Made WHole From Shame
Jesus Did It!
By: Richard Hole
How does a person who comes from a Christian home, who is active in his church, who believes firmly in God, come to a lifestyle of criminal behavior? Moreover, how does God work through a life filled with sin to bring that person back to the "fold"? My life is testimony to how deep into the pits of evil God will reach to rescue his child-gone-astray.
You will hate the crimes I committed and agree that a prison term was just. I regret making that necessity happen and acknowledge the harm, the hate, the distrust, and the devastation I caused in the lives of the victims of my crimes and their families. If the effects were limited to the actual crimes, they would rate serious judicial punishment and condemnation by God and society. However, those harmful effects became a part of those people's lives, continuing to touch them both in ways they notice and do not notice. My friends and associates suffered by their connections with me, yet many have remained true.
The title, "Made "Hole" From Shame", is a word-play on my last name. In a court of law, the witness is sworn to give "the whole truth." You will find "the whole truth" in God's word, the Bible. In this testimony, you will find my story of how God's truth has touched me. I am an Electrical Engineer by trade, with a scientifically oriented mind; but faith is not something that can be scientifically analyzed. It must be experienced. Looking at my journey from an emotional perspective has been both a difficult task and a joyful blessing. It is my prayer that you will find some of that joy and blessing in your own life.
The Blue Bicycle
I was in the second grade, seven years old. My big, blue bicycle was my prized possession. I had waited all winter long to ride it. Now springtime had finally arrived, and at last, my bicycle was brought out of storage. "Don't ride it to school," my parents told me.
A few mornings passed. It was a bright, sunny day. All the mud had dried in the roads, and I wanted so much to ride. The temptation grew. "It will be okay if I am careful, " I told myself. Off I went! I was wheeling down the streets, through the deep, steep gully, and on to school. It felt so good to be in control.
As I turned into the school parking lot, I suddenly crashed. I spilled onto the drive, and looked up dazed to see my bike broken in two'! "I'm really in trouble now," I sobbed, "and my bike is ruined. "I'd heard one of the church "grannies" teach, "Be sure your sin will find you out," (Numbers 32:23), (Numbers 32:23), and it was sure true. The big guys, fifth graders, looked on and laughed.
Teacher took me to the principal's office and helped me call home. I had to own-up to my disobedience and face my parents' anger. I felt like God was telling me: "Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:6-7 NIV)
Sin crouched at my door, and I had jumped aboard. "For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil - (Ecclesiastes 12:14 NIV) I knew the broken bike and scraped elbows were my judgement, but from my parents I got forgiveness and assurance. Wrecking my bike was a hard lesson. I hadn't mastered sin, but my parents' forgiveness and assurance helped teach me that "If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness " (I John 1:9).
Later years proved I hadn't thoroughly learned my lesson. As I grew up, I discovered another sort of "bicycle" to tempt me and keep my life spinning around instead of progressing onward. I picked up on the world's message: if it feels good, do it and rode the impure sex-bicycle. Others may ride their drug-bicycle, violence-bicycle, or some other sin-bicycle. I rode my sin-bicycle a long way until it, like the big, blue bicycle of my childhood, broke and spilled me out before the world. Once again, I "reaped what I had sown" (see Galatians 6:9), reaping destruction on the lives of others and myself. The world's sin-bicycle always ends up breaking on us sooner or later, and then the world looks on and laughs.
A few days after it broke, my Dad fixed that big, blue bicycle; and I rode it for years; but eventually it broke again. We can patch up our sin-bicycle, too, but be assured it will, soon enough, break again. We cannot depend on sin to get us through.
Get off that sin-bicycle of drugs, alcohol, impure sex, or whatever while you still can, before your life crashes around you. God provides us with alternative "transportation" that will never break, never let you down. Get on God's Word-bicycle, the Bible, and ride the path of faith that leads to Him, Eternal Life.
95% Scores An "A"
Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad's becoming a Christian. Before that, he used a lot of alcohol and tobacco. With God's help, he gained victory over them. We were proud of him.
I remember attending church services and Sunday School regularly. My sister and I like hearing Mom read Bible stories. Jesus was very real to me, at least as real as President Eisenhower whom I'd seen on TV. As a matter of course, I accepted the Bible as a book of facts.
When I was eight years old, my church sponsored a traveling evangelist. I was fascinated by that wise man who taught me I was a sinner against God; but God loved me and wanted to forgive me. He wanted not only to be God but also to be my own personal God. I couldn't pay the price for even the littlest of my sins, so He came to earth as the man named Jesus and died on the cross to pay my penalty. "For God so loved (Rick) through him might be saved." (John 3:16-17). (Rick) through him might be saved." (John 3:16-17). However, just knowing those facts was not enough. Anybody can know them: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). The Evangelist explained the difference between knowing God and trusting Him as my Savior and Lord. He invited me to add faith to my knowledge, and I asked Jesus into my life. As my Lord, He would be at the center of my life. He would lead; I would follow.
I made my public profession of faith and was baptized. I took my salvation seriously, learning my Bible lessons, going to Bible Club after school, and attending Vacation Bible School in the summers. I preached many sermons to a congregation of stuffed animals and my sister's dolls, held vacation Bible school for the kids in the neighborhood, and played special music for my home church and a country mission church. Summer church camps after sixth and seventh grades were spiritual high points in my young life.
