“Even the wise cannot see all ends.” – Gandalf, Lord Of The Rings
When I began my journey into the prison system after I committed my crime (for which I am fully responsible and take full responsibility for my actions) I had no idea of what it would be like. I did not even know anyone, who knew anyone, in prison. I couldn’t imagine what the next day of my life would be like, particularly in the beginning, when everything is very new, and so many things happen to a new inmate, such as several transfers. I was broken-hearted, scared, angry, wracked with guilt, and totally unsure.
Now, ten years later, I am amazed and so very grateful for how far I have come. God provided help for me -outpouring of His grace, love and mercy–in ways I never expected, and, one of the biggest ways was through mentoring.
When I first came to prison I didn’t think that I would ever hear from anyone from home. I looked at my crimes and believed they were too heinous; that no one could want to relate to me now. To my eternal gratitude, first my family, then so many friends from home reached out to me in love, forgiveness, and support. And then to my amazement, I began receiving letters of encouragement and compassion from people I didn’t even know! ! I was blown away. How could someone who had only seen the horrific crime I committed want to reach out to me?
I grew up in a Christian home and went to various churches my entire life. I accepted Jesus as my savior at a young age and truly desired to follow after Christ. As I got older and the hard struggles began I became very disillusioned with Christianity and what I was being taught. I did not even remotely handle well the two cults our family ended up joining over my teen years, and I was not discerning the truth from the lies. Instead I decided it was easiest to appear “normal” and “good”, while the real me was a broken and confused disaster.
When I found myself in Lancaster County Prison (LCP) as a result of the choices I had made I was broken. That is an often tossed-about phrase (that now borders on cliché) which became very real to me the first morning I woke up! I was clad only in a striped jumpsuit in a bare cell (toilet/sink combo and bed only, nothing else) in LCP. Facing the unknown with the wreckage of my life and choices; viewing concrete walls and razor wire, I realized that I believed in God, I believed in Jesus as my savior,1 and I believed in the Bible. The former center of my life was gone, along with everything else, so I would start there.
In receiving letters of encouragement and compassion from family and friends, and, shockingly, people I didn’t even know, I felt a tremendous outpouring of God’s true love. I started to write people back, and in that correspondence began to get to know Ed Spencer, a unknown who had written me a letter that deeply touched my heart. The letter wasn’t full of brilliant prose or “perfect” words, it was full of genuine care and spoke to my heart, perfectly.
Knowing that there was someone out there who cared and was willing to listen made all the difference. Ed didn’t know anything about the prison system, (neither did I) but that didn’t matter. He knew how to show Jesus’s love and how to strengthen and encourage… which was exactly what I needed. Over the years he has faithfully continued to be there for me and has become one of my best friends. A blessing that I never could have foreseen.
We all need someone to talk to. Prison is by its nature very isolating and makes you feel detached from the “real world.” It exists in its own contained place and time; the “4th World.” Having someone to talk to on the outside, a mentor, reminds us that this place is not all there is. It puts life in perspective and helps us to grow. And mentorship builds; as I grow I am able to help others; to pass along what I have learned, to spread that care and compassion.
I didn’t know where I would be when I came to prison, but God did, and He has blessed me far beyond my wildest imaginings. Especially through the people He brought into my life; my mentors, my friends.
By David Ludwig, GR6289
SCI Dallas, 1000 Follies Rd, Dallas, PA 18612