Behind the Walls

I took an afternoon stroll to the mailbox. While walking back to the house thumbing through the envelopes of junk mail and bills, I came across a plain white envelope addressed to me. The return address took me by surprise. Written beside the name of the sender was a prison number.

Panic ensued as questions swirled in my mind. How did a prisoner get my address? Who would be writing to me from a prison cell? Is this for real?

I went inside to examine the envelope. It looked legit, so I opened it. Inside was a handwritten letter on notebook paper. In the top left corner was the author’s name, date, and a title: “Strength in Worship.” I found no explanation of why I was the recipient. Just a beautifully written story about God’s presence filling his prison cell on a day when he felt so alone.

Strength in Worship

Colin J. Broughton
 It happened on a Saturday, the day God decided to fill my prison cell. My roommate was away volunteering at hospice, so I decided to give our room a good cleaning. Once the cleaning was finished, I turned out the lights and sat in the dark. I felt alone. I felt hopeless. For me there wasn’t the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I was sentenced to life in 2009.

     Before my pity party really kicked off, I decided it was a good time to worship. I knelt on my shower shoes and grabbed my radio. I turned to His Radio but there was silence. Maybe the batteries were dead. After a few seconds, I heard the cry of a stringed instrument. A violin perhaps. Immediately a stream of tears flowed from both eyes.

     “You call me out upon the waters,” my favorite worship song was playing. My hands were in the air and I was engulfed by God’s presence. I felt loved, comforted, and strengthened, while my father spoke to me through the song lyrics. As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1) In that moment God reassured me He wasn’t going anywhere, and He would love me no matter my situation. It was a holy moment to say the least.

     Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). I glorified God that day because He’s a keeper of His children. “And keep my eyes above the waves…” Being incarcerated definitely has its challenges, but God is bigger than any situation we could face. Even when the song “Oceans” ended, I continued praising my Father. He is the one guest I wanted to stay.

     When I was finished praising, I couldn’t help but laugh at the puddle of tears and snot on the floor. God had rekindled my strength as well as my joy. I had the strength of ten men as well as a smile that wouldn’t disappear. “My soul will rest in Your embrace for I am Yours, and You are mine!”

I was taken back. This 38-year-old man isn’t a hopeless prisoner wasting away behind bars. He knows Jesus, and he knows how to worship.

I immediately called a friend whose son is incarcerated and told her about the letter. When we hung up, I remembered a former prisoner, Jimmy MacPhee, who Living Real Magazine published an article about and recorded a podcast with. So I gave Jimmy a call. Through this divinely-orchestrated conversation, Jimmy told me he knew Colin personally. Out of all the inmates in SC, they had been imprisoned together at Perry Correctional and had both graduated from Columbia International University in 2019 through CIU’s prisoner program. I asked him if he knew how Colin would have gotten my address, and the only thing he could come up with was that Colin had received a Living Real Magazine from one of the prison volunteers. Jimmy vouched for his friend’s character and told me Colin calls him every other week just to talk. He referred to Colin as a gentle giant. 

Colin ministers through hospice care inside the prison. In a second letter, he stated “the gospel is very real, and it moves throughout these walls.” He knows he will never be physically free because of the crimes committed as a teenager. But his spirit was freed when Christ redeemed him shortly after he was arrested. Colin may have to live the rest of his life behind physical bars, but nothing can bar him from serving his Lord and Savior as long as he lives.

As Founder and Editor in Chief for Living Real Magazine, I’m constantly amazed at how God uses this publication to reach hearts in places I never would have imagined—like behind the walls of a prison.

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