I tried hard to obey what I knew God wanted from me. Most of the time I was a good Christian young man, and when I sinned I was sorry, confessed the sin to God, and sought forgiveness. I figured God could hardly expect me to be perfect. At school I always got good grades, and I didn't have to score 100 % to get an "A. " God would accept me less than perfect and forgive the rest.
At age ten, my new baby sister began a five-year long series of intense medical treatments and surgeries, which corrected a birth defect. The level of care took a toll on my family and left my other sister and me with increasing responsibilities. I reasoned that older kids had to sacrifice things like Bible story time for baby sister. I began to put more attention into schoolwork and less into Bible lessons. I outgrew my stuffed parishioners- no more preaching for me.
As a teenager, I went through the rapid physical changes and emotional confusion with added independence. I couldn't bother Mom with my concerns. She was doing overtime duty as my baby sister's nurse and physical therapist. Dad's new job as high school janitor kept him away in the evenings, so I'd often stay after school emptying wastebaskets with him. Looking back at it now, he and I grew closer during those years. He was a Scout leader in my troop and followed my interests into CB and amateur radio. There were questions I didn't know how to ask, and I felt emotionally disconnected.
My solution was to learn how to depend less on my emotional needs and satisfy myself with intellectual accomplishments. My spiritual life became more and more Sunday-centered. With the whole nation in the 1960's in a scientific explosion, with science based on experimentation, I found myself experimenting with new stimulations and enjoying the self-discovery. I knew it wasn't Gods best for me, but I didn't believe I'd "go blind" either! I'd still score 95%, and God would forgive the rest.
I discovered pornography at that same time- just a few torn-out pages, but oh, so exciting. I wanted what I saw but didn't have a clue how the social steps toward it worked. My pornography problem lasted many years; it was always small in amount but large in effect and fed my increasingly warped moral values.
I earned a scholarship to college; what a culture shock that was! I really had the independence that I only thought I had earlier. It was up to me to set my daily routine, choose the friends and activities that suited me, and set my path for the future. I was proud of my choices: I kept even better grades than high school, stayed clear of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, and got involved in community service. It was my "default" choice to attend church. I tried one several times, but they insisted I do usher duty. I felt too shy to greet a church filled with people I didn't know, and I faded away. Next, I tried a small chapel focused on the college community. I was assigned to a class for people seeking salvation. My profession of faith was ignored. I tired of the same call-to-salvation lesson each week, and the next year I did not return. On vacations back home I attended church, but away from home, I became a "solo" Christian.
My shyness with girls in high school was hardly noticeable since engineering school had less than 100 females and 5,000 men. My social group included several coeds, and I enjoyed their company without having personal involvement.
For community service, I was a volunteer at an orphanage next door to the campus. I "inherited" the little brother I wanted so badly as a boy when Mom lost several pregnancies. It was a large responsibility: a group of kids who saw me as kind, fun, and caring. I saw it as a mission, doing the Lord's work. As for the pornography and fantasies, well, I still figured I still scored 95%; and please, God, forgive the rest.
In my third college year the boy assigned to me was able to return to his mother. My roommate was working with a boy from a broken home, and I began helping there. I became interested in a secret society-lodge and began the process of becoming a member. This group taught sound, moral values but made good conduct the prime factor in salvation. Hold on! The Bible says, "For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. - Not of works, lest any man should boast, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them " (Ephesians 2:8-10). I rejected that works-based salvation, knowing nobody could ever make it that way. I had many good works, at least 95%, and that's an "A" grade anywhere.
From my lodge experience, I learned how to keep a secret and how to quietly encourage others to keep secrets. I figured how to do it without ever mentioning to them they had been given secrets. I must have missed this verse: "The thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light" (Job 28:11).
I was a long way from my 95% when I reached back into my past and replayed an impure, sinful, sexual activity I'd had several times as a youth. Society might have excused it at that earlier time as childhood curiosity, but this time there was an adult involved, which was me. I lied to myself that all kids do it, and that meant no harm was done. Confessing it to God with a firm promise I'd never do it again gave me false reassurance that I could go forward in my Christian walk.
I graduated as an Electrical Engineer and joined the work force. My new lifestyle was great! I supported myself well and began taking flying lessons. The local airport was the home base for a missionary aviation school, and I got to know the missionary pilot trainees. We'd have Christian fellowship, talk about the Bible and related books; and they encouraged me to consider missionary aviation as a calling. I had always been fascinated by missions; it seemed like a reasonable possibility.
Satan must have heard my options. "You can't do it, they only take married couples and you're socially retarded.
I gradually came to accept his accusation. I put "salve" on the wound by taking a share of support in my mechanic's ministry in Africa. I was recruited as a Sunday School teacher, sang in the choir, and helped with accompaniment and leading the youth choir. I took the goal of reading the Bible through, cover to cover, but got bogged down with the book of Job. Maybe I could overwhelm my sin with church activities.
Over the next ten years, I made cycles of yielding to my besetting sexual sin and then turning my back away from it, but it was a downward spiral. I got better at putting a false front forward and well-meaning, unsuspecting people would present potential victims or youth group leadership to me. I dated several young women; and even as I learned that I was not socially retarded, just socially inexperienced, I could hear the evil one whisper, "You can't let yourself get involved; you'll expose your evil self. She will reject you, and you'll have nothing left. It will be hell." Yes, hell was exactly what he had in mind for me.
