Sunday, August 29, 2010

A story of God's grace

Slightly over a year ago I wrote a posting and never posted it. Now it is time. Today I sat in a hospital room with my husband who had a heart attack Thursday night and is having quadruple bypass surgery on Tuesday morning and watched him cry. Oh not sad tears, nothing to do with operations, but tears of joy. You see he was not able to be at his Sunday afternoon Bible study which he teaches at the Ione maximum youth security facility and he had just found out that the chaplain there was arranging to have four of the boys in the study talk to him on the phone.
So the story:

I have written before that my husband, whose last name is Larson, is Welsh and his name should be Roberts. The name switch is a story of grace-God’s grace.

My Father-In-Law left home in New York as a teenager. No one knows why. We only know that he spent some of his teen age years living with his uncle Willard Clute a famous botanist. But after that we only know he kicked around the United States during the Great Depression. And he got into a great deal of trouble. He was in jail several times.

Several years before becaming a Christian he and a friend robbed a post office and he went to federal prison. My husband grew up not knowing any of his father’s stories nor about his relatives in New York.

During one prison stay my Father-in-Law changed his name. Most of the rest of his story we do not know except now we do know about his family and some of their history.

But we do know that Mark Bradbury Roberts became a Christian and here the best part of the story begins. When Jack, as he is now remembered, retired one of the things he did was to go and live in Ione, California and teach refrigeration to the boys in the maximum youth security facility. As usual for him he joined the Assemblies of God Church in the area and he made friends with the young pastor Dave Skaggs.

One of Jack’s activities at the facility was to participant in an outreach where people in the community simply came on a week night and talked to the boys one on one. As Jack became more and more concerned with the lives of the boys in the youth prison he attempted to interest his pastor in their needs. Pastor Skaggs had other plans for his future, plans that would take him away from Ione. He was not interested. But Jack kept pestering him.

One day the pastor’s wife suggested that he at least go and satisfy Jack’s wishes thus ending the pestering. Today Dave Skaggs is the head Chaplain for all of California’s prisons. He is a kind and loving pastor, not only to his many wards, but to many other chaplains

And the beautiful and circular part of this story is that my husband Brad, who has been friends with Dave for many years, now goes and teaches a Bible study to the young men in the prison. There are actually three musketeers who do this; Brad and another wonderful fellow, Fred who sings in choir with Brad, as well as a dear old friend, Bill, a counselor from Davis. They all go on Sunday afternoon to Preston and teach a Bible Study.

The Lord so many times, when our hearts are open, and even sometimes when they are not, moves away the ugly stench of human willfulness and sin, and replaces it with his flourishing work. The criminal became a new person and the beginning of a long line of ministry to those trapped in both sin and prison. God’s blessings are always like that, full of grace and never-ending.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold new things have come Eph 5:17


Debbie said...

This is a wonderful story, Viola, not in the meaning of a fiction story, but a story about real life that I am glad that I know. Thank you for this insight into Brad's life and the life of his wonderful father! I am praying for Brad as he goes into this surgery, which is similar to the double heart valve-replacement, single-bypass surgery that I had on July 2, 2009, and which was a lifesaver for me. I pray that it will be the same for Brad, a wonderful lifesaving surgery done by skillful, caring doctors and nurses.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Debbie said...

Oops, make that June 2, 2009, not that anyone else cares. :-)


Suzanne said...

Thank you Viola...praying for Brad and you and your family...Trusting you all to God's care.

We have a good friend here whose's brother in law is a retired Missionary from Peru and is now doing prison ministry out of San Diego.

Pastor Bob said...

Praying for you all.

Presbyman said...

Viola, how awful when this happens, well, at any time, but especially around the time of your anniversary. You are both in my prayers.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

Viola Larson said...

Brad did very well in surgery yesterday. Thank you everyone for your prayers.