Finding Sheep in “Death Row”
JUST as it is quite impossible to judge a person by first impressions or by their initial reactions at the door when you are presenting the Kingdom message, so one cannot always judge by his past course in life whether a person has a heart of good will. This fact was strikingly brought to our attention by a letter from a minister of Jehovah’s witnesses who visits the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
This minister has been given permission by the authorities to visit those within the prison who have manifested interest in the good news of Jehovah’s kingdom. Quite a number of the inmates have progressed in their study of the Bible to the point that they have become Jehovah’s witnesses, even though incarcerated for various past crimes.
It is quite striking to know that even men in “death row” have become active witnesses, not in some last-minute emotional death-bed-repentance outburst, but with intelligent faith, realizing that even though the hours that remain may be few, they must be devoted to doing what Jehovah’s will is, as revealed in his Word. Here is what the minister who visits these men in “death row” reports:
“This letter is in regard to my visit with the men in ‘death row’ of this prison. At present two of the three men being visited there are still in this confinement, condemned to death.
“Brother Z was baptized by me on December 12. Prior to now this has not been reported. The circumstances surrounding this baptism no doubt are different from most, in that extreme caution was taken by the military with this man since it was necessary to bring him out of his place of confinement. The baptism was performed in a large bathtub in the prison hospital. The unusual thing is that four guards stood by and heard the baptismal discourse. The prayer and the baptism itself was witnessed by the Commandant, who is the one who sets the time and orders the executions carried out, three of which were done recently. In attendance also were his assistant, a major, and eight guards, all of top noncommissioned rank.
“Brother Z is certainly maturing in his study and he witnesses to other prisoners. The other man in death row could neither read nor write, but with Brother Z’s help he has trained himself to read and is studying the Bible.
“The third man formerly confined to death row (for two and a half years) has had his sentence changed to life imprisonment and expects eventually to be moved to a Federal prison. He now attends the meetings for Jehovah’s witnesses regularly each week along with three men of good will. All these assembling here in the Disciplinary Barracks certainly thank Jehovah for his Word, his organization and his spirit. Their thanks go out to Jehovah for the latest Bible aids which are to be found in this institution’s library.”
In the hour of Jesus’ death an evildoer befriended Jesus and rebuked those who spoke abusively of him. Exercising faith in Jesus as the Christ, this evildoer said: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” Those coming to Christ today in the same faith can entertain the same promise despite their past conduct.—Luke 23:42, 43, NW.
It’s Only a Business
● Under the heading “Priests Demand Union Wages” the Ithaca, New York, Journal of January 19 printed an Associated Press dispatch that said that in Ahmedabad about a hundred priests “have formed a union to fight for higher wages and improved working conditions. Contending they are employes of an industry, the priests have asked the Bombay state government to bring them under the minimum wages act and allow them to take their case before a state industrial tribunal.” How unlike the true religion, which is a service of God, not self, and in which mature ministers “shepherd the flock of God . . . , not under compulsion, but willingly, neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly.”—1 Pet. 5:2, NW.