I took a second job helping a friend into the electronics servicing and supplies business. I reasoned that adding 30 hours a week to my work schedule would keep me too busy for my perverted pleasures. Many times, I prayed asking God to take away the temptations. I limited my church activities to adult choir and evangelism training. After two years of clean living, I got proud of my self-control and promptly backslid with another offense and another victim.
I was offered a new and exciting job as Assistant Professor of Electronics Technology. Not only was the opportunity appealing, it would give me a change of environment. It seemed wise to FLEE from my problems. I had a long commute the first year, rented a house in the woods the second year, and bought it the third. I had put myself away from temptation and had a chance to reform my life.
The Accuser, Satan, had other plans, and once again, I was in the company of people with youngsters who gradually came to be comfortable around me and depend on me as an adult friend. After months of their visiting in my home, I struck again with serious sexual behavior. I wouldn't let myself consider it as assaults or molesting, concentrating instead on the apparent enthusiasm of those curious kids. I exposed them to my sexual addiction, and they caught it as surely as if it were an infection. I should have paid attention when God said, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Fleeing from the devil only allowed the devil to resist me. One cannot live a scrambled Bible verse and succeed.
What if I am ever accused? I thought I was so clever in choosing victims (I would never have called them that) it would never happen. If it turned sour, they'd tip me off, and I would end my life. The 5% I freely allowed myself had become a malignant cancer, claiming my whole existence.
The day was April 30, 1984. The weather was odd - a massive windstorm was sweeping through West Michigan. Many electrical power lines were down and thousands of homes were darkened. The wind howled ominously as I left my house for work.
When I returned to my office after lunch, there was a note on my desk to contact the Dean's office. I made a quick trip to the ground floor office and was told I was needed at Campus Security as soon as I could get free. I figured it must be hockey booster club business and drove across campus,
My past had caught up to me. "The Michigan State Police have a warrant for your arrest. Will you wait here until they arrive?" A short time later, I was in a squad car and taken back to my home where a search was in progress. While I was away, power had failed. The place was dark and cold. The police had broken the window in the kitchen door, and that symbolized my whole life, shattered in an instant. The evil I had unleashed behind that door had leapt out for all to see, and now it waited to consume me. I knew I was totally alone in the world; my friends would certainly dump me. My family had the most reason of all to hate me. There was no future for me.
"I need to go out with a clean conscience," I thought as I began to give a full, lifelong confession. The detective promised me a two-year sentence for cooperating. I didn't pay much attention to that; I knew my end was only hours away. I had cash to post bond, but the storm had put all the bank computers down so it couldn't be accessed. So I spent the night in a cell where Satan had still another pitchfork jab for me: on a small TV the three inmates sharing my cell watched a movie about a child molester who was tortured and murdered in prison. They cheered for the violence. If they find out what I am charged with...
The next day my lawyer contacted my parents and asked them to come to the county jail. I knew I had to do the right thing and face them with the truth, telling them what I had done. We were on opposite sides of a glass partition when I said the awful words. I saw Dad's eyes roll up as he collapsed onto the floor. I couldn't watch as the paramedics arrived. God spoke to me: "He has fainted, he will not die." He was revived, and the visit was over.
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10 NIV)
I saw where my 95% really was - I hit about 95% of that list of horrible sins. It was despair beyond despair. Maybe God could somehow forgive me; I could no longer forgive myself. Later that day I was released on bail and headed home for the final exit.
Mom arrived a few minutes later, perceptive to my mental state, and insisted: "We're closing this house down and you are coming home with us." They helped me find a Christian therapist; and I was able to spill the rottenness of my life out and begin the long, slow process of healing. That last Bible passage was bleak and hopeless without the very next verse: "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified [set apart as holy], you were justified [pardoned from sin] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. " (Verse 11).
My sins were not beyond God's power to forgive or His power to cleanse, and He showed me that abundantly.
Why Isn't 95% Good Enough?
And, The Secret to Success
I'm baking an apple pie using 20 apples. They are all fresh except one. 95% fresh, and only 5% rotten. Will you join me for dessert?
Listen to that symphony orchestra play. 95% of the instruments are playing the same song. What an awful racket!
On the freeway tonight, 95% of the cars are traveling in the correct direction. Will you postpone your trip?
The soldiers defending a country are 95% committed to obeying orders. What happens in time of war?
If Elvis sang only 95% in tune, you'd say, "Elvis, who?"
If an airline pilot is committed to sobriety 95% of the time, let's cash in our tickets!
Your doctor says, "I'm pleased to inform you that your body is 95% cancer free." You'd be devastated.
And now, the secret to love, power, success, and great financial [editor's note: Only 95% of this article is available. The last 5% is missing. Our apologies for the inconvenience.]
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22,23).
After my arrest and suicidal despair were past, I had a much different life. My parent's church was constructing their own building and hired me as a laborer. The heavy, physical work was therapeutic. When I began seeing a young lady, I knew I soon had to take the risk of telling her my past and the outlook for my future. She surprised me with a relationship that rapidly became serious. As summer turned into fall and the legal process continued, hope faded that charges would be reduced and prison avoided. My lawyer scored my sentencing guideline sheet at two to five years. The prosecutor scored it as six to ten.
