We ate breakfast, had a quick team meeting where we turned in one more letter for an alternate that had joined the group, then reentered the prison. Some of the guards looked at us like we were crazy to come into the prison, some seemed indifferent to us, but there was one guard who would check us in everyday, who was friendly, but distant. I wasn’t sure how he felt about us at the time, but I would learn.
As the brothers in white came in that morning, they were again greeted with cheers and I met Tony and George and took them to their assigned tables. I then went to my table (Table of Matthew) with the Table Leader, Robert, and the other Assistant Table Leader, Arlo. Robert is a quiet, well-spoken man who is a picture of quiet dignity. Arlo is an African-American with a quick smile, and the love of God exuding from everything he did and said. Before the Brothers in White arrived, we each prayed for the men that would be joining us on the table of Matthew. I prayed that God would reveal himself to them, and that they would find what they needed. I prayed that their walls would be torn down and that they would allow Jesus to enter their hearts.
We were then introduced to our Brothers in White who would also be part of the Family of Matthew. Wayne, was in his late thirties, a short, good looking African-American with piercing golden eyes that I found somehow familiar. He was quiet and reserved, though he seemed to be enjoying the experience. Next was Reyes. He was in his mid to late 30s, a Hispanic man with a regal bearing and slight build. He seemed very distrustful and wary of all of us. Next came a tall, good looking white fellow who I expected to be in his mid-20s though he was actually 32. He reminded me of my cousin Sonny Wayne, so I’ll call him Sonny. He had “sleeves” which were tattoos going from his elbows down to his wrists. He was very polite and seemed receptive to what was going on. Then Terry the Gamer joined us. He grinned at seeing me at his table. His grin seemed so familiar to me. Next came Jose, a small statured Hispanic male, with a tough demeanor and tattoos everywhere with full sleeves, and more on his neck and back. On the left side of his neck was a tattoo of an older gentleman. He was quiet and seemed distrustful at our first meeting. He sat directly on my right, while Wayne was on my left. Across the table we were joined by Gavin, the last pilgrim, a light-skinned African American in his late 20s. He had a quick smile and wore large glasses and he also seemed very familiar to me.
As we began the first talk and meditation, I couldn’t shake the sense of knowing Wayne, Terry and Gavin from somewhere. At the first break I asked Terry if he had played football, and he stated he had been starting left tackle at his high school and he gave me a funny look of expectation, that I didn’t quite understand. Robert asked him where he had played football, and he grinned, looking at me, “Hastings High School.” My mouth dropped open. This was how I knew Terry. He had been a student in my World History Resource class at Hastings High School in the mid 90s. He laughed, “You remember me now don’t you!” I nodded and grinned in shock, not quite believing this. Wayne and Gavin also looked perplexed and both admitted they had also attended Hastings High School. Wayne had attended from 91 to 93, and though I hadn’t taught him, I realized I had seen him before. Gavin laughed and said he had also gone to Hastings, and he too had been my student.
Now I ask you, what are the odds that in all the great state of Texas, in all the institutions, that I would be sitting at a table with 3 kids who went to the school I taught at, and two of which were actually my students? As a Christian I believe God set who would be at these tables, and this was proof I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. This knowledge unlocked so much between all of us, and soon we were sharing Hastings memories. I told Gavin I didn’t remember his name, but I remember him and that he had been a quiet, good student. He stated he had changed his name, but that his Christian name had been Tommy G________. I remembered that name well. I also remember Terry. He had been a true ADHD kid in my class. Always up and bouncing around the classroom, a class clown, who always got in trouble in most other classes but who had really loved history.
As I looked around the room I realized that all these men could have been my students. Every year we have a few kids who are difficult, who run with gangs, get involved with drugs, and who believe no one cares about them. As I thought about this, I began to cry. We must do all we can to save these kids, before they too have to come to this horrible place.
I was to go out of the prison and bring in the lunches. The big officer helped me bring it all in and get it into the prison. I realized he really was happy we were here, though he still spoke only a little to us.
We spent Friday discussing God’s love, Agape love, and choices. We prayed, meditated on individual truths, and shared much.
After noon they brought in a prayer chain with each paper circlet containing a name of a person who was praying for them this weekend. It went all the way around the room, probably 300 feet long. It made an impression on them, and us. I had never seen a prayer chain that long, it took about twenty men to bring it in, and hang it up around the room. I made sure to check in with George and Tony, and by the end of the day they were both smiling and enjoying themselves. I heard one of the brothers in white commenting, “I don’t even feel like this is prison. I feel like I’ve come home.”
That night Tracey joined us and she would work Friday night and all day Saturday on the outside team. She was also praying for an individual brother in white named Harold Z________.