Archive for September, 2008

From Francisco

Receiving a letter from prison is not something I get in the mail everyday.  However, Francisco responded to my letter to the judge and it was a real encouragement.  

It’s cheaper for him to send several letters together and I wanted to share the following.

This is a letter to the church by Franscisco de los Santos.  (I have not tried to change any spelling or grammatical errors)

Dear Brothers.

Yesterday we had Bible study and we were talking about the fruits of the spirit and how when we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  We are Bless By feeling all his fruits.  Well last year when I deside to leave to Mexico I had This weird feeling of emptyness that I couldn’t explain ever since I left.  Being like that I spent a whole year in Mexico and of course I started drifting away from Gods ways and the empty feeling I had started to become more notisible and I steel couldn’t figure out why I felt that way.  Well, for some reason I desided to come back to the US.  Knowing in the back of my mind that I might of get in trouble but I had this other feeling now plus the empty one. So up I went and of corse I ended up locked up now that it has being almost three months of encarceration, since the first day of Jail that empty feeling and desperation i have them no more.  I kind off knew why they went away.  but it wasn’t until yesterday that we were talking about the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and the fruits of the spirit that it came clear to me that empty feeling was because I pushed the Holy spirit away from me by not doing my Job as a Christian and I know the spirit was trying to get back in to his house (me).

 

Well the reason of this letter is toencourage you brothers to keep up in  letting the Spirit dwell with in us.  I’m a fairly new Christian but I like to think that I’m fulfilling Gods purpose for me in this earth.  Being like that it fills me with Joy to know that God is there at all times even when we are in our lowest moments, he is there to remind us how great is his mercy and love for us.  that he let his only son died for us at the cross we all know He didn’t deserve all the punishment he went through.  because of us but he chose to go trough it so we might believe in his promise. and understand he did it that way because we are so arrogant an foolish that as humans we always demand some kind of physical proof to believe and he knew that so he gave us proof of his Great love for us by diying in the cross.

 

Well going back to my point it is amazing how God works in the most misterious ways.  to fullfill his word.  I thank God for letting me learned that he wants me to be a member of his family and to be witness of his mercy and to give me proof of it by walking with me on this moments that probably aren’t the lowest cause I know he is carring me through it!

 

I have in mind most of you Guys have being Christians.  for way longer than me but if this letter help to keep encouranging you to remind faithfull to the Lord than I will know that I’m fullfilling my purpose and am doing what my Lord ought me to do as a brother in Christ!

 

I will ask u Guys for a favor….  to keep praying for me to keep my life in the Lords path sowe can se each other in haven.  God Bless you ALL.

 

Your Brother in Christ Francisco.

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What do you say?

Francisco Delos Santos

Yesterday I had a visit with my friend, Francisco. After our visit, I spent a few cruel hours working on a letter on Francisco’s behalf to the Judge overseeing his case.

The Judge has a discernment of 17 months… 53 months or 70 months, it’s his judgment.

If you could right a letter that might make a difference for a criminals sentence, what would you say? You don’t know me from Adam and the guy I’m talking about “looks” like a criminal.

A Judge who sees, daily, the worst of the worst, has heard every story, seen the tears of victims and has heard the screams of “loyal” citizens claiming, “it’s not enough,” “Let em rot in prison,” now reads a poorly written note from some guy he’s never met.

People become numbers… black is black and white is white.  What do I say?

 

To the Honorable Judge overseeing the sentencing of Francisco Delos Santos.

My name is Johnathan Thomas and I serve as youth minister for First church of Christ in Wenatchee, Washington and I am writing on behalf of my brother in Christ, Francisco Delos Santos.

Francisco and I met several years back during a community outreach sponsored by our church. At the end of our conversation, Francisco was asked a simple questions which caught him off guard. “If Jesus were to come right now, do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you would go to heaven with him.” His response was surprisingly honest. He said, “I would be doomed.” The next day he became an infant in Christ.

Francisco and I developed a friendship that was honest. I understand what he has been accused of and do not attempt to argue statements or think I might have insight of matters placed in the hands of court officials. However, I am compelled to speak of the character of Mr. Delos Santos.

He is honest but scared. He is seeking, yet in need of a brighter LIGHT to his path. He is not perfect, yet forgiven. He is reborn and curious to know God. He LOVES his family. He finds strength in Jesus. He enjoys our Christian community.

God is working in his life and in Christ there is hope.

I imagine your Honor and the courts have read countless letters similar to this. Notes written by loved ones on behalf of those being sentenced. I would rather speak to the court in person, and share an amazing story of redemption, mercy and grace in the life of Francisco Delos Santos. Yet, I realize this story may never be told in the courts presence.

I understand I have no place to ask the courts favors or requests. I have no personal relationship with the court that would take into consideration my desires.

I do know this, “That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” and that God is very fond of you.

In your wisdom, your knowledge and grace, may you see a man standing before you who is loved as you bring his sentence.

