This is a story about John William Shea, an inmate at a state prison. He had been in prison for nearly three years, trying to get back into court on an appeal. In a couple weeks, he would finally get his wish and an answer to his prayer. “Are you looking forward to going back to county?” asked his cellmate. “Or are you nervous?” John and his cellmate were in their cell hanging out. John had been looking out the window that was next to the desk. He turned, looked at his cellmate and said, “I’m not sure. I guess a little bit of both.” He looked down trying to process what he wanted to say and then continued, “Whatever happens, I know God is in control.” He then turned around and looked out of the window again, thinking, wondering what it would be like ….
One week later, John was sitting on the bus on his way to another state prison where he would transfer to a van that would take him to the county prison where his appeal would be heard. He looked out of the window of the bus, noticing the beautiful snow covered trees and houses. They were traveling the mountains of central Pennsylvania. “How can people say there is no God’, John thought. Observing the mountains, trees, _ snow and river, John couldn’t understand how anyone could say there was no God. – “Everywhere you look there’s proof’, he thought. As he stared out the window, thinking, the bus began its decent down a mountain. Before John knew what was happening, the bus hit a patch of black ice and began heading towards a guardrail; smashing into it. The guardrail couldn’t hold the force of the big, heavy bus, and consequently the bus broke through. The bus with all its passengers rolled down the steep side of the mountain; killing everyone on board. It finally came to a rest at the bottom of the mountain, smashed, smoking and flipped over.
John, still lying on the ground, slowly opened his eyes. Blinded by the bright light, he then covered them with his hand to adjust. Slowly he began to stand, still blocking the bright light from his eyes. Everything was white; except a path paved in gold. John began to walk down the path until he came to a golden gate. “What the heck is going on here? Where am I?” John said aloud in front of the gate.
Seemingly out of nowhere, someone said, “Hello, you must be John William Shea. Welcome.” John turned to his left and saw someone standing there with a smile and…. a white robe. “Who …. where am I? And why are you glowing?” John wasn’t sure what to make of all of this. The person with the white robe stepped closer, still smiling and said, “Well, you’re in Heaven and I’m an angel. I am also the gatekeeper.” “Whoa! I wasn’t expecting that.” thought John. Gesturing towards the open gate, the angel continued, “Please, come in. Father has been expecting you”, he said as he walked through the gate. _
John slowly walked through the gate, turning around once more to see the angel smile and wave him on. He turned back around and kept walking down the golden path. He finally came to a street that was also paved in gold. He stopped and looked around. He couldn’t believe his eyes. There were huge skyscrapers made of gold. He continued walking along the golden street in complete awe. As he was walking, he became a little sad about his family. Then out of nowhere he heard a voice. He stopped. It sounded like someone was calling his name. John turned around to see a man standing, in a robe, glowing brighter than the angel. The man waved for John to come over to him. As John walked over, he thought, “Who is this guy? Why does he want to talk to me?” When he stood in front of the man, he didn’t say a word. But then the man spoke. “Hello John. Why are you so sad and worried?” the man asked. “I’ve been expecting you. And I’ve also been watching you for quite some time.” John was speechless. He wasn’t sure what to say. But he mumbled something, “Uh … well … “Then from within his heart, he heard a quiet voice, “Speak your heart. It’s ok John.” John looked around to see where the voice was coming from. He looked back at the man in front of him. “Did you … uh, did you say something?” John asked, looking hard at the man. Then he continued, “I was watching you, but I never saw your lips move.”
“I spoke to your heart, John”, the man answered with a grin. “I am your Father. What is wrong my son? Why are you so sad and worried?” “This man is crazy. This is crazy! “This can’t be happening!” John said aloud. “Well, I’m sad because I never said good- bye to any of my family and friends. I never told them I loved them before I left. I know they’ll miss me. I don’t want them to go through that and I’m worried they will.” The man looked at John, nodding his head in understanding. Then the man said, “Let me ask you a question. Are any of your family or friends Christians? Do you believe and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?” John looked and spoke, “Yes, yes of course.” He was thinking, and what he was thinking came out as, “What are you getting at, if you don’t mind?” The man posed another question, “If some are believers, they’re going to heaven – here- when they die, and you’ll be able to see them again then. There’s no reason to be sad or worried. You must believe in me. You must have faith. I’m in control and will always be in control.”
John’s mouth dropped…he now realized whom he’d been talking to. He looked at Jesus and declared “You’re God!” Jesus smiled and nodded. John said, “Yes, yes, I believe! There really is no sorrow or pain in heaven. Wow! Thank you Jesus.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This short story was written by Brandon Bishop, an inmate at SCI Forest, who I have been communicating with for over one year. My wife and I will also visit him this month for the first time, and we are looking forward to meeting him in person. Brandon is a believer, with a heart for the Lord, and he has 5 years left of a 10 year sentence. If you would like to compliment his short story or offer him Christian encouragement, you can write to him: Brandon Bishop KK5425, SCI Forest, PO Box 945 , Marienville, PA 16239