“You are here moving in our midst we worship you, we worship you.
You are here working in this place we worship you, we worship you.
Way maker miracle worker light in the darkness my God that is who
— “Way maker”, song sung on the Faith Based Program Texas death row.
On May 26,2023, the inaugural class of the Faith Based Program on Texas death row had its graduation celebration. I was blessed to be part of this pioneering class and what an honor it was. It’s hard for me to believe that eighteen months have gone by so quickly. When we first began the Faith Based Program, we were still in the middle of the COVID pandemic and were locked in our 9ft. X 12ft. solitary confinement cells twenty-four hours a day. We would get an opportunity to shower a few times a week and that was it. There were insufficient correctional officers to offer us any other relief. The silver lining to this black cloud was that we had voluntary worship services for six months straight and set the standard for our services for the remaining twelve months in the Faith Based Program. And there’s no doubt that participating in the Faith Based Program was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
The day began early with our field minister, Troop Foster showing up with the flat screen TVs and we watched two movies. That was nice and how we’ve begun our days of celebration here on Life Row. Since the beginning of February 2023, we had no TV on Texas death row.
“Good morning has it been a long night? Maybe been a long year maybe been a hard life, maybe you’re not alright. If you got a little red in your eyes, you’ve come to the right place people like you people like me, this is where we all find grace. Bet you want to sing hallelujah, bet you’ll say amen, can’t help but celebrate being born again, somebody who loves you is waiting at the door, it’s home sweet home here in the house of the Lord.”
— ” In The House “, by Crowder, song sung on the Faith Based Program, Texas death row.
At 11am, the chapel band come onto the pod and began to set up their sound equipment. We were honored to have Carlos playing bass guitar and vocals Tee on vocals, Gomez on lead guitar and KD drums. They did their sound check and began to jam. We’ve been worshiping together for eighteen months and we sing with them. So, when they started jamming and would begin to play a song we knew the lyrics of, the brothers on Life Row would join in and sing with them. This is a unique occurrence, when they play for general population worship services, they play and the audience sits and listens. On Life Row, we sing and praise with them and its a beautiful thing. It’s a live performance and during parts of the songs, Carlos or Tee will stop singing, point the microphone towards us and we sing the verse or chorus. I love singing and praising and can’t get enough of it! The brothers jammed for about an hour and then our guests arrived and the party really began.
” I’ve searched the world but it couldn’t fill me, man’s empty praise and treasures that fade are never enough. Then You come along and put me back together and every desire is now satisfied here in Your love. Oh there’s nothing better than You, therein nothing better than You Lord there’s nothing better than You. I’m not afraid to show You my weakness my failures and flaws Lord You’ve seen them all and still call me friend. Cause the God of the mountain is the God of the valley, there’s not a place Your mercy and grace won’t find me again. You turn mourning to dancing You give beauty for ashes You turn shame into glory You’re the only one who can turn graves into gardens, You turn bones into armies, You turn seas into highways, Your the only one who can. ”
–“Graves Into Gardens”, by Brandon Lake/Elevation Worship, song sung on the Faith based program Texas death row.
It’s always a blessing to have John “Big Sky” Montana, the leader of Bikers For Christ and his wife Charlotte visit us. Whenever he shows up you can hear him before you see him, “Big Sky’s in the house!” Full of energy and love for us and for the Lord. That’s what we heard when they appeared with the other brothers and sisters from Texas Prison Outreach. They were David and Christy, Todd and Dawn, Justin and his pastor Clint his wife Chaplain Gay and Martin were here as well and all the Polunsky Unit field ministers and life coaches. Field minister Terry Solley was the master of ceremonies and prayed us in as the worship service began. We sang many songs together including Way maker, In The House, Gardens To Graves Firm Foundation, Reckless Love and more. When we all joined in lifting our voices together praising God it was glorious and the walls liberated with the sound and we could feel the Spirit of the Lord among us. Then brother Solely began to give his message.
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the nighty nine others in the wilderness and go and search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he finds it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors saying, ‘rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep. In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than the nighty nine others who were righteous and haven’t strayed away!” — “Parable of the lost sheep.”-Luke 5:4-7 NLT.
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it loses its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” “Teaching about salt and light”, Matthew 5:13-16 NLT.
He began by saying that each of us were one of the lost sheep that the shepherd left the nighty nine to go and search for, referencing the parable of the lost sheep. And now that we’ve been found by the Lord Jesus Christ, what is our next step? Solley then touched upon Jesus’ teaching about salt and light and His command for His followers to be the salt of the earth. And the Lord’s command for His followers to also be the light of the world. In these verses Jesus gives us instructions on what to do next:
#1. Be the salt of the earth. Even if there’s never another class to take, never another graduation celebration to have, or feat to eat, never lose your flavor. Because if we lose our flavor, we lose our testimony of what God has done in our lives and how we’ve been redeemed and called by Him. Now that the Faith Based Program has been completed that’s not a call for us to revert to our old ways. But continue living for Christ with our actions showing who we are.
#2. Be the light of the world. Two years ago, Texas death row was a place of darkness and despair. But not Solley comes to A-pod where the Faith Based Program is housed and he sees light. Because each one of us has been transformed and as the moon reflects the light of the sun, we reflect the light of Jesus Christ. And in the process we’ve transformed Texas death row into Life Row because life, light and redemption is found here. Now our purpose is to live our lives being the salt and light of the world thereby bringing glory to the Lord. This is our charge and something we rejoice in doing!
“Saturday was silent surely it was through, but since when has impossible ever stopped You? Fridays disappointment is Sundays empty tomb since when has impossible ever stopped You? This is the sound of dry bones rattling this is the praise make a dead man walk again open the grave I’m coming out I’m gonna live gonna live again this is the sound of dry bones rattling! ”
— “Rattle”, by Elevation Worship, song sung on the Faith Based Program Texas death row.
After the message all of our guests come into our housing section’s day room and introduced themselves one by one. And we did the same for them. Each one of us had an opportunity to speak and that was special. I shared that they along with my brothers in the Faith Based Program were my family now and I loved them as such. Then we sang Rattle for them a capella. We closed the worship service with a prayer and it was so good to share this special occasion with our brothers and sisters who’ve supported us for the past eighteen. After the worship service we had a fabulous feast! This grand meal included catfish, French fries, hush puppies, fried chicken, beans, rice, chef salad, tamales and cupcakes and brownies for dessert! It was a feast fit for a king. We all loved it and even had left overs for the next day to munch pon. We were all so very grateful. The Faith Based Program has been completed but we continue to live for the Lord. That has not changed. We have also informed that the classes will continue. And we all look forward to that and everything else that is to come our way as we take these steps in our journey that will last for an eternity!
Charles Don Flores
Faith Based Program