We ushered the children across the cold, damp, dirty floor.
They were experiencing fear as they had never known before.
So many times they had been warned about this cruel, lonely place…
and for the first time, they were meeting... prisoners face to face.
They had gathered together on a Wednesday night to visit the city jail,
For their year end assignment was to see how easy
people can ruin their lives and just how a man could truly fail.
As they slowly passed from cell to cell, I couldn’t help but notice how their facial expressions began to change and each man they approached... would turn his face away in shame.
Not one of them could look at these little children straight in the eyes,
ashamed to speak, for no one wanted to display the mess they had made of their lives.
But one small child at the very end of the line lingered near an old man’s cell to possibly question him of his life’s crimes.
The child lowered his head somewhat afraid to speak as if searching for the words he wanted to say.
The elderly man watched and waited for he wasn’t really sure if the little boy... was even going to stay.
Finally, after a moment of silence, the prisoner caught a glimpse of those big brown eyes.
And couldn't help but notice a tear... as if this frail little boy... was just
about to cry.
Jokingly he asked, “Hey, there sonny. And just who are you?”
“Billy sir, “He answered timidly. “I came with my Church to visit, but if you don’t mind, I’d like to talk to you too!”
The old man nodded as if he would agree…For it somehow seemed right for once in his life to try and do at least one good deed.
“By all means! Go ahead Son, ask me away!
Believe me, after twenty years... I’d be happy to talk with you today."
Billy smiled and tried to hide his fear, as he looked over his shoulder to make sure no one else could hear.
“Well…our Teacher has told us if we do wrong we will have to pay,
and if we do something really bad, we would have to come to a place
like this to stay.    
But what I would really like to know…is what did you do so wrong to make you come to this awful place?”
The old wrinkled man just shook his head and could see the honest concern in this little fellow’s face.
He paused for a minute to gather his thoughts, not really knowing what to say.
His mind quickly relived the recent years of mistakes and for the first time he must face the ugly past and try to explain it to this child in some kind of way.
“Well... you see Billy…we’re all here in this terrible place today because somewhere down life’s road, we went the wrong way
and now every single one of us is having to pay.
Some are here because of drugs, and stealing or telling lies,
and yes, some are even here for taking innocent peoples lives.
That’s mostly the reasons that none of us are free.
I’ve been here for what seems my whole life time...
and now my life is almost over….I must pay for my own horrible crimes.
I’ll never be free to live out there anymore…
and you know the worst part…now that I look back,
I don’t really understand, what I did it all for!”
Billy had listened to the strangers every word he had to say…
And right then and there the Holy Spirit began to use him in a very special way,
“Mr…maybe you have done a lot of mean things before…
but I think I know a way you might be free for ever more!
Our Sunday School Teacher has told us about it lots of times and I know she wouldn’t lie to me.
She’s told us all about this man, some mean people beat him and then nailed him to a tree.
But, she said He loved those people and you and me so much, He died just to set us all free.
Now He lives in a place called Heaven and forgives everybody of all the things we do wrong everyday,
and just maybe if you talk to Him and tell Him how sorry you are,
He can help set you free exactly the same way!”

The old man blinked back a tear before it ran down his cheek,
And thought about what this child was saying who stood before him so innocent and so meek.
He suddenly remembered his own Mother telling him the same stories that this child too had heard,
and she prayed all throughout his life…but still he never believed a single word.
Now after a life full of sin had passed him all by,
And he was to dwell in misery where he knew he would one day soon die.
Maybe he could believe, yes maybe it was now the time to give this Jesus a try.
“Billy, just what is it I'm supposed to say or do? 
How is it you get Jesus to come and talk to you?”
Billy smiled and joyfully exclaimed…”You don’t have to do anything but call
out His Name!
Ask Him to come and live in your heart and your sins you are supposed to confess…Jesus will hear you and He’ll do all the rest!
He’ll forgive you for all the bad things you've EVER done
and I just know... IF anyone can help you…Jesus will be the one!”

The old man bowed his head humbly as if in silent prayer…not really knowing exactly how to start.
But as a lump formed deep in his throat,
he choked back tears as the words of repentance began flowing from his heart.
“Jesus, I’m not really sure what it is I’m supposed to do,
but, I got something I think is finally time
I need to ask of you.
Lord, please forgive me for the sinful things I
know I've done,
And I accept my punishment for giving in to satans deceitful lies,
when he convinced me... it was all just in fun.
I’m sorry Lord for wasting all those precious years that could have been lived for you…
Instead I thought only of myself... and did all the things that...well,  I
wanted to do.
Help me now Lord and show me your way…for I’m truly sorry for all
the wrong I’ve done,
and I know no other could ever help me now…YOU are the only one.

I do thank you, Lord for giving me one last chance and not turning me away.
And Jesus I especially thank you for dying for me and loving me enough to send this little Angel... my way.”

He lifted his head and wiped the tears from his eyes …
and noticed there were others in the prison around him,
who too had begun to cry.
The little boy happily looked up at him and grinned as the old man reached out to shake his little hand.
“Thank you son, for coming here today and helping this old,
old foolish man,
for your visit has truly meant a lot to me.
I never fully understood just what freedom could really be.
I know now there is a right way and a wrong way to live
And it’s worth everything to gain the freedom that only believing in Jesus can give.

Connie Burrow
©1997 All Rights Reserved
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