I volunteer at the County Prison in our community along with my wife Colleen. We teach inmates on matters of identity in a 6-week class. We challenge both men and women to think of themselves in the way God does, not as the world around them might. As a beloved Child of the King. King Jesus.
Recently we attended a conference sponsored by Support for Prison Ministries, the organization we work with, under the Chaplaincy program they provide for inmates. Lewis Lee was one of three prior inmates that were interviewed on a panel. All had life sentences commuted for various reasons. His story is chronicled with others in a book called Get Free and Stay Free.
Lewis Lee was not pressured into joining a gang when he was moving into a new community. He wanted to join the neighborhood gang. It was the way to be accepted. The gang protected the neighborhood. Lewis felt no pressure beyond peer pressure. When he was invited to use drugs, he wanted to use drugs. Those two decisions would change the trajectory of his life. When his brother killed a rival gang member in a street battle, Lewis felt nothing but victory. When his partner in an attempted robbery killed a man, 15-year-old Lewis felt no compassion or remorse. But Lewis was sentenced to a term of life without parole. He did not cry or comprehend the gravity of what he had done or what he faced. He was numb. But when Lewis Lee finally got sober and fully kept his promise to follow Jesus Christ as his leader and as the one who gave him forgiveness, Lewis grew emotionally, morally, and spiritually. Lewis was not numb anymore. Lewis was free even though he was serving a life sentence behind bars.
In 2012, the United States Supreme Court came down with a ruling that said it is unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to mandatory life sentences without parole. That ruling opened up the door for every juvenile who was sentenced to life to be resentenced. Due to a disagreement in Pennsylvania with this ruling, it took another eight years for Lewis to be released. In February 2020 he was released. Freedom at last.
There are always consequences to sin, some worse than others. Yet Jesus paid the price for all. He was ransomed for many, including you. Lewis spent 46 years of his life behind bars but Jesus saved Him too. Now he’s free to share that story with others. The story of redemption. One of the most significant experiences of Lewis’s lifetime can be that of every one of us.
Freedom in Christ.
And that’s the Memo, Steve