As the consequences of Andrew’s actions were translated into time and place the prison waiting game began. His dust up with the officers landed him in the CCU (Closed Custody Unit) for ninety days and cut him off from his short-lived income stream.

“I don’t have a job right now so postage stamps are the only way for me to stay in touch. I have a good roommate so he’s looking out for me till I get state pay which will be $15 a month because I owe restitution.” The wheels of prison justice move slowly and don’t care about the hopes, dreams and plans of those who live there.

“My total sentence is five years if I don’t get parole. There are some programs I’ll be able to do that will give me time off. It’s just a waiting process.” It’s striking how Andrew continued to take the long view of his life, adjusting to bad news and still seeing a way forward. That would prove to be the key to his personal growth and happiness. “My little brother or sister should be able to help me out a little. I have no addresses or phone numbers, but if you do get a hold of them it has to be a money order…”

Playing by someone else’s rules was something he had learned to do throughout his life. The foster care system taught him he was not in control, so he learned the art of the day rather than the fear of the future. It was a kind of tunnel vision that saw the obstacles in front of him, one by one, he needed to get past to take the next step. He also learned the value of true friendship and its role in finding a future.

“If you do decide to visit, I sent you the visitation form. I really appreciate it. I am very blessed to have a friend and a church who prays and cares for me. This is tough although it’s not with the Lord. I’ve just got to keep my faith and remember God has got my back. Please tell the Starbucks fans (the guys he had met each morning before work when he was on the outside) I said, ‘Hi’.

The lack of family connections, made worse by homelessness and prison, is a constant hurt to Andrew. Neither his efforts to contact hisparents, nor my conversations with them have helped to bridge the gap. Whatever the reasons for the disconnect, he feels it deeply and is ashamed of the behavior that led him here.

“It is tough to ask for anything from my family because I have no way to contact any of them and I haven’t been keeping in touch exceptwhenI’m locked up so it is a little embarrassing being as though I’ve been irresponsible with money and an alcoholic most of my life.”

There is a category of psalms in the Old Testament called the “psalms of lament.” They express  the pain and sorrow of this life but almost always end with a turning to God. This is the pattern of Andrew’s letters. This one ends, “I’ve got faith I can get back on track. I just finished 1st Samuel. I like reading the Bible, it seems easier if I take my time.” Enclosed with the letter was an Easter card which read, “A happy spring/a thankful heart/blessed by God from the start, simple joys that bring delight/Easter wishes for all that’s bright.”

The next letter revealed new lessons he had learned about himself and the gift of prayer.

(Read Andrew’s story every Thursday here)