I had my first cancellation, the evangelist’s nightmare, but Wickenburg and Casa Grande came to our rescue. I was preaching for Tom Cunningham in Casa Grande on a Wed. night and he asked me to preach to his church in the prison where he is chaplain on Thursday. I wasn’t sure how to approach it or what to expect. We arrived, first thought, lots of female guards. Second thought as we walked the yard, it is really hot out here. Tom is at perfect ease as he walks towards his office through the yard greeting the prisoners and guards as well as taking time to talk and encourage some of them to come to church. Technically, he is unofficially encouraged to not preach the gospel, but to do the administrative work of the chaplain. You could say his days are numbered since he has no intention of stopping the preaching. He has favor with the warden and their rate of attendance to the different services is higher than any other prison so it makes everyone look good. This night one of the prisoners explained to me the level of favor Tom had within the prison. We were going to have a baptism. Tom had a small plastic pool with him. As the inmates began the almost Zambian task of filling the pool without a hose or able to reach the closet that had a basin to easily fill a bucket this inmate explained to me that he had been in different prisons for over 25 years and this was only the second time that he had seen permission given to have a water baptism. I think we (Tom and his guys) baptised over 40 men that night.
I preached my Naaman sermon on submission and integrity. I could not believe the high level of attentiveness as I preached. I reached the last character in the sermon where I ask the congregation if they can guess who the character is. I have waited and waited while people tried to get the answer, but not this night, the answer came immediately. Fifteen men came forward and prayed and seeminly all 150 seriously prayed about the issues of their lives as related to the sermon and brought home by the Holy Spirit. I was blessed and I hope they were also.
I was politely complimented by many of the inmates as they put away the equipment and cleaned the facilities. A man came up to me who looked like he was about 55 and in perfect physical condition. He started talking to me and let me know that he was Billy Jack. I decided to not acknowledge the film as I talked to him. He related how what I preached is a lesson he has learned although it was very difficult at first. After we left I asked Tom about "Billy Jack" and sure enough it is the man the films are based on. Only he is not 55 he is 72 and he has been known to still land a good roundhouse kick on someone asking for it. Apparently he eventually lost his battle with the Prescott police and they got him put away. Tom knows the details and thinks he is wrongly imprisoned. They want to remake the movies and he wants a lot of money so that he can hire that expensive lawyer and get him out. Otherwise it is 8 more years on a 20 year sentence. Apparently this all happened in Prescott, so I wonder what I can find out about it.