Respectfully

Johnathan M. Thomas

I leave this letter in the hands of the court.

I leave Francisco in the Hand of God.

peace.
johno~

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remembering

US Flag in the aftermath of destruction

It’s been said, “We will never forget.” But, after seven years, what do we remember?

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My apologies.

I am still alive.  Lurking about. Listening.  Most will be surprised when this blog pops up on their reader.  Some will never see it. That’s OK.

 I know I’ve been absent.  It’s not that I don’t want to write, it’s more of “what to write.”  So many things to say and so many things to finish.  (I know I still have an Israel post or two to finish)  

I feel guilty, for not writing… You would be surprised at the thoughts that fly through my head.  ”Write, don’t write, post a picture, don’t post anything.”  It’s crazy… it’s me.

I’ve wondered where to start or how to catch up… How do you jump into the flow again?  I guess it happens when a story lost, is found again.  This is where I am… Found.

Many of you may remember a photo project of mine last year called “52 people.”  Photos of people, stories of their lives.  It was a great challenge and an eye and ear opener as I realized opportunities gained and ones missed… Like Francisco.

 

52 People – Francisco

If you recall the story of Francisco had no photo because he left for Mexico.  Taking matters into his own hands and running from the law.  Innocent or guilty, his trust that God would do something right with this mess was lost in a tidal wave of accusations, police, courts and a possible prison sentence.  I missed my opportunity with Francisco… He was gone and I most likely would not see him again this side of heaven.

 

However, two weeks ago, I received a phone call from a mutual friend…  ”Francisco is in Wenatchee…  In the Chelan County Jail.”  

 

I can say, my heart was a mix of emotions.  I was glad to know my friend was here, but in prison?!  

 

I arrived early to fill out the proper paperwork and yield my ID during my visit.  Visiting hours for the jail are 8, 9, and 10 PM.  I made the 9 PM slot and received my “keys” which let me in and also out.  Inmates are not told who is visiting, just that they have visitors.  As I made my way through locked doors and secure elevators, I entered a hallway with several doors.  Each door opened into a 5′x5′ cinder block room marred with graffiti, soiled handprints and scuff marks where once a fresh coat of paint had been.  A single chair, stained and torn by countless visitors, occupied one quarter of the booth.  Bullet proof glass and a black telephone receiver are the only lifelines of communication for those inside to those outside.  

 

The number on the key which would allow my entrance to the visitor booth was at the far end.  As I passed by each door looking for the number that matched my key,  I saw empty faces, anticipating, hoping for something encouraging… visitors.  Inmates are not told who is coming, only someone is coming.

 

As I reached the last room on the fourth floor, I found Francisco.  

 

A smile quickly covered his face, I smiled too.  It was difficult and almost seemed cruel, to be this close to a long lost friend and not be able to shake hands or embrace this brother of mine.

 

He looked good, actually healthy.  Longer hair and a beard make him look a bit older.  It was great to see him.  I thought I never would again.  We shared conversations about his current situation.  He will have to be accountable for his breaking the law.  Even if he would be found not guilty of the prior charge, he broke the law when he fled to Mexico.  Fifty-three months to seventy months in prison.  I can’t imagine nor can he, but this is the reality of the situation.  Now what?  Once his term is served it is straight back to Mexico because he is not a US citizen.  Then what?  How can any of this possibly be good?

 

As I sat in a ratty blue chair, tethered to the handset and looking through thick glass listening and dreaming with Francisco.  He desired a new Bible, no problem…  We talked about what God was doing in this difficult time and how ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD.  We might have five years to think and listen to what God is saying and doing.  I told him this could be like going to college. You just have to stay in your dorm room the whole time.  Perhaps God has anchored you here so you will be disciplined in Him and His Word.  I told him “Wouldn’t it be great if you were our new missionary in Mexico, teaching and preaching your story of salvation to your people.”  He smiled at the thought of being a preacher.

 

In his spot, it’s difficult to see that God is working.  I don’t doubt it. However, I think Christians do best when they don’t have control.  I wanted to share that God might be saving him from something worse than prison.  Perhaps.  It could be God needs him to minister his story to someone in prison so that they may be a better husband and father.  Some of the things God does through us, through Francisco, we may never see, but we know what it looks like and we press on.

 

I told him to write down 100 blessings.  Make a copy and send it to me and keep one for himself.  No doubt there will be bad times, difficult times of doubt.  Then he can count his blessings, name them one by one.

 

I still have hope to get that picture of Francisco. Someday. What a blessing for me to be able to say and share all the things I thought I would not be able to.  I’m like a talking donkey.  One hour visits are not near enough time.

 

At the end of 53 or 70 months, Lord willing, I will be there in Mexico and embrace my brother.  There we will start a new beginning.  It’s what Jesus is all about, new beginnings…  Life.

 

peace.

johno~

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