8/16/17 – Pastor Brian’s Blog
I have been thinking about what I would blog this week. My first thoughts went to Judy as it seems that she is the most popular blog that I have done to date! You would think that this would no longer surprise me. I have been at my church now for 18 years because the people really love Judy. I am invited to speak somewhere and the 1st question they ask… “Is Judy coming with you?” When Judy is invited to speak somewhere; they never ask, “Is Brian coming with you?”
Although I felt the pressure to write about Judy to pad my “Likes” on Facebook, I have resisted that temptation. To be honest, all week long I’ve had no idea what I was going to blog about. This morning as I was thinking what I would share I asked God and He told me to speak about (of all things), my High School French teacher!!
You need to understand that there were very few classes that I enjoyed in High School but there was no class that I disliked more than French class. Back in the day when I was in High School, you had to take a foreign language if you had any intentions of going on to college and for me it was French. Four years of French and the only two words I can still remember are ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Au Revoir.’ And in all candor, I even had to look them up this morning in order to remember how to spell them. But I need to move on as the memories of this class are causing me to become nauseated.
I remember as if it were yesterday, although I cannot remember what happened in class that day; I do remember my French teacher asking me to stay after because he wanted to talk to me. I knew from previous experience that these after school talks were not a bonding time for us. I remember him saying to me, “Brian, if you do not change your ways, you are going to spend your life in prison.”
And you know what, he was right! Matter of fact I am going into prison today, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. But before I tell you why I am going into prison, let me tell you about a man God brought into my life on one of my visits to prison about 15 years ago.
I had been invited to speak at the church service in our state prison one Saturday night. It was the first time that I had been in so I really did not know what to expect. Everything went well and the men were very complementary and welcoming. Matter of fact, they even invited me to return!
On my next visit, after I was through speaking, one of the inmates came up to me and asked if he could meet with me privately. Not expecting that to happen, you can understand my amazement when he was granted permission to be alone with me in a room down the hall from the chapel and the prison guard.
The inmate starts the conversation by asking, “Do you remember me?” I start to stutter and stammer trying to figure out where I had met this man all the while wondering why am I alone in this room with an inmate!!
I apologized that I did not recognize him and then he told me his name and I had to apologize again because I did not remember him. He then said that when he heard that Brian Gower was going to speak in the prison chapel, he thought to himself; there is no way that the Brian Gower I knew would be speaking in our church. He then said, “As soon as you spoke I knew it was you, and all my hatred and resentment that I had for you came rushing back.”
Here is his story. We went to high school together, he was a freshman and I was a senior. I don’t have time to give you all the details so I will give you the overview. Being a senior I had my group of “cool” friends that I hung out with. As for him being a freshman, well, I don’t have to tell you what that meant. I played all the sports, he was a musician… again I don’t have to tell you what that meant. And did I mention that he was a freshman!?
During that year, unknown to me, this freshman grew to despise me; really hate me, to the point of wanting me dead. This guy loved to hunt; he had his own guns; made his own ammunition and did a lot of hunting and target practice. One day he brought his rifle to school, which was not really a big deal back in the day as some people would use them to kill squirrels or do some target practice.
But this day it was different; this day he wanted to kill me (Do your member that he and I are now in a room alone together?). Unbeknown to me, this man waited from me to come out of basketball practice. Our gym was at the end of the soccer field so he waited behind a tree at the far end of the soccer field and as I was walking out of the gym and towards the field, this guy lined me up in his sights and pulled the trigger. He said that this was the first and only time in his life that his rifle jammed and the gun would not shoot. He said he fell to the ground and cried uncontrollably because he failed in killing me.
I graduated from High School that year never knowing how close I came to losing my life. This inmate never returned to that high school; he would later go to a Christian university and after graduation would become a pastor. As his father was dying, he told his son, “You need to come to Christ and take Him as your personal Savior.” After thinking about what his dad had said, even though he was a pastor, he realized that he did not know Christ in a personal way, so he would later come to Christ and his life was changed forever.
But the change was more than just spiritual; it changed everything. After he became saved, God impressed upon his heart that he not only needed to repent of things he was doing, he needed to turn himself in for things that he had done. Today this inmate who has become my friend is serving time in the state prison without parole because of poor choices that he made.
But God is doing great things in him and through him. The church that he is actively involved in within the prison is a church unlike most churches that I have seen outside the walls. God is doing a great work within the prison in large part due to the spiritual leadership of this man and the inmates that God has brought in to surround and work with him.
I say all this to share with you this story of God’s Grace and how God can transform lives no matter what we have done, or how low we have gone. A story about a God who can change everything. Paul said it well when he wrote…. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
I would ask you to pray for us. Judy and I, plus others, are going into this same prison to do evangelistic meetings, today & Thursday. We will be reaching 100 men who have said that they are either unchurched, unbelievers, atheists, part of a cult, or involved in demonic activity. 100 men that know they are coming to hear about Christ. And do you know what is really amazing, we have a waiting list of men that want to attend but are unable to because we cannot handle any more in the chapel.
So please pray with us as we enter a place where Satan is strong but also a place where God is working and He is working to change lives. On Friday & Saturday we will also be in prison to teach and train prisoners on how to live out their faith behind the walls and impact their community.
My high school French teacher said that I would end up in prison one day; little did he know what God had in mind!