43 Years After

This has been a very hard year. I know some like to soften their words
and call it challenging, and to that I say yeah, that too.

On the left you see Lloyd Colbaugh and his wife Nita, in the middle you see Sara Groves holding her daughter Ruby. And then Mary. Shortly after I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour, Mary invited me to come down to the education department to attend a Yokefellow meeting. I was hesitant, but I did walk by. Inside the room I saw Mary and about 20 convicts. The next day I told Mary I walked by but did not come in. She asked me what I thought about what I saw. I told her I saw 1 sheep and about 20 wolves.

Most Yokefellow Meetings headed up by Lloyd and other volunteers were held to facilitate and teach about subjects pertaining to the Bible, Christianity and a myriad of other subjects that might come up. They were held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Mom Carter, Nita Colbaugh’s mother (80’s) held a Bible Study on Monday Night. You can see there was ample opportunity for men to learn what it means to live as Christians.

It was out in population, on the yard where a man learned how to apply what he had learned. And in many cases, how much more he had yet to learn. For those who professed Christianity there was definitely a milieu for which to live in. But the Federal Medical Center For Prisoners had other milieu’s of another nature as well. The Bird Man of Alcatraz, Mickey Cohen and all assortment of prisoners of a lesser celebrity of status lived here as well.

My Faith was nourished and tested in many ways throughout the 6 1/2 years that I served from 1971 until 1978. Nor was all my time spent in Springfield. I spent a year in Terre Haute, Indiana and 6 months in the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Throughout my criminal past I would include Ashland, KY., EL Reno, Oklahoma, Marion Prison, Stateville, Menard, Vandalia, Sheridan and St. Charles Boys school. And most notoriously, the Cook County Jail. Each place adding its own embeddedness of institutionalization and what ever other characterization it might hold.

It was from all this that God would change me, I added nothing to the effort other than to obey the lessons He taught. In the Ballad of Jack Thomson there was a slide of several of the volunteers. It was they and many others who filled the prison throughout those nights at Yokefellow meetings and Sunday Night Hymn Sings.’ There presence was invaluable it gave the place some civility it might not otherwise possess.

Mary was a volunteer and sang often in the church services, as an employee she worked in the Education Department’s Learning Center. It was here that I first met her and she told me that God could change my life. Over a few years we became friends and in my heart much more. But anything more was not pursued. It would be foolish on the one hand and frankly at that time a brother/sister in Christ was satisfying in itself.

It is difficult to be that celebrative in these times while our world is torn asunder on many fronts. I can only hope that what Mary said to me, that God could change my life, might also apply to the world with an equal outcome. The End

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