When the prison I was at was closing last year, my family and I prayed and fasted I would be sent to a good, safe camp. The very next day I was surprised when I was woken up in the middle of the night and told to pack up my things; I was shipping out. But I had no idea where I was going to be sent until I got there. I stepped inside Harnett Correctional Institution for the first time.
Just as I stepped off the bus one of my shipping bags that was holding all my stuff ripped at the bottom. Most of my belongings sprayed out. 95% of everything I own is paper so the wind was not so nice to me. As I ran to retrieve my things, I just felt dread that I had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. I admit that I was feeling a bit faithless about the fast we all had just participated in. I didn’t believe that I had been shipped to someplace better, but to someplace that would was going to be worse.
The very next day when they called “Yard Call” I took an Ensign magazine with me to read on a bench outside. As I was walking, a short little wiry redheaded guy came up to me, pointed to my Ensign, and said, “I recognize that magazine. Are you a Mormon?” I told him that I believed in the Book of Mormon, “Yes, I am a Mormon.” He told me that people called him, Leprechaun, a very fitting name for the little guy. He then said that there was another Mormon at this camp, and if I’d like, he would introduce us. I thought, “Wow! Really? Another LDS guy…? Could it be possible?”
For obvious reasons, the LDS faith is hard to come by within the prison society. I have been to a number of camps prior and I was the only practicing LDS man in all of them. Lonely, yes, but understandable all the same. So when Leprechaun told me this news I couldn’t help but share my excitement. I implored him to take me to this man at once. He took me right to him. And this is when I first met Ben. From that moment on, Ben and I became the best of friends. He in fact was a good LDS man who had gone through similar experiences as myself.
There was a huge weight that seemed to be lifted off my feeble shoulders. I was no longer alone. Someone else believed what I believe. Someone else could stand by me as a witness of the living Christ, His plan, and His gospel. It truly invigorated me to finally be able to talk about the gospel with another person face-to-face. The union of Ben and I was a tremendous blessing to us both.
That night after meeting Ben I laid in my bunk and wept in gratitude to my Father in Heaven that He did in fact send me exactly where I needed to go. I’ve repented of losing faith in Him. His gift to me was just too precious! Probably the only two practicing Latter-Day Saints in the whole North Carolina state prison system, He brought us together by His infinite love for us both. His ways are matchless and this experience helped increase my confidence in the power and will of God.
The subsequent months after meeting Ben were very refreshing. However, I was sad to see him go. He had to finish some other business in another area, but he promised to be back. During that time we kept in touch and corresponded through letters. In one of the letters I shared with him an idea that I felt I had been inspired with – that when he gets back that we would hold a church service together, and for anyone else that would want to join in. He promptly approved of my idea. I then waited for the day of our reunion. He arrived back at Harnett Correctional Institution this past week, and today on this Sabbath Fast Sunday, we held our very first church service together.
Words cannot express how wonderful it was to worship Jesus Christ together, to pray out loud, to hear another person pray out loud, to sing a hymn with another person out loud, to teach and be taught by another the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to hear another person’s testimony. It was bliss! A feeling that has been absent in my life for far too long! The Spirit of Christ was incredibly strong, and my own spirit soared in the lightfull rays of the love beaming down on us both.
I loved everything about it. I truly felt like we were transported to a different place in time because after the closing prayer was offered, we got up, shook hands and went to our separate blocks. I got that suffocating feeling that I was still in prison. If I could only stay in that church state for endless hours, I would.
Coming back into the fallen world was not reviving, it was heartbreaking. The Church of Jesus Christ is true brothers and sisters. It is the source of incomprehensible light and love. It proffers the answers to all of life’s questions, not the world. I testify boldly that where you are led in life, especially to Christ’s Church, you will be confirmed in your knowledge that where you are is exactly where you need to be. Proof upon proof will be a buffet for your confused mind. Find comfort in the many tender mercies of our Heavenly Father. He loves you with a heart containing an infinite capacity to give. He guides you with His love – at every turn. Depend on that. Have confidence in that He will, through Jesus Christ, fulfill the desires of your heart. That is His purpose to exist. Imagine that, a God’s whole purpose of His existence is to make you smile. How could you not after knowing that?