First Week at Prison Camp

My dear friends and family,

I am drafting this letter with a ball point pen which has about 99% of its ink used up. I’ve never in my life seen a pen so empty of ink. The scarcity in my environment is one of the constant reminders that I am incarserated. Sometimes life here feels a lot like a summer camp with guys playing bocce ball on a lazy Sunday morning and the regular meals in the cafeteria. The food is not bad except breakfast which is just oatmeal or dry cereal plus two cartons of skim milk and maybe a donut or fruit depending on the day. Hamburgers, fried chicken, tilapia and lasagna were some of the better lunch offerings. They have a 5 week meal rotation, which offers a good variety in my limited experience.

There’s nothing that reminds me I am incarsserated as much as standing for count which happens at least twice a day. We all stand in front of our bunks while a pair of correctional officers walks through the unit counting everyone. Counting is usually pretty quick but we have to stay in the unit until they give the CLEAR. Sometimes it can take 30-60 minutes because they must ensure everyone in the whole compound is accounted for.

A sanctuary

In stark contrast to count time is the chapel. During Wednesday night Bible study, we were reading in John 4 and the leader asked if we could begin worship the Father “in spirit and in truth” now while we were still here. He meant here in prison but at first I thought he meant here on earth before we depart to be with the Father in heaven. Of course both are true and true worshipers can begin worshiping now wherever the are.

I pray each poisoner entering the chapel will also forget they are prisoners. I pray that they will realize they are adopted sons of God redeemed and vindicated by the blood of Christ.

A whole week has passed since I have surrendered and I have experienced the Sunday service. I saw it had much room for improvement. It was lead by the staff chaplain. After a few short hymns and a responsive reading, he began preaching. The sermon seemed genuine and from the heart, but had political undertones that left a bad taste in my mouth. It was missing the gospel message and participation from the congregation. Other than the two who lead the hymns prisoners spoke few words during the service.

William Booth, who started the salvation army discovered early in his ministry that the lost souls he was trying to reach responded well when individuals from the population he was ministering to shared their testimony of how Christ had transformed their lives during their meetings. The alcoholics in England listened when on of their own spoke. I’m sure the same would be true here.


  • Pray I will be able to share these ideas with the leadership of the believers here.
  • Pray for the other inmates here. For those who know Christ to be able to share the gospel, and for those who don’t know Christ to come to Him.
  • Pray for Darling as she returns to Romania to get our stuff.
  • Pray for my children and for Gwen during this stressful time.
  • Thank you for praying! The Lord is caring us through with your prayers.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Kathryn Peltzman

    I am not surprised that the service had political undertones. Everyone on staff, guards, warden, medical, and spiritual have some sort of ajenda. There are so many different beliefs that he has to be careful to not offend some belief. I am sure the Bible study you are doing in a smaller group you are able to go deeper into God’s word. I will continue to keep you and darling in my prayers.

  2. Gwendolyn Stone

    Thank you Kitty!

  3. L. Sutherland

    I did read this shortly after you posted it but I haven’t visited the site to reply. We have been praying for you and your family. Nearly every week I update my church about the needs of you and your family. I told them that you are seeing ways to help others, especially during worship times.

    God is so good to give you other believers to meet with. I praise Him that you had enough ink in your pen. I praise Jesus for the other good things that have happened since you last wrote. I have been praising God for the blessings that happened during the recent trip to Romania. God is at work!

    I am excited about how God is going to work through you – and IN you – during this time. Your witness is powerful. God is not wasting your efforts. You are blessing so many each day. You may not see it easily, but God is doing it through you. Thank You for following God in such a way that others can follow your example and rejoice in what they are learning and in the blessings God is bringing your way.

  4. Lars Justinen

    I am hoping you can read what I am writing. I do not know if you have any access to the outside so that you can read this. In any event, I am hoping to get your mailing address so that I can write a letter to you directly. Your observation that worship services have more meaning when others participate is certainly very true. The pastor who married Kim and I had a tradition of making one worship service a month just testimonies from the congregation. Most of us really loved it since we had about 200 members and it was wonderful to learn more about our church family. But a few really hated it. Funny how that works. Anyway, I am grateful that I found this blog. Will look forward to writing you!

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