Salvation in a Place of Shame

Here’s a great story from the Houston Chronicle:

Texas prison program makes ministers out of inmates

ROSHARON — Kenny Calliham sat alone in the dark of a prison cubicle when it finally hit him: He couldn’t live like that anymore. He needed something different, something better.

Years of drugging and fighting had gotten the Greenspoint man where he was, in the middle of a 45-year prison sentence for aggravated robbery. He’d squandered a shot at probation, destroyed relationships with those around him and gotten into “all the worst that prison had to offer.”

“I just looked at myself and saw that everything I’d started on my own had crumbled,” he said.

But on Monday, he started the process of rebuilding.

The 36-year-old was one of 35 prisoners graduating from the four-year seminary at Darrington Unit, a milestone marked by a jailhouse commencement attended by inmates’ families, high-ranking prison officials and state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. (Read the whole story)

This story called to my mind this story from St. Luke’s Gospel:

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature.

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”

So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him,“Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” — Luke 19: 1-10

I have been to Jericho. It is a scary place (much like the prison in Rosharon probably is) but salvation came to that place, too. I’ve been telling you for the five years I have been with you that God is at work in the places where you have offended; the places you are most ashamed of. Salvation comes to all the places where each of us has offended, or of which we are ashamed, because the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost — every one of us.

–David Browder

Photo: Yi-Chin Lee / Houston Chronicle