Strangely At Home
"For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
The above quotation was taken from Psalm 51, which was written by King David after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. His sin with Bathsheba was revealed and the king was condemned. Being a man after God's own heart, King David repented. His sorrow and remorse was readily evident in his psalm.
During my recent trip to Hong Kong, I was invited to participate in the Christmas outreach program at the Stanley Prison. At first, I was rather hesitant to go because I had never spoken in a prison before. The Stanley Prison being a maximum security area, we all had to hand in our passports and were searched before being allowed to go in. Even my bottled water was taken away by the guards. Apparently some visitors had tried to smuggle in illicit drugs with their water bottles.
With fear the trembling, I spoke twice that Saturday, using Psalm 51 as my text. Analogy was drawn between King David and President Clinton and comparison made between their repentance. With such an audience, I knew there was no need to emphasize our sinfulness. The important point was to show them how to get connected with the forgiving Saviour. They were told that we could show them the way but they would have to take the step of faith themselves if they really wanted forgiveness. During the talk, there was very little emotion shown on the faces in the audience. But when we went around to shake their bands after the talk, there were sincere thanks and deep appreciation. I met many repeat offenders and some lifers. Maybe because the inmates were all Chinese, I actually felt strangely at home among them inside the prison!
When all the response sheets were gathered and results tabulated, I was totally taken by surprise. 46 people indicated their desire to accept the Lord as their Savoir, not counting those who had made similar decisions before.
There is a group of full time Christian workers doing follow-up with these new converts. Mr. Wan, who invited me to join their program that day, belongs to the Hong Kong Christian Kun Sun Association. This association was formally affiliated with Chuck Colson's International Prison Fellowship in 1983. Mr. Wan actually has a long waiting list for follow-up counseling, mainly because he prefers to have personal Bible study with the new converts. What a meaningful ministry!
There was another twist during this memorable visit.
During the break between the two talks at the Stanley Prison, I was taken to meet three lifers in a separate cell. Through the prison ministry, they had become Christians and matured throughout the years. They were eager to serve the Lord inside the prison. They offered to translate my book The Golden Touch into Chinese. "Because we have time," as one of them explained to me softly. One of them had written some music for the title poem The Golden Touch. On my insistence. He actually sang the first stanza for us, with his guitar as accompaniment. I listen to their sharing with tears in my eyes. Having read my book, they were happy to meet the author in person. Frankly, I was overwhelmed by their simple faith and enormous love. Forming a small circle, the six of us (together with the chaplain and Mr. Wan) then held hands to pray. I found my self stuttering. At that moment, God's presence was so real. There was no barrier between these lifers and the visitors. We knew we were the same in the eyes of God and together we thanked Him for His forgiveness and grace. Seeing once again the visible life-changing power of the gospel, I knew I would not be the same after that visit.
My heart echoed with King David's words: "Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice."