AUTHENTIC MANHOOD IN PRISON
By Tierce Green
FORTY-ONE MEN celebrated their completion of all six volumes of 33 The Series this week, all of them inmates at the Jester 3 Prison Unit in Richmond, Texas. Dick Wall and his team have been faithfully mentoring these men since 2014 using 33 The Series as the primary tool to guide them in their journey toward authentic manhood. Dick and his team would humbly disagree, but I consider these guys to be a collection of Greater Houston Area All-Stars from Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church, St. Peter’s United Methodist Church and Second Baptist Church. This was my second experience at this facility. Each visit has been a profound reminder of God’s sovereignty and grace and how his love knows no boundaries.
The prisoners recognized me from the videos and gave a warm welcome with handshakes and hugs, high-fives and big smiles of appreciation. I saw an undeniable light in their eyes. We enjoyed a special lunch together of Kentucky Fried Chicken, lemonade and chocolate cake, but the conversations and the stories were truly the main course. These men freely shared what they had been learning from 33, several of them acknowledging that Bible teaching was not a new thing for them, but this was the first time they had understood how to apply biblical principles to specific manhood issues. One man said that it was like discovering an instruction manual for manhood that he never got.
Each member of Dick’s team presented a Certificate of Completion to the men in their group with personal comments and words of encouragement, inspiration that was specific and heartfelt. Most of the inmates shared a brief personal story about what they had experienced that clearly revealed they had not simply gone through the motions to earn a class completion achievement notation in their file.
I heard from several of the inmates what is often expressed by men on the outside, men who have never been locked up in prison—the regret of what their life might look like if they had learned these biblical principles of manhood earlier. I think most of us can identify with that. But thank God for his grace! It is never too late to repent and submit to his plan and purpose for our life. There is forgiveness and redemption, healing for the brokenhearted, comfort for those who grieve, and a crown of beauty instead of ashes. These prisoners understood that. You could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. They didn’t make excuses or blame anyone else. Their hope was in Jesus.
I hesitate to point out the unity in diversity that these men are experiencing because it was so organic and uncontrived. It was as it should be. Putting the spotlight on it can sometimes reduce it to an alien occurrence and call into question its authenticity. Why wouldn’t these men feel a deep sense of brotherhood and camaraderie that is born at the foot of the cross and sustained at the feet of Jesus? Let me just say that there were a lot of tears and encouraging words from brothers embracing brothers without regard to race or ethnicity.
Many of these men have maintained contact with their families during their incarceration. They told stories of how their wives and children were noticing something different about them. One of the most amazing moments for me was to hear how these men want their families and friends on the outside to discover what they are experiencing, to learn and apply these biblical principles of manhood for themselves. In Matthew 10:8 (NIV) Jesus said, “Freely you have received; freely give.” This was freely receiving and freely giving as Jesus intended. They were moved with compassion for people on the outside who needed what they had discovered on the inside. If only more men in our churches could be equally moved.
In 33 Volume 1: A Man and His Design we give a clear and compelling definition of biblical manhood. That definition was displayed in these men: REJECT PASSIVITY, ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY, LEAD COURAGEOUSLY, and INVEST ETERNALLY. What a powerful reminder of how God is using this thing we created called 33. I am proud and humbled to be a part of this global manhood movement.
Special thanks to Dick Wall and his team, and to Chaplain Tom Lowe for his help and support. 33 The Series has been approved by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for use in Texas correctional facilities. It is also being used around the country in other prison systems such as Folsom Prison in California, Milwaukee County House of Corrections in Wisconsin, and Southeast Correctional Center in Missouri.