One afternoon a couple hours prior to staff meeting, Chaplain Rodney Stilwell tapped me on the shoulder and said “come on let’s go for a visit.” I had no idea where we were going or who we were going to visit. In the car Rodney told me that we were going to visit Ron.* As a young man Ron had committed a very serious crime and spent a good part of his life in prison, but in prison, Ron and Jesus found each other and Ron changed. Rodney married Ron and his wife in 2005, and I was privileged to see the results of that union.
We walked into a small but immaculate house, and the smells of dinner being prepared filled the living room. We were visiting Ron because while in Wilmington on a delivery run for his trucking company, Ron suffered a heart attack. He drove himself back to Winston-Salem and checked into the hospital. It was touch and go for a while and then Ron suffered complications from a blood thinner and almost didn’t make it. The man who walked into that living room when we entered the front door, while thin, was full of life and joy. He and Rodney embraced and the jokes and storytelling began. Ron’s wife joined us, and I got to see a glimpse of what the joy in heaven will be like. There will be a lot of laughing! Before we left Rodney asked to pray for them and we all joined hands standing in a tight circle. Before long, Ron took over the praying and the earth moved. We had gone to take Ron and his wife a gift card to help them with grocery expenses, and we came away the ones blessed.
That visit with Ron stayed with me through the evening and into the next morning. Through God’s grace I finally came to understand that I was sent to visit Ron so that God could show me what humility and grace are all about. Jesus said to me if he were picking a disciple in that room, he would pick Ron because he loves Christ with all his heart. It was a convicting moment for me.
Ron has been gone from the Cherry Street facility for more than 10 years, but remains a friend and lover of the ministry. We went to minister to him (because that is what we do), and we were the ones who were ministered to. Come and visit us and the men in prison, and I promise you will be blessed as well.
Robert Esleeck, Transition to Work Director