Spiritual warfare began. It especially dated to Austin and myself beginning to pray for an opening to teach Hispanic guys in the pod. Soon after these prayers began, INS picked two of the Hispanic guys up. Another was transferred to the state penitentiary. The only Hispanics left in this pod spoke little English.
A couple of weeks later a couple of trouble-makers instigated a sit-in breakfast strike that resulted in half of the guys being removed from the pod and taken to the Maximum security pod. The number of guys in the group study dropped from eight to three. Austin was disappointed in what had started so well being so quickly depleted. He began to pray and decided to hand-write an invitation to the group studies and slide it under each cell door (he could do this since he had more freedoms as a trustee). Several new guys began attending the group.
I had never seen Austin without a smile. His disappointment was apparent when I arrived for my next visit. I anticipated something had gone wrong because Austin was no longer on the fifth floor. I had to visit him on the fourth floor. He told me what had transpired since my visit the previous week.
Another attack came from some members of the Crypts gang in the pod. The leader resented the influence Austin was gaining. He showed his displeasure after Austin reached out to him with the gospel. The guy directed the other Crypts to begin charging Austin with violating rules. His desire was to cause Austin to lose his trustee position. When the charges proved untrue, the administration did not strip Austin of his job, but they realized there would be additional trouble in this pod if Austin remained. They chose to move him to another pod on the fourth floor and make Austin the assistant trustee there.
My visits for the next couple of weeks were spent encouraging him and focusing on getting a new group started in the new pod. We also discussed who would be a good candidate to reach out to in that fifth floor pod. Austin suggested I write Justin * to see if he would step into the leadership position.
Justin was interested in meeting with me. The group had continued to meet each evening to pray for one another and any other requests that other guys in the pod shared. They had not continued the study since all the materials had been taken when Austin was moved. I sent Justin a set of the God and Man studies so he could resume where Austin had left off.
It was interesting to start working with one of the guys Austin had been discipling. He had mentioned Justin to me on a couple of occasions. This guy had always asked deeper questions. His inquiries often resulted in Austin writing them down and bringing them to me on my next visit. Austin believed Justin had a desire to understand the Word. He was right. I started with him the same way I did with Austin—I would continue to teach as long as Justin would make an effort to teach what he was learning to someone else. He agreed.
Meanwhile, Austin was excited and anxious to have me meeting with Justin. He wanted me to assess whether or not he had done a good job. Justin often wanted more depth than Austin could provide, so he had been a challenge in some ways. Austin wanted this feedback so he could incorporate any needed changes in the new group he was launching. He had some fears that he had done some things “wrong,” but he wanted to know so he could do a better job this second time around.
Austin’s second start has gone much better. He earned the respect of the guys in this new pod by his lifestyle. His infectious smile and his joy in the Lord were apparent. Also, during the first couple of weeks, when he was still in shock over the move, he cleaned up the pod (part of his job assignments). This pod was grungy. They did not have adequate tools or cleaning supplies. Austin knew what was available on the fifth floor so he respectfully requested the same items for this pod. Instead of using a worn-out scrap of a mop, he requested and received two new mops. He requested and received bleach that he used to scrub away the mould and mildew that had developed. As he cleaned the place he learned that there had been quite a bit of sickness on this floor and people felt that what he was doing was going to make it a healthier place for them to live.
This group study quickly has grown to a high of sixteen. They are alternating their study between the Old Testament and Matthew’s gospel. They continue to study some of the God and Man stories as a foundation for their understanding of God and as a way to prepare themselves to teach others these important insights into God’s character. During their studies from Matthew they are watching Jesus develop spiritual leadership in the men he called to be his disciples.
Because of this move, Austin has become more aware of how important it is to not only get the group to learn the biblical material, but also to be discipled in the process. He is becoming more intentional in looking for leadership potential in the group and pouring more into the guys who exhibit potential. Justin is also understanding at a deeper level because of what happened. Also, he is gaining greater insight into why Austin did things the way he did.
[* NOTE: Names have been changed. All other details are accurate.]