Nick Rife is an inmate at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. As they celebrated the completion of their 5th Alpha course, the inmates shared many moving testimonials. The prison offered a poetry class and Nick enrolled at the same time he was participating in Alpha. His assignment was to write about a meal. Nick wrote his poem about Alpha. After reading the poem, we knew we wanted to share it. It so eloquently describes the life-giving power of Christian hospitality paired with the proclamation of the Good News.
They came from different geographic locations & genealogy yet from the same tree. They once roamed the hills like wild stallions with hooves thundering the ground. The wind whipping through the mane & upon the face, whispering in the ear “Free.” Heads held high by the pride of life, they slowed to a trot in place, snorting out of the mouth & nose as if to mock the wind.
Those days have come & gone, corralled by transgression & broken by the saddle of regret, they now move about to the sound of a buzzing door, buzzing & buzzing forever more.
Shuffling their black boots across the putrid tile floor they ushered into a classroom with the ambiance of a elementary school. The small tables are pushed together making larger ones, faded plastic form the circumference. The men that sat therein were washed by the sands of time with wrinkled sun spotted skin, thinning hair, tired and scared from clinging to life. They were clothed in labels like drug dealers, thieves, murders, liars & convicts.
However today brought a new Alpha. Unknown faces, smiling eyes & a glorious aroma permeate the room. A humble voice emerged from a group of volunteers, asking the men to stand for a moment of prayer. Silence fell over the room, uncertain of what to do. Some bowed heads, while others peek through wandering eyes. The man succinct in supplication gave thanks & blessed the food. AMEN.
The men assemble in line to eat a home cooked meal from a home they had never been, prepared by hands they had not known. The pulled pork was smoked to perfection, so impeccably seasoned. BBQ sauce was almost a mute point. The baked beans had a hint of brown sugar with chunks of bacon & diced onion, “simply marvelous.” The bread was manna from heaven, complimented by good old fashion Nebraska cream corn.
The men make their way back to the tables, in the moment, in the twinkling of their eye, plastic chairs became thrones & criminals kings. The environment was transformed to that of a joyful home. Music, laughter & hope filled the air. These moments for some would be the last home they taste or see, on this side of life. The meal ends with the sharing of a story, written before time, passed through generations on Scripture, it entails sacrifice, forgiveness and love. This process was duplicated week in and out, each meal more fulfilling than the last. Fellowship & relationship being built all the more. These are more than meals, reaching beyond want to meet need providing starving souls with sustenance for eternity.
Lives that were worlds apart had been carefully woven together in the tapestry of time, some 2000 years ago, just outside of Jerusalem on a hill called Calvary. There a Messiah King hung on a tree delivering grace, you and me. We were blessed to see those words walk off the pages & in to life. Within the midst of a prison strangers became family, carving out an oasis in the desert, filling our emptiness with love. The Holy Spirit blew upon the face, whispering in the ears “Free…”
Free from the chains you cannot see.
Sorry, guilt & shame are no more your name.
Forgiven & free is who you will be.