Today I had the greatest lunch ever! I met with a man who has been serving a life sentence since 1989. Kevin is a very mature 52 year-old, quiet and known for his patience and deep thinking. Kevin had made a horrible choice more than 27 years ago. He had been living the life of a motorcycle gang member, using drugs, actively involved in criminal behavior, and this led to a situation where another human being lost his life. Kevin was arrested, tried and convicted, and in 1989 he arrived at his new home, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
During Kevin’s first several years in prison, he fit right into the prison culture of gangs and violence. He proudly “represented his race”, joining the group of inmates who disrupted the general population, inciting others to violence, joining in on riots and assaults, using and selling drugs, etc…
But, several years ago Kevin began maturing and he found himself at a point in life where he knew he needed to make drastic changes if he would ever have a hope of regaining his freedom. It was during this time when Kevin began meeting prison volunteers who came to the prison to minister to inmates. Kevin had known Christ as a young man, but he had put Jesus Christ “up on a shelf, out of the way.” During a large prison outreach event, men from Training Center, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in San Diego, utilized sports figures and exhibitions to share the Gospel, and Kevin responded to the altar call. This changed his life forever.
Kevin had matured physically, from a 25 year-old young man to a 52 year-old man, but he was still spiritually immature, unable to grasp the depth and width of Christ’s love and sacrifice which was voluntarily offered, as well as being emotionally immature. Kevin, like so many others, still had the emotional maturity level of a teenager. His choice during the yard event inside of the prison, to step forward and accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and to become a disciple has turned this man’s life completely around.
Kevin wanted to really know Jesus Christ, to understand the Bible, and how to share this great Good News to others, so he enrolled into the The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) Program at Chuckawalla State Prison. The TUMI Program is a 3 ½ year, college-level seminary curriculum funded by Serving California and delivered thru Prison Fellowship volunteers. Each inmate student receives the exact education any other seminary student would receive, minus Greek and Hebrew language studies. This curriculum challenged Kevin and taught him how to live as a mature Christian, a man called by God to lead and serve others.
During our lunch Kevin shared how joining TUMI changed his view on what his responsibilities are in life. Kevin learned that Christ has called all Christians to serve others. He shared how serving others is so much more than speaking in churches, sharing Bible studies, feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, etc. Kevin has grasped the concept that his entire life must be shared daily in order to truly serve as a Christian.
I asked Kevin why TUMI was so important in this process of his maturity and identity as a Christian, and if he could share with me how effective this TUMI Program would be in ensuring he did not recidivate (return to prison). His answer shocked me.
Such simple recognition of truth!
Kevin continued to tell me that his goal is to return to prison as a volunteer in order to share the power of change thru faith and action in Jesus Christ. Kevin said he has a “Responsibility to serve others” just as others served him and shared in Christ’s work to change his life forever.
Serving California is dedicated to funding this life changing seminary program, as well as assisting the men and women who enroll into TUMI when they are released from prison. Check us out here for more information on our work in prisons.