As my faith grew stronger, I began to learn that God still had a purpose for my life, messed up as it was; and He would protect me even in prison. I could even look past it and see something good afterward. Could I ask Melanie to wait that long? I'd be gone for several years, ten at most. No, she was not willing to wait as my girlfriend. Therefore, we had a whirlwind courtship. The very first service in the still-under-construction church building was our marriage.
Eight months since my arrest rolled by all too quickly, and the sentencing date arrived. I reported to the courthouse, knowing I would leave in custody. The sentence was far beyond anything I had imagined - over three times the prosecutor's guideline score. The next day I was transported to the largest walled prison in the world. It was a world of its own, and I was in total culture shock. Much of what I heard was in a foreign language of inmate jargon. Two inmates "rushed" my cell when the doors were opened and threatened my life. Several weeks later officers told me I would be moved "inside the walls" for my permanent home. Facing open yards where fights occurred daily, stabbings were common, and death not unusual brought back my despair. Just before I would be moved, I received a letter from a public Official who had interceded for my family and arranged my transfer to a prison in Ionia, Michigan, a former mental hospital used for inmates with extreme mental disturbances. For those in the general population unit, where I would be, it was rumored to be quite livable and safe. However, I had to wait for an opening.
I spent a night in the prison hospital unit where a very disturbed neighbor ranted. In a calmer moment he turned his radio to a Christian station. "Do you like this kind of music?" he asked. It was my favorite Christian station, and he turned up the volume. God had sent me a message of peace and comfort in a very lonely place. "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. " (Joshua 1:5).
When I reached the Ionia prison only a few days later, Christian inmates greeted me. An African-American man, Quincy, gave me my basic training in prison life, and helped me get on the list for church and Prison Fellowship where we had first-rate Bible lessons by a master teacher. Each day I read at least 25 chapters in my Bible. I read it more than three times that first year. Even the book of Job began to make sense! I made small cards with verses to memorize and carried them to study while walking around the yard and working as a janitor in the prison infirmary.
I had a lot of contact with my wife and parents- regular visits, letters, phone calls. After the first year, our church organist went home, and I was asked to replace him. I was allowed to buy a small music keyboard and doing time got a little easier. A year later we had a change in chaplains and gained an experienced priest, Fr. Harold Feltman. Soon afterward he asked me to work as his clerk, and that job opened opportunities to help minister - in the psychiatric and protection units, teaching Bible classes, interacting with volunteers coming into the prison, running the chapel library, and often counseling with fellow inmates who stopped by the office.
I enrolled in Bible correspondence courses, working through simple studies and into college work. I was the first inmate to complete the graduate diploma course offered by Columbia Bible School. I had a part in placing thousands of Bibles in the hands of young inmates during their first few weeks in "quarantine" where it was not unusual to have twenty new decisions to accept Christ each week. I even preached a few sermons.
The prison newspaper gave me the opportunity to write a series of articles for the religion page. Those were later compiled into a booklet given to newly arrived inmates and others on the "outside. "
My cell was a room in the Honor Block where inmates with excellent behavior and job performance were housed. We had some extra privileges in that 39 room wing, like electrical power 24 hours a day. We carried keys to our rooms, which were lockable only from the hallway. There was never enough money in the budget to change the lock system left over from the former mental hospital days, so we slept behind unlocked doors.
One summer morning at 3 AM, I awoke with a start. I felt a mouse running across my leg. My eyes were bleary, but I immediately saw it was no rodent. Squatting near the foot of my bed was a large, muscular man, his arm flinching away from my sheet! My adrenaline was pumping. Was he carrying a weapon? There was no time to know. Whatever was going to happen, I needed backup; and noise was the way to get it. I managed to wake the other 37 neighbors and startle the attacker into a slinking retreat. Christian brothers came to make sure I was unharmed and assured me my door would be watched. The next day I was summoned to the Inspector's office and shown a stack of over twenty statements by witnesses. Several previous victims came forward, and the man was quickly moved to a different prison. I believe there was an angel in my room that night, and the message to make noise instead of fighting was from God.
My home church choir was allowed to conduct church several times; and by very special arrangement, I was able to worship with my wife. One time, my parents and younger sister were allowed in. Prior to 1990, once a year the Jaycees held a banquet. Having a real, quality meal with your wife is special beyond imagination, and we relished our time together.
Our prison church fellowship suffered a major setback when a major media preacher's ministry fell. The sexual and financial allegations against him hit us all - as Christians, we were considered guilty by association. Witnessing opportunities dwindled. We quickly lost 2/3 of our regular attendance. Many of those left began disguising their Bibles when carrying them across the yard. I felt betrayed by this man and angry that Satan found such success in his failure. Yet I knew his sins, even if the allegations were true, were minor compared to mine. Many people suffered by their associations with me.
A few months later, a second media minister, one who loudly condemned the first, also fell into similar allegations. Church attendance dropped to five men. I was tempted to join the in-hiding Christians and lost respect for the denomination and system of faith they shared.
