How A Visit Made Me Feel Human Again
It was a normal day of mess hall duties when I received a surprise message. I overheard a transmission on one of the cadre’s radio. The person on the other end said, “Send inmate Mike to South Gate, he has a visitor.” Since my parents would not be back in the states for a couple more months, I had no idea who might come to visit me. We usually worked in our t-shirts, so I put my brown shirt on and headed out of the mess hall to the 3 Wing gate.
One of the guards in the guard cage opened the gate for me and I passed through into the Rotunda and then out into the courtyard. Walking this path to go back and forth to work, church, or classes every day was so routine that, I didn’t appreciate it as much as the first time I walked through it. But today was different. Getting a visitor was a major deal. It was a privilege that was available to most inmates, however some inmates would never receive a visit throughout their entire confinement.
As I made my way towards the South Gate my pace picked up. No running was allowed inside the courtyard, so I was speed walking. Once I made it to the gate and reported in, they patted me down, and sent me into a room. There were a bunch of chairs, and a vending machine. Some inmates were there with a few visitors even though the room could accommodate a large number of people. The visitors looked strange because they were not wearing inmate brown, or military camouflage like the guards and cadre. The array of civilian clothes was colorful, bright and strange.
Scanning the group I did not see anyone I knew but I noticed an older couple sitting alone. As the woman stood up I recognized her from a picture I had in my cell.
It was Mary Sue. She was the woman from Eddie’s church that had been praying for me since I was arrested. She had been writing me letters and sending me the church bulletin so that I could see my name listed every Sunday in the prayer request section. She gave me a hug and although I had never met this woman in person before, I felt like she was family. Mary Sue introduced me to her husband Bill and we began to chat. Every time they addressed me, they used my first name and that took some getting used to. Everyone here called me Mike or inmate Mike. Hearing David seemed foreign.
I couldn’t help but wonder why they came all the way from Gainesville, Georgia to visit me. They were traveling on vacation to another destination and since they were driving through Kansas, she said that there was no way that they could be this close and not stop to see me. This blew me away. Why would someone who didn’t know me from Adam be this committed to me? Why did she care so much about a drug dealing, dishonorably discharged deserter? While it was nice to break up the monotony of the daily routine, and great to get out of work for a while, the feeling that someone really cared about me was incredible.
The rest of the conversation was a lot of getting to know each other, small talk stuff. They asked questions about prison life, and how I was doing. No matter who asked, I always said “Don’t worry about me, I’m doing fine.” I asked some questions about what was going on with Eddie, since he had been released from the Fort Riley detention facility. Mary Sue said that she didn’t see him that much, but that his mom said he was doing fine. We spent a couple hours in the visitation room but it went by pretty quickly.
I could have talked all day but, I knew that they had to continue on their vacation. Mary Sue gave me another hug and I shook Bill’s hand. After thanking them immensely for seeing me, I watched them leave and head out the door. Exiting the room in the other direction, I headed back to the Castle to go back to work. This time, as I walked through the courtyard, it felt different. Maybe it wasn’t the courtyard; maybe it was me. I was different. Who knew that one visit could change an inmate this much. My body felt lighter, my head was up and I was a person. My name was David, not Inmate and someone came to see me. I mattered.
I believe that God put my name in Mary Sue’s heart. He wanted her to pray for me because I needed it. She felt led to do it and was being obedient to her calling. She was praying for me and watching God work in my life. There was nothing she could do for me herself, so praying was what she did. When all you can do is pray, prayer is more than enough.
Many others had been praying for me like my family of course. Also people from the Chapel in Germany as well as many of the kids in the Chapel Youth Group that had read the letter I had sent to them. They were all praying for me, too.
But there were others that I only would find out about later.
Last year, I joined a motivational Facebook group called the 30 Days of Hustle that currently has over 11,000 members. In this group I would be prompted with some challenges to achieve a short term goal. I posted an introduction to the group stating that my goal was to start writing a book about my experience in Fort Leavenworth.
Minutes later, I received this message:
I saw your post on 30 Days of Hustle. I don’t know if you remember me, but I remember you. I dated a guy from Ft. Polk in the late 80s and you were the go-to guy for him and several friends. I never imbibed because 1) I was scared and 2) I always offered to drive. But all of that is neither here nor there.
I was around when you disappeared. I told my mom your story and she prayed for you for a long time. I cannot WAIT to tell her that I found you! I have also prayed for you once or twice since forming a wonderful relationship with Christ. I almost cried when I started reading your blog. It is YOU! The one my mom asked about for a year. It’s YOU, the one we prayed for. God is so faithful.
I look forward to the 30 Days and I look forward to reading your book. I’m so glad that it has such a happy ending.
Milaka (Myers) Falk
I asked Milaka why she prayed for me.
I prayed for a lot of people from my past. If I remembered a person or an instance, I would just send up a prayer. I know you struck a chord with my mom, but I can’t tell you why. She couldn’t either – she even said once that she didn’t know why your name kept coming up in her mind.
Milaka saw my name and remembered me from over 20 years ago. Her mom, whom I’ve never met, prayed for me while I was in prison. My name kept coming up in her head and she had no idea why. Chills ran through me when I read this. It’s amazing how God chooses to reveal Himself. I believe God wanted me to know, that no matter where I was or what I was doing, He never left me. He had a plan for my life despite my attempts to derail it. If I were left to my own devices, without the prayers of others covering me in my mess, I was destined to a life of failure, disappointment, misery and most likely death.
But, God promises this:
Deuteronomy 31:8 New Living Translation (NLT)
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
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