The prison yard must have been three football fields long and two wide, but its size failed to distract us from the height of the imposing walls that surrounded us. In the center the prisoners vs. “saints” soccer game continued, and as a native of Rome, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to the games staged two thousand years ago in the Coliseum. Our team stood around in twos and threes with some of the prisoners that desired our company. Four of them had just welcomed the living God into their hearts with no need for persuasion… unless you consider love a form of persuasion. My friend Drew, from San Francisco, and his translator, were still engaged with them while Josue and I walked over to the boy standing curiously by himself, not 12 feet away. With the game clock ticking away the hour or so left, I plunged in, assuming that like all our other divine appointments in Tepic, this one would cut right to prayer-needs and prayer itself. I was wrong.
I hadn’t yet learned his name, but he stood about 5’1 or2″ tall, and although I hate boxing, his wiry build brought to mind the word “welterweight”, which I have since learned would weigh in at 147 to 153 pounds. The hair was dark and uniformly buzzed to about 1/4″, and the clothes were indistinct enough that I can’t recall what they were. If anything, I’m guessing grey or blue jeans and white T shirt, but as my Southern US History teacher would say, “ah wouldn’t sweah to it!” All that to say that there was nothing much to differentiate him from the other thousand inmates. But what did make him different was the fact that he had questions.
Although he certainly stands out for his admitted prior vocation, he has the distinction of being perhaps the only person in two weeks that any of our team encountered, who had questions. And they were good ones. Yet I remembered clearly the confidence I felt when he asked me if I’d answer his questions, and I invited him to fire away, figuratively of course. It’s that confidence you can only have when you know who’s you are – the King of Kings – and what His will is – “that NONE should perish, but have eternal life!”.
His biggest questions were about the church. If there was just one bible, and one truth, why were there so many churches fighting over differing beliefs. That was the big one. First, I answered, the church is messed up because it’s full of messed up people like you and me. But the real problem is that the bible is attempting to point at eternal realities using limited language resources, and filtering through even more limited human intelligence. And sometimes, apparent contradictions are needed to point at truth that operates in other dimensions beyond the four that we know about: x, y, z, and time. That is why the real saints of the church considered mystery an important factor in their relationship to God. Without it we ‘re redefining our own version of the truth, and then arguing and dividing over it. Even quantum physicists have discovered that mystery is an important ingredient in their theories. Suffice it to say that questions got answered, and the next phase began – the story of a cartel killer.
The boy whose name I still didn’t know, seemed satisfied with the answers he received, but there was one more thing in the way of… Well, he seemed to know there was something awaiting him. Something inevitable even if unspoken. He never mentioned what it was, but he didn’t have to. But it seems funny to explain later. I’m not even sure how he made these conditions clear to an undefined eventuality. I knew where this was going, and you probably do too. I wanted it for him, and I think he did too. I can assure you, I didn’t have to prove to him that he had sin all over him: he knew that all on his own. And I’ll bet most of those young men with their horrible past all knew they had fallen short and needed something supernatural to happen, because there was no other way out for them. The blood of their victims cried out for purification. Suffice it to say that questions got answered, and the next phase began – the story of a cartel killer.
To be continued…