I still had things to learn. I spent too much time hoping for a way to restore my old job and life, as if I could go back to it and omit only my sexual perversion. I shared my faith in God with faith in the legal system to overturn the length of my sentence and shorten it to what I thought was just. I didn't know enough about relationships and how to keep my wife fulfilled while I couldn't be with her. We thought we could beat the statistic of 95% marriage failure of inmates within five years.
I always did have trouble with 5% remnants. I figured that decreasing the distance between us would help. A new prison was opening only 25 miles from home, and I applied for a transfer. New surroundings and easier travel would help us draw closer.
Just before Fr. Feltman retired, he invited three inmates for parting comments and fellowship. He told us how much the example of our Christian walk had meant to him and of the growth in his own Christian life. What a special time that was! He set the example of overcoming addiction with God's help; and his counsel and encouragement (though our addictions differ) is still, many years later, an important influence in my life.
I waited through the winter for my transfer, and it looked less and less likely to happen. With the chaplain position vacant, I had little work to do on weekdays. I wondered if I made the right decision the previous year when I was offered a waiver to lower security and a transfer to the brand new Brooks prison in Muskegon. I turned that down, trusting God to answer our prayer for the prison closer to home.
My friend Kent's room was across the hall from mine. We spent a lot of time together in fellowship, and I typed all his appeal papers. He was injured on the job with a separated shoulder and was in a lot of pain. The officer in charge of the unit asked me to look out for him - help him put on his brace, and do any lifting or moving for him.
As a favor to Kent, I stood at his door watching TV. The officer on duty came down the hall accusing me of being inside that room, a rule violation. It was true; I'd been in that room often, not realizing the permission for it had not been communicated to this officer. To make matters worse, the first officer left on vacation and was not available to confirm the permission. I later learned the second officer wrote seven other major rule infractions that week - far more than a normal year would see on the Honor Block. The prison administration asked her to withdraw the violations, but she refused. Two days later my transfer came through, prayers answered. It is amazing how God uses circumstances in ways we cannot imagine.
I had the blessing of moving along with a good friend. At the new prison, an Assistant Deputy Warden who previously worked at the Ionia prison saw me that first day and gave me a clerk job with access to a computer. The visiting area was large and clean, and we could buy food. There was even an outdoor visiting area! Things were looking up. Blessings overflowed.
Appealing the length of my sentence was a many-step process and took five years. Each step looked very promising only to meet with defeat. I was looking at one last chance in the U.S. Supreme Court. Winning would soon open the gates, and I'd be home with my wife Melanie. Her letter came with a card quoting Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you, " (NKJV) as her personal message to me. When she arrived for a visit the next day, she told me she wouldn't be coming for awhile and I would soon hear from her lawyer. I wrote a series of heart-tearing, gutwrenching letters, trying to work through my confusion and to see if we could find our path again; but I couldn't hold on to her, and I had to accept it. The divorce proceedings took only a few weeks. The very day I got the judgment in the mail, I also received notice from the Supreme Court denying my appeal. At ten o'clock that same evening an officer handed me a green duffel bag with an order to pack up for transfer to another prison.
I took all this together as a spiritual defeat. Marriage, I assumed, was part of God's plan to deliver me from sexual bondage, and it was over. I had prayed, prepared, and praised this transfer for two years and featured this answered prayer in my testimony. Can I depend on God, or does He let life play games with me? I prayed to get there, thanked God for taking me there, but didn't think to pray to stay there!
Having my life blow up in my face was no longer a new experience, but I was still in the shock of despair. The next morning I was on a bus and had an overnight layover at Ionia. This time it was different; I was locked in a bare cell. A guard walked by, looked through the door, and unlocked it. I knew him well. We feared this guard; he would set you up in a minute and was very tough on rule enforcement, though I had never suffered an incident with him. Could this be the same man I knew? He was speaking words of comfort as I told him my troubles. He quoted the Bible like a preacher and stayed a full hour ministering to me until I could begin to rejoice and remember that God had never left nor forsaken me.
The next day I traveled the five-hour, fifty-mile bus trip to Muskegon. It was May 10, 1990, and the bus sat in the sally port waiting for count to clear so they could drop me off. It was snowing! I was taken to the high-security unit; my escort officer heard my displeasure about that. I had earned medium security and was in no mood to be cheated out of it. "Oops, it's a mistake," we were told; and he pointed my way, unescorted, to the correct building. The officer there wouldn't hear of my lack of appetite and encouraged me to go to lunch. It was a new prison and the food was still first-rate: a big mushroom-onion-hamburger to top any regular prison meal I'd seen. When I got back, he'd issue me my room key. That brightened my spirit; I wouldn't have to live in a big dormitory waiting for a coveted room.
On the way back from lunch, I met a man who offered me his handshake and said, "My name is Al. You're a Christian, aren't you? So am I. Can I help get you signed up for church?" Another man, Steve took me to the library and showed me around the compound. I gained two good friends that first afternoon and landed in a very active church. Prison Fellowship brought weekly studies and weekend seminars twice a year.
When I called my parents, they reminded me I was only a few miles from my hometown, Newaygo, Michigan; and friends would visit me more often. My Dad was a few months from retirement, and they had longed to retire back home. My move made that decision easy for them.
A few weeks later I began working as a teacher-aide in the Special Education classroom, making twice the amount I earned before: $3 a day.
