by Eddie Spiers
Of all the things that I might have thought to do when I was younger and still drinking into blackout on an every other day basis, I never would have guessed that prison ministry would be one of them. Sure, sure, I knew in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be able to keep up the lifestyle I was living for the entirety of my life. And I guess that I figured that someday I would maybe try this whole religion thing out. But really, I kind of thought that it was a crutch, God wasn’t really real, and only weak people do things like these. Besides, I was having a blast getting wasted, playing music with my friends, and pursuing my hobbies like rock climbing, woodworking, poetry, writing, and generally creating things. Obviously, there was no room in my life for anything else...including my wife, my 3 little girls, the rest of my family, my future, my integrity, my honor, my hope, my health, my manhood, and so on. You get the picture.
It’s interesting that when I finally found Christ, well actually He found me since I was running from Him as fast as I could, that I wasn’t into many of the things that now bring an abundance of peace and worth into my being. I thought that ‘serving God’ meant that I would have to give up all of the things that I loved and do a bunch of really dull stuff that I would never, ever want to do. “Get a haircut, stop listing to that horrible rock-n-roll, don’t you own a nicer suit?” This is how I saw Christianity. Not for me, that’s for sure. Then I found out that Alice Cooper and Charlie Daniels were Christians. “Hmmm, If God can forgive them, then He surely can forgive me”, I thought. I finally gave into the craving that had been eating at my soul, but I was so afraid, kinda like dancing when I was still in school. What in the world would all of the people who know me think? Who am I anyway?
Anyhow, obviously I took the leap. Along the way, I tried street witnessing in the Short North down in Columbus. It was okay, and I really felt drawn to it, but it wasn’t THE THING. Then I joined Christian bands, secular bands, went to school and got a degree, taught Sunday school, played on the worship team, and many other things. I was having a blast too, but something was still missing. As it turns out, the thing that I discovered that really satisfies my being is prison ministry. I joined the Kairos Torch Prison Ministry almost two years ago now, and I now feel like I have meaning in my life---I’m fulfilling my destiny!!! The other things were all good. The other things made me happy, but they didn’t fill that longing in my heart for a greater purpose. I wanted something to do that was Heaven ordained. Apparently, prison ministry is that for me.
For those of us who fall into the addiction trap. we are usually people who are hurting for one reason or another. Sometimes it really isn’t all that much, but it still hurts. We spend a great deal of time in our lives using other people, disappointing others, stealing, lying, cheating, and so forth. I think that for most of us when we clear our heads from the ‘stuff’, we feel an urge to help others to kind of make-up for all that we had done in our pasts. And really, this is a great feeling because if we act on it, we begin to build a new life of transformation from hurting to healing. This helps our souls to begin the process of forgiving ourselves for the darkness that we existed in for however long. Forgiving others is way easier than forgiving ourselves. It absolutely takes some time and effort, and it is most certainly one of the hardest things to do if you’ve done some really awful things like I have.
One day at church there was a call for help up at Marion Correctional Institution. I am strongly gifted in the ministry of "helps," so I couldn’t get that plea out of my conscience. Although I had been trying for several weeks. I didn’t want to go help at the prison. “They deserve what they’re getting”, I thought. This is easy, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime and so on. Anyway, I called the fella who had spoken about this and offered my assistance. I had no idea how this would rivet my soul. He said that he would get me some paperwork (he was smart enough to not tell me that ‘some’ paperwork was just less the amount it takes to get a mortgage). So I got started. My first weekend up there was the first time that I had ever been in any kind of jail and I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous, but not scared kind of like when I used to go rock climbing. As it turned out, I was blown away! I could not believe the care and thought that these men were putting into the preparations that we were all making. They were kind, thoughtful, considerate, intelligent, and grateful. Wow, it rocked me to the core. I was stunned . . . and hooked.
The weekend came and I saw the transformation of 42 young men who came into the room acting like the thugs that I thought they were into something new. Over the course of the two and a half days of the program though, I saw them change into a whole different person. It was the real them. Only, they didn’t even know this person because it had been so long since they had allowed themselves to be real. The masks were taken off, walls were torn down, and the young men began a process of trying to figure this world out without these crippling coping tools. They also became part of a community, a family. Most of them went on to become Christians, although not all of them. That’s okay though because they were real and the seeds were planted. Maybe someday for them, just like me. It is truly an amazing thing to witness Christ loosed in a man’s heart in prison and for him to be free even in incarceration. I can not explain it, but it is something that must be seen to be believed.
