As many of you know, a giant of the faith went home to be with the Lord Saturday, April 21, at 3 p.m. Charles W. Colson, my friend, mentor and brother in the fellowship, passed away with his family at his bedside.
I met Chuck in 1977. He was instrumental in leading me to the Lord while I was in prison. Chuck had recently been released from federal prison in Alabama, and he understood the devastating effects of prison on inmates and their families. I remember his wonderful presentation of the Gospel and the warmth and concern he had for the common inmate.
Here is a man who had come from the halls of power, serving as special counsel to the president – yet, he understood what our special needs were. After my conversion, he was instrumental in getting me furloughed from prison and up to Wheaton College along with eight other inmates and their wives. Donna and I were trained under his leadership, taught how to minister, and charged to spend our lives serving others through the ministry. Chuck had just founded Prison Fellowship. And let me add, there is a fellowship among inmates and ex-felons who are in Christ. This fellowship is unique in terms of being set free while in bonds. You learn to “use” the time, instead of “doing” the time. And you learn what it really means to be set free. This fellowship includes Joseph, John the Baptist, the great Apostle Paul, many of the disciples, suffering saints today and, of course, the Lord Himself.
I recall the uniqueness of our relationship. Upon my release and in ministry, I had a major failure. It was Chuck who encouraged me by phone and letter to stand in the Faith. He even took time out of his busy schedule to come to Detroit and meet with me. What a blessing! Words can’t begin to describe what that meant to me. I also remember working for Prison Fellowship, traveling with my wife, visiting prisons all across the country, and seeing lives changed – men and women set free while still incarcerated! Those were some of the best times in ministry for Donna and me.
The last time we saw Chuck was two years ago at the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention. He was on his way to the airport. We met and hugged, and although we didn’t have much time to reminisce, the bond of brotherhood was strong.
One thing we as inmates always looked forward to was being released and going home. Chuck is now released and gone home. Good bye, my friend. I look forward to the day when we will meet again in the kingdom, where we will collectively thank Him for our pardon and new beginnings.
Your fellow bond servant in Christ,