I had a major disappointment in that move. Different prisons have differing standards for personal property, and at that one, my music keyboard was too large. God did not grant my prayers to return it to me, but let me improve my piano skills. After a couple of years, I found just the right model to replace it and ended up with a far better system. I recorded several cassette tapes and sent them home. Copies ended up around the country and overseas. Having a witness outside prison gave me increased hope for my future.
A new vocational training course, electronics, opened; and I was given the teacher aide job. This was the number one ideal job for me. I was back in the field in which I trained, keeping up to date and learning more.
I joined the garden club and learned how to tend a vegetable garden. Harvest was a blessing, and at the end of the season, we'd cook a banquet meal. I joined Sex Addicts Anonymous, based on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and found I was far from alone in my recovery process.
In the Christian world outside the prison, the Promise Keeper movement was growing. We asked to have PK in prison. Volunteers came forward to bring videotapes, music, and fellowship. We focused on making our Christian life real, every day.
A new volunteer, a professional musician, brought us a much expanded music program. I enjoyed not only a challenging choir, but I also had regular practice with a trombone. She encouraged me to try the clarinet; I hadn't played one for 35 years. In a few sessions, I had moved beyond my earlier skills. Playing musical instruments took me, mentally, away from prison and added variety to our church services.
I moved to a different room. My new roommate, Dennis, was a Christian African-American, one of my electronics students; and we had great fellowship. We spent six months reading aloud the Bible book of Revelation and a commentary explaining it. As he was preparing to go home, I was getting ready to move to minimum security. I requested a special prison concentrating on sex offender treatment with an expanded program of group therapy and self-help groups.
I'll never forget my last day at Brooks prison. My boss for six years asked the Food Technology class tutors to
prepare a special lunch for me. There was a lot of joy in that meal, as well as sadness knowing such an important part of my life was ending. "Would you like an ice cream float for dessert?" All they had was vanilla ice cream and Vernor's ginger ale. I didn't need an apology for that- it's my favorite combination! At the end of the shift, my boss shook my hand and wished me well. No words came to me; I was choked up.
I walked around the yard that afternoon. It seemed like everybody knew I was leaving. I got scores of handshakes and hugs saying goodbye to my friends, One fellow made a special point to apologize for an offense I'd long since forgotten.
The next morning I moved, just across the street, as requested. After checking in and finding I wouldn't get my belongings that day, I explored the large yard. A Christian friend loaned me cosmetics to get me by. It reminded me of attending a class reunion. There must have been a hundred men greeting me, mostly previous acquaintances, and I made new friends quickly. It was a relaxed environment where sex offenders did not hide their crimes; in fact, recovery issues were openly discussed anywhere on the compound.
I visited the chapel that first evening. It was provided by donations from area churches, businesses, and individuals, and constructed by volunteers and inmates. While at Brooks, I had helped produce the blueprints with a computer-drafting program, so I felt even more at home to be there. The building was open all day, every day, with a variety of services, Bible studies, chapel library, and Promise Keeper small groups. The Greek language study group was a treat, and I learned faster than studying on my own.
The chaplain had worked for several years at Brooks; and after her move to this prison, we had kept in touch when chapel electronic equipment needed repair. So, my reputation had preceded me. I was soon sharing music accompaniment duties and learning a new set of songs. There were so many things to do I had to pass some up.
My new roommate was a challenge. One of his first comments was to hope I wasn't going to be a "Bible basher." He was quite hostile to anything relating to the church - he would be a witnessing challenge. His large size and a bad slip in an icy sidewalk put him in bed for a month. He needed help getting to the restroom, and it was my opportunity to serve him by heating his meals, washing dishes, and making hot compresses six times a day. Knowing that Jesus said, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." (John 13:14,15) We developed a strong bond of friendship. I began to suspect his problem with God was really a discomfort with church and the actions of sinning Christians. Shortly before he went home, he gave a clear statement of faith.
Group therapy was a long and gut-wrenching experience: fourteen months of weekly sessions, with reading and homework assignments. How can I put the humanistic approach alongside my faith without compromise? Working to appreciate the impact of my crimes on not only victims but also others improved my insight. Their lives were cruelly impacted just as extensively as mine. There is no easy confession and instant forgiveness that will erase the damage I did. The consequences remain: "Be not deceived. God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Galatians 6:8,9)
Unless my change in heart is equally accompanied by a change in behavior and thoughts, I will continue like too many other Christ-believing abusers. Re-visiting those old sin-laden fantasies was painful, and I had to fight the battle against them again but with new insight and empathy. Because I steadfastly rejected their urgings to adopt an alternative lifestyle I knew to be sinful, I was persecuted for being narrow-minded. But it's a narrow path leading to God. "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:13,14).
For several years, I had received the Sunday School Guide publication from my parents' church. I began writing some responses to the questions to send to that Senior Adult class. Knowing that my efforts were welcomed, that encouraged me to study harder. With the minimum time of my sentence nearing completion, I expect the chance to return home in the near future; and having contact with Christians outside the prison is good preparation.
