From the Hills: Jailhouse Salvation

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For two weeks I have written about Jimmy, the prisoner who is supposed to move to our house when he is released from prison.

He was scheduled to arrive this week, but that doesn’t seem likely. We haven’t heard from him. We haven’t heard from the Department of Corrections either. My Husband and I are in a confusing information void.

Has this ever happened in your life? God -- or perhaps your family, your boss, neighbor, a building contractor, or the government -- tells you what to expect and when it will happen, but it doesn’t? 

My Husband and I have spent 10 years positioning ourselves to be catalysts of a miracle in Jimmy’s life. No other decision has received this much joint prayer. We know that people change in prison. However, we’ve rarely seen anyone return to their community in a humble attitude of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control (The Fruits of the Spirit.) Because God can transform anyone, we fervently believe that with spiritual guidance, Jimmy can develop those characteristics.   

I recently watched a series of videos made by John Cichy, an undercover Illinois police officer who pleaded guilty in 2013 to stealing drugs from dealers and selling them for a profit. It was a lucrative gig until he and his detective friends got caught.

Then, “I got saved. For reasons I can’t explain, God chose to intervene in my life. He chose to be in a relationship with me through Jesus. This isn’t a show or a gimmick. This is real.” John Cichy’s tousled black hair, boyish good looks, and the obvious discomfort he experienced just saying the word “God,” convinced me that he is authentic.

“There are things that I can’t explain except for -- God. I’m not crazy! I’m very logical. This isn’t like me.” His faith journey began when he called out to God and made a declaration of faith the night before his bail hearing.

“Jailhouse salvations” aren’t unusual: Lots of people want God to save them when they get caught, and who wouldn’t?

Our friend Jimmy belonged to a church long before his criminal behavior started. Then one day after work he went to the casino with his friends. Unfortunately, he won—big. So he went back the next day, and the one after that. Once he’d lost the mortgage and everything he and his wife had saved together, he needed a plan to make it up quickly before Michele figured out the money was missing. Drugs seemed like a quick solution.  

Cichy continued to explain a series of supernatural events that occurred during his legal proceeding: Money, favorable court decisions, friendships, the development of his faith. His situation demanded that he mature quickly. He needed to learn how to hear the voice of God through the chatter of his mistakes.

The scripture that lifted him was Proverbs 29:25.  “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”

All the charges were dropped against Cichy in February 2018 and he walked out of the courthouse a free man. His co-defendants are both doing time. Cichy is now a youth pastor and he baptized his attorney.

The thing I loved most about John Cichy was his humble heart. He was genuinely amazed that God wanted to have a relationship with him. Nothing kills “jailhouse salvation” faster than arrogance.

It’s something Jimmy will need to remember. He thinks his clemency papers were signed because he deserves to have his sentence reduced. I believe they were signed because God loves him.

Maybe that’s why he is still locked up.

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Sylvia Peterson is former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and the author of “The Red Door: Where Hurt and Holiness Collide,” which can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at sylviap7@comcast.net. 

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