ANGOLA, La. (BP)–The Apostle Paul, who delighted in killing followers of Christ before he became one, wrote several of his most powerful New Testament letters on Rome’s “death row.”
Some of the letters death row intercessors at Louisiana State Penitentiary write to encourage mission volunteers echo Paul’s immortal words.
“I greet you all in the name of Jesus, and I truly desire to be with you at this present time,” one condemned convict wrote to a mission team trekking in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal.
“Indeed I’m with you all in the Spirit and my prayers are that God bless you with traveling grace, and anoint you for service on this mission you’ve taken. I pray that you all are well and in good health to climb the high hills and mountains of the Himalayas…. Seize the moment, men of God! And enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.”
Jack Tillery, minister of college students and missions at First Baptist Church Moss Bluff in Lake Charles, La., is the connection between Christian inmates at the penitentiary and the mission volunteers. He began leading volunteer mission teams to Nepal -– and ministering at the prison –- in the late 1990s.
Today the inmates are Tillery’s most dedicated prayer supporters as he seeks to reach Nepal’s Sherpa people with the Gospel. They pray daily for Tillery, his volunteers, Christian workers in Nepal and the Sherpa. They also write letters of encouragement that Tillery reads to volunteers during their rugged treks in Nepal.
Here are several excerpts from inmate letters to volunteers:
“As you reach each place, remember He has gone before you and given you the victory. That is [true] with every step we take in life. We live not for ourselves, but for Christ’s love to be magnified to others through us. Have a forgiving heart and allow rivers of living water to pour forth through you from the Father. Be a blessing and strengthen each other as you journey through unknown lands.”
— Brian, inmate at Angola (Louisiana State Penitentiary)
“The mission to Nepal is a very good thing you all are doing. My prayers are with you all. We become Christians through God’s unmerited grace, not as a result of any effort, ability … or act of service on our part. However, out of gratitude for this free gift, we will seek to help and serve others with kindness, love and gentleness, and not merely to please ourselves. And that is what you all are doing by going on this missionary journey in Jesus’ name….”
-– Larry, death row inmate at Angola
“There may be some, or many, that refuse to receive the Word of God, but be ye encouraged, because all will not be saved. Many people are bitter, stone-hearted and set in their ways, but you just have to pray for them that God will send other laborers into their harvest. As for you my youthful friends, stay strong … press on to the free gift that the Lord has given you to preach, teach and share the love of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior….”
-– Todd, death row inmate
“I imagine each of you may have thought about how much of a blessing it is to get an opportunity to travel to another side of the globe. What’s more of a blessing than this is the honor of being ambassadors for Christ. This should not be taken lightly no matter where you go in the world. Since 9/11, I’ve thought a lot about people in other countries…. To some, being on Death Row is the lowest place one can get in life. It means some people in society think you’re worthless and unfit to live. But even in a place like this, some of us can look around and out at the world … and see other circumstances that seem worse than ours….”
— Jimmy, death row inmate
“I want to encourage you guys as you journey down that travel-less road, knowing that those are the roads not many are wanting or willing to travel. But God has commanded us to go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature…. So when you’re tired, weary and your body is in pain from the journey, hold fast your profession. When you’re troubled on every side -– north, south, east and west -– hold fast your profession. When you’re faced with pressure from the outside in what you see, hear or feel, hold fast your profession. And when your greatest fears within you have taken a hold of your mind, will and emotions, remember to hold fast your profession of faith without wavering…. May the grace and favor of God be upon you all. Amen!”
-– Allen, death row inmate