After the weekend, there came a six-month mentoring program which further helped the guys ‘get it’. Never had I witnessed such commitment by a group of people, and these were longtime prisoners! The older inmates poured what they had into the young men with such care and concern that I couldn’t believe my own eyes. Mentor and mentee together for six months in an environment that could send most people to a padded room. Men who had been told when to eat, sleep, go in, go out, go to the bathroom for 30 years suddenly sharing unbelievable depths of wisdom with these young men in hopes that they wouldn’t re-write the stories that they were living out. I would never have guessed that this type of thing could ever be found inside a prison.
My belief system, not surprisingly, was shaken to the core. All of a sudden things weren’t so black and white. Hang ‘em high didn’t come out of my mouth nearly as easy as before. Things had changed because I had allowed myself the privilege of learning from people who lived a life that I had never known. They had committed crimes, and they still deserved punishment, but to come face to face with a murderer that has truly and completely transformed into a new creation through the pursuit of Christ left me reeling. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared for that. Even now I still struggle with it, but regardless it is a beautiful thing to see how Christ can take a broken vessel and make it as wonderful if not better than before it was broken.
Now I have led the weekend and really had a chance to roll up my sleeves to join in this thing for real. Now I have been a part of something Heavenly and I know it. Really know it. There is nothing that I have ever done that has given me such reward as knowing that I have partnered with Heaven and made a real difference on this Earth. Even better, those young guys will take what they have learned and share it in their neighborhoods to bring about change there. There is no telling how far reaching the impact may be from what was done during Kairos Torch #18, but I am willing to believe that it will last long past my lifetime. Just the same way as the ministry of Jesus and the 12 apostles is still having an impact on the Earth today.
Destiny, do you have one?
Twenty years ago if you had asked me what would really fill up my heart and being, I would have probably told you that being a professional musician was the thing. I might have told you many other things as well, but I had no concept in my mind that prison ministry was the real answer. Crazy!!! This walking with God thing has definitely been the absolute right thing to do. I know now that those things that I thought were THE things for me to do, would have brought me more frustration, anger, and depression because they weren’t for me. I didn’t have to quit the things that weren’t right for me, God took away my desire for them in a really positive way.
One of the struggles that we all face coming from an addiction is dealing with our root problems. They probably are part of why most of us got started, or found substance abuse appealing, even if we didn’t know it. Now, we have ‘stuff’ to deal with. Depression, anger, hatred, bitterness, regret, hopelessness, inadequacy, emptiness, loneliness, and so on are all normal things we all face. The crazy thing is that one of the most effective ways to overcome these types of issues is to invest ourselves in others. We tend to forget our problems when helping others with theirs, and it is amazing how these huge mountains that we have begun to collapse in the course of time. Sometimes we don’t even notice that the BIG ISSUE we were dealing with has disappeared from our lives without us knowing or realizing it. Helping others is a key principle to finding lasting success and peace for anyone. The goal is to become a whole, healthy person that promotes the true life found in Christ. We all have a pathway to accomplish this most natural way of being and for me its prison ministry among other things.
I would suggest for everyone to really open yourself up to possibility that you really don’t even know yourself yet if you are just coming out of addiction and into life. I don’t mean that as an insult at all. What I mean is that being in the fog of addiction, we lose ourselves. We become someone and do things that aren’t really us. The great part of coming out of it all is rediscovering and recreating ourselves. It’s all new, a new life!!! Shoot, I found out that I am actually a reasonably intelligent man. I honestly did not know that prior to sobriety. I figured that I was average at best. I also learned that many people who get caught in addiction are highly intelligent as well. It is a very strange phenomenon indeed. Stranger still is the man who refuses to come out lest he be faced with having to change. Don’t be like that. Change is good when it means walking with Christ in the newness of Life. Run to this opportunity! It’s never going to be easy, but nothing else will cleanse a soul, fill a heart, and give a person purpose like Jesus Christ will. He is the only way I know to leave that old life and begin anew.
Destiny, do you want one?