Andrew had started to put his life together in Portsmouth. His first job was for a property manager who hired him out on a day laborer. He started to attend our church, sing in the little choir and make healthy friendships. We would meet for coffee before work and talk life. His outgoing nature and friendliness made relationships easy, but his anger and tendency to resist advice made them hard.

After a few months, I was concerned to learn that he had a girlfriend. It sounded to me as though she didn’t share his faith or goals for the future. I suggested to him that this relationship might be the wrong one at the wrong time. But she had a place to stay and that meant he had a place to stay that was warm and dry as summer turned to fall.

As I recall, it was one morning over coffee that he confided in me that she had accused him of felony assault and taken out a restraining order. His anger rising, he got into it with a couple of officers and was arrested while the assault case against him went to trial. I made arrangements to visit him but before I could I received his first letter, written in pencil from the county jail.

“Thank you and the congregation for all the love and prayers that have been given me. I’ve never felt more at home since the First Baptist Church of Newport Richey a long time ago. I’m not sure when I’m leaving. If convicted I’m looking at three to seven years.

“I’m now in the hole (solitary confinement) for not cuffing up. I go into an altercation with the detaining officers. They say I may get more charges. There comes a time I just have to keep my cool, and I only hope God will give me his mercy. I do know this: prison may be rough on me, but God does everything for a reason, and if I do go to prison, I’d like to do what my brother, Thomas did and become an ordained minister and go back to being a living example that God does change the wicked so long as we let him.”

Throughout the time of his incarceration, two things have never changed. Andrew has looked upon his past with regrets and to his future with hope. Several women from the church have written to encourage him and he has continued to stay in touch with them. They are like the women who surrounded Jesus during his ministry, sharing his hardships and supporting him in the fight.

In my first letter to him I said, “I’m guessing this may be an especially hard time as we approach the holidays. As I pray for your encouragement and even joy in Jesus, I pray that you will join other Christians throughout the world who are in similar situations, separated from friends and loved ones, but treasuring in their hearts the love of Jesus.”

It would be a winter of discontent but of surprising growth and even joy. Andrew would discover in prison what he had confessed over coffee: that God was faithful and that all things work together for the good of those who love God.

(Find out more about Andrew’s church here)