My final assignment for group therapy was to write a Relapse Prevention Plan, giving specifics how I will avoid risky behaviors and situations, how I will recognize early symptoms, and what plans I have for my first years after prison. While preparing for that, I reviewed notes I took during my first year of prison. I found several pages titled "My Personal Objectives." It was a list of big wishes for a job teaching electronics, expanding my computer skills, taking Bible correspondence courses, learning a foreign language, working every day for God, and other items. I remembered praying over that list, and almost every item has been filled in a bigger and better way than I could hope
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that worketh within us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
It has been 15 years since my arrest, and my journey with God has hardly begun. God's faithfulness has been full and great.
A Victim or a Survivor
I had reached the halfway point of my minimum sentence. My prison life had reached a stable plateau - I was past the shock of divorce, resigned to the length of my sentence, and settled into a good job. I graduated from my Bible correspondence course and was comfortably active in the prison church ministry team. It was a time when I did not expect life to throw me a surprise.
Prison Fellowship sponsored a weekend seminar entitled "Loving Others," which was taught by a team led by a former inmate, Dennis Tinsman. I took to Dennis right away. He communicated his topic well, but his message was carried even more powerfully by his obvious love for God and for us inmates.
Dennis' testimony hit me uncomfortably close to home: as a young boy a youth group leader molested him. I could see he had worked past anger, bitterness, and hate for that offender, and I strongly desired to ask him about that journey. However, it would be dishonest to ask such a question without revealing that I did the same as the man who molested him. Dennis emphasized: "I am a survivor." How does a victim overcome being molested? I had left such a trail of victims in my abusing and hoped they could, somehow, be survivors like Dennis.
I took the risk, spoke to Dennis privately, told him my background, and gained a friend. I could see he had learned well how to let God's forgiveness flow through him rather than try to generate that human forgiveness that is weak and fluttery at best.
Several weeks later I was waiting for an expected visit from my parents. They were long overdue, and that was cause for alarm. It took five hours waiting for a telephone to check. Was there an emergency?
It was late when I made contact. They postponed the visit because of a phone call from "Vic," a relative whom I had molested and am serving time as punishment. That week he would turn 18 years old, and he wanted to come and visit me. They guessed I would be willing to see him and arranged to meet him at the prison to escort him through the complexities thrust upon visitors.
I had two very sleepless nights and a thousand conversations in my mind that week. Was he coming to vent anger? Would I be able to look him in the eye? I hoped I could graciously take whatever he had to say and assure him that he did the right thing disclosing my abuse.
On the appointed day, as I sat in the visiting room waiting, my nerves were in a knot. My stomach was churning. Could I keep from becoming sick right there in the visiting room? I didn't know if I was facing a Christmas morning or a firing squad.
The door opened and "Vic" stepped inside. I saw his ear-to-ear smile as he approached. My parents stayed a few minutes then left us to spend a couple hours getting reacquainted. He was about to graduate at the top of his high school class with a scholarship to a top-rate Christian college. We discussed my crimes and how he dealt with the after-effects. In his teen years, he lost several opportunities for educational travel because his parents needed to protect him from other potential predators. I wanted to make sure he understood I held nothing against him. He did not put me in prison; I did that myself. If I hadn't been stopped, I would have done even worse damage. He was the victim, and the responsibility was all mine. He wanted to know about my life in prison. I exploded misconceptions about prison life; movies and media exaggerate the violent and bizarre. The reality is endless boredom punctuated by an occasional interesting moment. Time is at a surplus, but I learned to keep busy and useful. The meeting was a blessing, I think, for both of us. He seemed to have a solid foundation spiritually, academically, and socially.
I learned something that day about forgiveness. Something I couldn't learn by reading or talking about it. Not a lip service of forgiveness, not a gentlemen's agreement to overlook an offense, not even something that can be expressed in words. Forgiveness was a presence, a life attitude, not forgetting but choosing to overcome. When Jesus says, "I forgive you," it must be that sort of forgiveness. I put Jesus on that cross with my sins. He would have suffered the same if I had been the only sinner ever. He took that pain and overcame it.
I think that "Vic" has rejected being a victim and has chosen to be a survivor. He is not "Vic the Victim, "but" Vic the Victor."
That was six years ago. I haven't heard from "Vic" since that visit and accept that as healthier for both of us. I wonder about him and the other victims. Are they victims or survivors? Have they overcome the trail of damage I left in their lives (damage that didn't end when I was arrested but continues to affect their lives even now) or does it haunt and debilitate them? I may never know those answers. What about me? Am I a victim or a survivor? I don't have to remain a victim of my own past. I can, with God's help, gain the victory of a survivor.
"But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. " (Ezekiel 18:21).
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. " (Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV)
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21 NIV)
Do you ever feel there is something lacking in your life that God is not supplying something you need - you have a "thirst" for something God has not let you have? Maybe it's some form of Christian service you feel led to do, but God has not cleared roadblocks away. "What is happening, Father God? I feel your call to serve You, but something constrains me. Why are you denying me your calling'? "
I remember back when I was a young boy. My family had a dog, a German Shepherd. He was strong, loyal, and protective. An outdoor dog, he refused to live indoors, preferring our backyard; and from there, he commanded his own little world.
However, he wasn't entirely happy in his task; his bounds were too small for his desires. If he could just get a little farther than his chain would let him, he would have a fulfilled life, better serving his human family. So he stretched and tugged, pulled and strained. Little by little he'd wear down his chain until he could snap free.
