It’s not every day a man gets something in the mail that brings him to tears. Today was one of those days for me.
It was a large manila envelope sporting the return address of a prison in Maryland. I couldn’t imagine what I’d find inside. It turned out to be an 8-page, handmade booklet measuring 9 inches by 12 inches. On the cover were the words “Thank You” above a picture of a wooden cross with a rose on it. (See below)
Inside, to my astonishment, I found personal, handwritten messages of thanks from inmates, who, as a group, had studied my book, The Samson Syndrome. The messages were beautiful and powerful, but the thing that brought me to tears was the fact that virtually every inmate addressed me as “brother.”
“To Brother Mark Atteberry…”
“Greetings Brother Mark…
And so on.
Most people would look at me, a pastor, and them, inmates in a correctional institution, and assume we had nothing in common. They would be wrong. We are indeed brothers, children of the same Father. We are family, more so than many people who share the same DNA.
I have received quite a few gifts from readers of the Samson Syndrome: An American flag that was flown on combat missions with the 101st Airborne in Iraq, autographed pictures and jerseys from professional athletes, free tickets to NFL games, free meals and mountains of letters. But nothing has ever touched my heart like this handmade booklet written by men behind bars. It reminds me, as Paul’s prison epistles do, that faith can flourish anywhere.
It also reinforces my belief in the power of the written word.
I am deeply grateful that Thomas Nelson Publishers is re-releasing The Samson Syndrome with a new cover next year (in April) for a new generation of readers. I just finished revising and updating it a couple of weeks ago. On the same day next spring, The Solomon Seduction, my brand new book, will be released by Thomas Nelson. I know some guys who are going to get free copies. They live in Maryland and they’re my brothers.