice for me. Keep in mind, Miss Iris…I have no family anywhere. And no friends. Not a single friend until you came along.   Last year, HFP President Matt Tjapkes implemented a new policy. Every email message to a Michigan prisoner

Maybe you liked the Macy's fireworks. I didn't!

OK. It’s midnight. The Fourth of July celebrations are over. I should be going to bed. But first I’ve gotta get this off my chest.   I watched the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks spectacular tonight. At age 85, on a rainy night, I wasn’t about to go downtown to watch our local pyrotechnics display.   I was bored.   Those fireworks were exploding at full force from the very beginning! It reminded me of a male chorus from another city, in another state years ago, whose director insisted that these guys sing at full volume through the entire concert. No dynamics. No variety. By the end of the concert the voices of the singers were shot. Everything sounded alike.   I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but the founder of the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, Chuck Bugielski, and I, had and have something in common.   Chuck died years ago. He was a fireworks expert long before there were computers. He created fireworks shows each year for the festival in Grand Haven, in a day when