He'd roam the neighborhood with his head held high and a doggy-grin on his face. His kingdom was now big and he was in charge. Sometimes he'd complete his tour and come back home. Other times, we'd notice him gone and send out a search party to find him and bring him back, oftentimes against his will.
We'd make his bounds tighter, his chain heavier. His freedom was restricted, and he yearned again for his larger view of serving his master. He must have thought, "I need to go out farther. I can protect my people better, and everyone will know how important they are."
We knew something our dog did not: his bounds were not set to punish him; heavier chains were not to increase his misery. They were there to protect him. The larger task he sought was dangerous for him and beyond his ability. It just wasn't what we called him to do. The chain set safe limits for him and helped him to do his job. We could not truly love him without providing that restriction.
God reigns over us as our king, and just as we set limits for our dog, so God sets limits for us. Those restrictions protect us from the evils of the world, which we are unable to handle. We have a natural desire of the flesh to stretch those bounds and break them when we can find some reason to make it seem right. We like to use spiritual reasons to stretch those bounds: I'm doing this in order to have witnessing opportunities, to bring God's glory to more people. We thirst after larger opportunities to show that God takes care of his people.
When we strive to enter areas beyond where we are called, to be in places too dangerous for us to handle, or to do what another is called to do, we act like my dog. Even with all his best intentions, he was misdirected. What he thought was a right and just desire was really his lust and greed trying to clothe itself with the illusion of worthy service.
Even King David, the great Bible king of Israel who slew the giant, Goliath, and conquered the Philistines felt constrained by God. When he wanted to build God a temple, God's message was, "Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in" (I Chronicles 17:4). That task would go to David's son Solomon. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul tried "to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not" (Acts 16:7). God had another task in mind for him.
When we feel closed doors to Christian opportunity, thwarted efforts, or stunted prayers, we need to examine the broader perspective. Are our desires at their deep-down roots based on greed, lust, power seeking, or self-centeredness? Much ministry related opposition attributed to Satan's forces is really our own stretching against the bounds God places on us for our own good. We need to clean up our own motives and be sure when we stretch it is upward and Godward, not outward and downward!
Years ago, while I was active in a community summer band program, I saw a newspaper classified ad for a trombone. At first, I was skeptical because the price was lower than I expected. I answered the ad and made an appointment to take a look. When I first saw the horn, it really wasn't a pretty sight. The brass was dull and corroded, and the nickel plating was worn away.
I could see it had promise. The slide and valve worked well, and it had a nice tone. I paid the man and brought the trombone home. My efforts at scrubbing and polishing could not clean it up. I could only make a shiny coating over something unacceptable underneath.
I had to send that trombone to a master craftsman, an expert who knew how to clean off all the ugly spots, how to apply a bright, lacquer finish, and just how much nickel plating to use to restore the silvered areas.
I tried the same approach with myself. I tried scrubbing my ugly sins, covering them with the shiny polish of good works, and hoping people around me wouldn't detect my faulty habits; but it didn't work. Those ugly sins kept returning to the surface. I needed to put myself fully into the hands of the Master Craftsman, Jesus. He is the expert at getting rid of bad spots, preparing a truly clean surface. He knows how to re-plate, polish, and restore me to the way he desires.
I had to pay the master craftsman to finish my trombone; but the work of the Master Craftsman, Jesus, in my life was his free gift to me. He paid the price on the cross where He died. The things I failed at on my own are victories through his power.
It's Up to You
Your sins may not be as large or as many as mine. Maybe they are the same or even worse. God wants you to hear the same message that evangelist taught me more than 40 years ago. He wants you to tell Him something like this:
"You are God, and I have sinned against You. I have done evil, I've spoken evil, and I've thought evil thoughts. I failed to obey You, and I only deserve your anger and punishment; but You sent your son Jesus to pay for my sins by dying on the cross. I ask your forgiveness and claim your promise to forgive because I ask in faith. You are my Lord. I give my life to You as my King and my Savior. Thank you for coming into my life. Amen. "
When you truly mean that, you become God's child: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12 NKJV). It's not an empty hope: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" (I John 5:13).
Won't you join God's family today?
A Word From the Author
I would be happy to hear your comments, concerns, or questions though the nature of my past disqualifies me from corresponding with those people under age 18. You may contact me at:
E-mail sent to the following address will be forwarded to me: email@example.com
Thanks for reading my testimony,
Richard Hole ("Rick")
PLEASE HELP SHARE THE BEST NEWS GOD HAS FOR EVERY PERSON!
"And this gospel of the
kingdom [Jesus died for sinners]
shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then
shall the end come." (Quote from
Jesus Himself: Matthew 24:14).
Consider how many children in "all the nations" have never heard YET what Jesus accomplished for THEM at the cross? PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS TO THE LITTLE CHILDREN!
To help us share the Best News every person needs to hear on this planet, randomly click FOR JESUS on just three (3) of the JESUS DID IT! links below. It will take just a few moments of your time. Please - thatís all you are asked to do. God will reward you! (Of course, be highly encouraged to forward one or more of these video clips to those who may have never heard what Jesus did for them on the cross ... or may need to be re-reminded).
JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT!
JESUS DID IT! - or - JESUS DID IT!
(Please paste one of the above links onto your Facebook page - website - blog - video; etc.)
Let God Use Your Salvation Testimony!
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Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you ... please don't make such a tragic mistake.
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