1. “WE do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing…but within the realm of our choicelessness, we can choose how we live.”–Joseph Epstein.
Time flys when you are having fun! I have been in the inaugural class of the Texas death row faith based program [FBP] for ten months, and it has been an amazing life changing opportunity. When the twenty-eight Texas death row prisoners that are part of the first FBP began this adventure we were not sure what to really expect. The chaplaincy was not sure what to expect because nothing like this had ever been attempted in a solitary confinement environment like Texas death row. We were given this opportunity and we have chosen to make the most of it and soar high in the sky with success.
On Friday, October 29, 2022, the FBP had a graduation service for completing the 12 week class named “Anger Management”, and the 26 week classed named “Authentic Manhood. Anger Management helped us identify our triggers and manage our anger effectively. It taught us self-control over our thoughts and actions and gave us the tools to communicate in non-violent ways. We also learner how to give and receive support from others.
Authentic Manhood was an intense look into manhood and what it should be based on. We learned what Authentic Manhood’s focus was, it’s chief elements, major challenges and it’s passions. WE also learned the Men’s Fraternity The Quest For Authentic Manhood’s definition for authentic manhood: one who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously, and expects God’s greater reward. Both classes were escellent and taught me a great deal. I loved them both.
2. “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I will make a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the desert. The beasts of the field will honor Me, The jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give My people, My chosen.” –Isaiah 43:18-20.
Our service began with prayer, singing and praising by the church band and a few songs by the FBP brothers as well. We had TDCJ Director of Chaplaincy C.F. Hazlewood, senior warden Daniel Dickerson, Texas Prison Outreach volunteers DAvid and Justin, Polunsky unit head chaplain Joaquin Gay, along with our FBP field ministers and program coordinators, Terry Solley and Troup Foster.
Solley shared with us that we have set the standard of what success looks like with the choices we have made here and how we are living our lives. All our success, our accomplishments, this is what it is all about. We are on the right track and need to continue to do the same and hold the course.
Troup shared with us Isaiah 43:18-20. He reminded us that we were all created by the Lord and we have been redeemed. And God is creating a new thing in us and on the FBP as in Isaiah 43:18. Troup said that for many years he lives in the past with all the pain that he had caused his loved ones. But he was finally able to let that go and focus on God. That we have to do the same, focus on what the Lord has to say about us, not what the world might say. Troup stated that we have been in this program for about a year and he was proud of us and to keep moving foreward, always prssing ahead.
Director Hazelwood congratulated us for completing the classes. He said that everyone needs change, not matter how old you are you can always change for the better. He said that we are all a work in progress. Hazlewood reminded us of the story of the paralytic being healed at the pool of bethesda in John 5:1-11. For thirty-five years that man was paralyzed. And Christ found him and asked him, “Do you want to be well?” Hazlewood said that unless a man wants to be healed we will not get well. Nothing happens until you want to change and get well. And this kind of healing comes from God, and once we come to the Lord our lives are His and what we do today today is part of a walk that will continue for eternity.
Our actions in this life will pay an eternal dividend. Hazlewood said there were three steps to change. 1. Desire to change; 2. Removal of sin from our life; 3. Persevere. Director Hazlewood told us that he was pleased with us and wanted to thank the field ministers, chaplains and wardens. Without them nothing would be possible. But most important was our participation, without it nothing would happen.
3. “Everyday, either you live by your priorities or you live by pressures. There is no other option. either you decide what is important in your life, or you let other people decide what is important in your life.”–Rick Warren.
Warden Dickerson began saying that a whole lot of work was being done by us. We were the change that Director Hazlewood was talkin about. We were agents of change that Executive Director Collier was also talking about because what were were doing with out lives here was inspiring
many. Warden Dickerson told us that we were offering folks hope in their lives in the free world. Because there were people who have no hope, but us death row prisoners who might be considered to have no hope were living for the Lord and choosing to live a life worth living.
He told us of a former TDCJ employee, a man who worked as a guard on Texas death row, who had been here when darkness reigned and was at the point of giving up in life. But he saw a video of us worshiping, singing, praising and worshiping the Lord here. And he found hope in that and
inspiration because if we could live life like this here the he could do the same where he was at. Warden Dickerson reminded us there were consequences in life, but it is how you live your life and how you overcome that counts. Everything happens for a reason and were were all agents
of change. Change was hard work but for us to keep pushing foreward, keep our heads up and do not get discouraged!
I was very touched by what the visitors shared with us. We are often limited by our situation and do not see what other see in us. It is humbling and encouraging to know that the FBP is changing things in the Texas prison system and abroad as well as giving hope to those who had none. I think if we did nothing else by that, give hope in the world then we could considerselves a success!
Charles D. Flores No:999299
Texas death row Faith Based Program