"I Didn't Think I Was Doing Anything That Special"

by Philip Walkley, Executive Director “He is out of jail! All the charges were dropped,” Jessica* shared excitedly in a Facebook message. She was talking about Markus, the 25 year old nephew of Mrs. Gladys, a 2010 SOS homeowner.

Markus has not had an easy life. He was accused of a murder when he was 10 years old because he was standing near a girl who drowned.   He spent the next 8 years of his life in jail. Shortly after his release he was charged with another crime and went back to jail for several more years. Can you imagine – all of your adolescent life spent in jail? He was released again a few years ago on parole and often hung around Mrs. Gladys’ house while our campers worked to repair her roof, siding and bathroom.

You would never know Markus had spent all of his adolescent life in prison. He was polite, a hard worker, and such a joy to be around. He helped the teams with the repairs, he came to the picnic every Friday, and he even participated in Bible studies with the groups during lunch. He was such a blessing to all the teams that came to SOS this summer.

John, the youth leader for a Memphis area church working at Mrs. Gladys’ home, had the privilege of leading Markus to Christ. Many people had been praying for his salvation all summer. Then on Friday of the last week of camp of the summer Markus submitted his life to Christ. John prayed with him, and he seemed to have so much genuine joy in his new found salvation.

John was committed to Markus. He said he takes Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples very seriously and that if he leads someone to the Lord, he takes on the responsibility of shepherding that person. He was even making plans to hire Markus to work for his pool company.

So it came as such a surprise and heartbreak to all of us when we got word that less than one week later Markus was back in jail. As it turns out, Markus had unknowingly violated his parole essentially for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was such an innocent mistake. But with his history, it had serious consequences.

John went to visit him in jail several times over the next few weeks. He shared scripture with Markus and prayed with him, but said, “It’s just not the same when you have to do it through a camera and not face to face.” John was committed to discipling Markus but had never discipled anyone who was incarcerated. “How does that work?” he asked himself.

But God continued to show his faithfulness to Markus even in his difficult circumstances. He shared with John on one of their visits how his two cell mates were also believers and that several times they had stayed up late at night singing gospel hymns together.

Then, seemingly out of the blue, Markus’ charges were dropped and he was released from jail a couple of weeks later. You can imagine the excitement for all of us!

Just a couple of days after his release, John took Markus and Mrs. Gladys out for barbeque at the Rendezvous to celebrate. While they were eating, Markus broke down and through tears told John how much it meant to him that he came and visited him in prison and was praying for him. John told me, “I only went to visit him 4 times. I didn’t think I was doing anything that special.”

“I didn’t think I was doing anything that special.” That statement has caused me to look at my heart. Has Christ so captivated my heart that it feels normal for me – as if I’m not doing anything special – to go to great lengths to show others the love of Christ? I pray that is the case for each of us. After all, compared to Christ’s sacrifice for us, our attempts to love and serve others really are not that special. But they are special if they are fueled by the life-changing power of the gospel.

*All names have been changed as a courtesy to the individuals