We had an even better day at the jail today than usual, if that's possible. We taught and talked to so many amazing men. I can't believe how much I've grown to care about them. When we were in maximum security, where we are just allowed to go cell-to-cell to teach and visit with the inmates, we spoke to Ali, a Muslim inmate from Pakistan. He was in his bunk reading the Koran when we were walking by his cell, and jumped up when he saw us like his bed was on fire. He was so excited to see us, and we had a great visit with him. He opened his Koran to the first page. It was in both Arabic and English. I read the first page out loud. It was really beautiful and I told him so. He was so appreciative of our visit and so appreciative that I'd shown an interest in his scriptures. We asked him if he'd like us to leave him with a prayer, which we did. We typically take turns offering prayers, just depending upon which one of us feels like we'd like to do so. I prayed the LDS way, i.e. to our Father in Heaven. I said that we could feel the goodness in this man's heart and asked God that, regardless of how Ali might address Him, he would be able to feel God's love and concern for him and that he might be blessed to be able to make good choices once he was out of jail. It was a great visit.
We were in max for close to an hour and forty-five minutes today (having already taught a class of six men in a medium security Sunday School class). We still didn't get to everybody who wanted to talk to us. They were standing at the doors of their cells, trying to get our attention so that we wouldn't skip them. (We only go to the cells where one of the inmates actually wants to talk to us, and it's easy to see which ones they are. We could have stayed another hour and would have still not been able to talk to the men who wanted to see us. Sure, they enjoy just visiting, but they always say, "Do you have a message to share with me? Do you have a picture of Jesus to leave with me? Can I get a Bible? Can I get a Book of Mormon?" It is SOOOOOOOOO fulfilling!
On the way out of the jail, we were turning in our badges and signing out and there was another couple nearby. The woman said something to the man that I didn't hear, but he said, "Yes, dear." It made me laugh and I made some little comment like, "Sounds like you know the right answer." They both laughed and we got started talking. Their names were Rhonda and Russ. They were wearing lanyards that said, "Good News" and were also there to leave a non-denominational Christian message with the inmates. The woman volunteered some information that her husband may not have wanted us to know, but he really didn't seem to mind. Apparently he was in jail as an inmate himself at a prior time. He had decided while he was there, to go to an LDS Sunday School class and was just blown away by the joy he said the couple teaching the class obviously were feeling. He said he wanted to feel that kind of joy himself. On the way back to his cell, he'd said to himself, "God, I've been doing things my way long enough. I'm ready to start doing them your way." From that day on, his life changed. Now he's teaching other men who are where he once was. His wife said, "If you guys ever wonder if you're doing any good, you are. This change in Russ is the result of one LDS couple's work."
Seriously, before I started doing this service (it's been 10 months now), I was starting to hate Sundays. They were so boring, and everybody was trying to out-righteous everybody else. There is absolutely no pretense at the jail. None of the men we talk to are trying to do anything but improve their lives. Jesus Christ truly does walk through the cells of the Salt Lake Metro Jail. You feel His spirit there like nowhere else!
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." ~Rudyard Kipling ~