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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Time (11/15/12)

TITLE: Writing for Ray
By Sharon Eastman


I called it “serving a sentence;” he called it “doing time.” Ray was an incarcerated criminal at one of the most dangerous penitentiaries in the United States, Oregon State Penitentiary. It was located in a gorgeous land, but its beauty was marred by the hardened criminals living there. Imagine being a foot away from the brink of hell. And, all they had was time!

I met Ray through a prison correspondence program. In my first encounter with him, he sent a picture of himself along with a litany of information. His picture revealed a gorgeous man with wavy dark hair, soulful dark eyes, and a toothy grin that could capture any woman’s heart. I was enthralled and surprised that he resembled a handsome college football player rather than a devilish prison inmate. His letter evoked pity from me, and I sensed that this prison ministry was truly anointed.

Getting acquainted was the goal of our early letters. I told Ray all about myself; how I attended church faithfully; and how I loved the Lord. At first he wasn’t interested in that – he was interested in gifts of money. He was bitter and hateful; he had no remorse. It wasn’t easy to witness to him. He was a hard one to crack. One time he confided that he was forced to enroll in this ministry. It made me weep to know that, but, eventually, as I grew to know him, I understood why.

Ray came from very humble beginnings, a dysfunctional family worse than any television comedy show. It was easy to understand his hatred for his father. Being a brutal, abusive alcoholic, his father terrorized the household. Ray coped by hiding and running away, which started his life of crime. When Ray was at home, his drunken father would beat him to a pulp. One horrible time his besotted father beat Ray until he broke his arm. Ray never forgot that! Yet, his mother was trapped in her own nightmare and was passive about the situation. Ray adored his mother and idealized her like the Virgin Mary. Horror stung my heart as I read his vivid descriptions of childhood neglect and abuse.

After researching I found that most hardened criminals are raised in broken, abusive, dysfunctional families. They are raised in violence, thus, they emulate it. They are usually alcoholics or drug addicts. They have no stability or roots, and they drift like cats in the night. These facts capture the story of Ray’s life.

By the middle of our twelve year relationship, I discovered the wealth of Ray’s character. From his letters I gleaned that if circumstances had been better, he would probably be like any male American citizen. He loved the outdoors – fishing, hunting, and camping. Ray was a loner, yet he loved his family and friends. He was artistic and loved literature and writing. But, best of all he was a gentleman and treated me with the utmost respect.

When he finally wrote about his crime, I was shocked. Out of respect I never asked him for his story. He just wanted to get the “nightmare” off his chest and answer the burning question that I never asked. He was involved with a married woman, who had a daughter by him. Somehow, rage stirred concerning their daughter. Ray hit his limit about the dilemma and violence was born Ray, in a drunken stupor, brought his most viscous weapons and potent liquor to the trailer park. Ray patiently stalked this man to his mobile home, and as the man entered it, he fired haphazardly at him. For this chilling crime he was charged with attempted murder and punished for twelve years “doing time.” (It was never revealed if the man was actually killed.)

I committed to our correspondence until he was discharged. We kept in touch sparsely afterwards, but I haven’t heard from him in a long time.

“Doing time” in prison is a terrible experience. But, I think we all serve time on this planet. We are shackled by sin. While good things happen on earth, our minds and hearts don’t fully realize God’s truth until we’re washed clean in Jesus’ blood. The fulfillment of time comes either by death, the rapture, or Christ’s coming. Then, time will be no more.

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15,16 KJV

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This article has been read 362 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Christina Banks 11/22/12
I can feel your compassion for this man. Nicely done.
Lynda Lee Schab 11/23/12
I assume this is a true story. If so, I admire your compassion for Ray and your dedication to ministering to him through correspondence.

I think your story could have been started with the second paragraph, directly with the action of you meeting Ray. It also might have been more powerful with dialogue, or portions of the letters you exchanged to more thoroughly show his state-of-mind.

Overall, a nice entry on topic!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/25/12
You make some really good points in this story. Prison ministry is so important and I think many of us have certain prejudices about prisoners. You did a nice job of telling his story and giving us a peek inside his mind. Your last paragraph is quite powerful and shows a lot of insight.
C D Swanson 11/27/12
Great job with this entire entry. Explosive ending which will touch many.
Thanks. God Bless~
Myrna Noyes11/29/12
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interesting story! I also commend those who minister to incarcerated people--either those in literal prisons or in spiritual ones. CONGRATULATIONS on your first place level win! WAY TO WRITE!! :)
Bea Edwards 11/30/12
Good job writing about a painful and difficult existence. You humanized Ray which was what touched me the most in your story. Congratulations on your first win!