An Unlikely Friendship
Connie Moorman couldn’t understand why Jeremy’s name kept grabbing her attention. He was on trial for charges related to a double murder, and every time she would hear about him in the local news, she felt a sense of burden about him. A few days later a co-worker asked Connie to please pray for a friend, whose son was on trial. It turned out that son was Jeremy. She wondered if it was a coincidence, or if God was trying to get her attention. Shortly thereafter she picked up a local paper, and there on the front page was a picture of Jeremy. The photo stopped her in her tracks. Jeremy bore a striking resemblance to her late son, Sean, who had died five years earlier. That’s when she knew she had to do something.
At the time, Jeremy was in the local jail while the trial proceeded. Connie had never visited a jail, didn’t know anyone who had ever been in prison, and had no knowledge of how the correctional system worked, but she knew how to write. Connie explains, “I sat down and typed him out a letter, and I didn’t even know what I said. I just started typing, because those weren’t my words coming out. But I told him the story of Sean, and how I had seen his name, and I said, What can I do for you?” Within days, Jeremy wrote back, and a friendship quickly began.
Jeremy was convicted for his role in the crime and received a 30-year sentence. As he has been moved around within the Virginia prison system, Connie has done more than write him letters. Along with her husband, Steve, she has gone to visit him. She has received phone calls from him. She has offered financial assistance to him. Most importantly, she has shared her faith with him. Jeremy came from a very broken home with no viable Christian witness, but over the years Connie found useful ways to share the gospel with him. She sent him copies of devotional writings she thought would be helpful. She ordered books for him. She even read through the Bible with him, with the two of them writing back and forth to share with each other how far they had read and what they had learned. In time, Jeremy gave his life to Jesus Christ and has committed to be a Christian witness behind the bars of his prison cell.
That witness has had far reaching effects. As other cellmates have come and gone, Jeremy has told them about both Connie and about Jesus. Referring to 1 Corinthians 9:19, Jeremy says, “This is the only acceptable attitude if we as prisoners have any hope of winning others to Christ. Even as a prisoner, I belong to no one but Christ, but have made myself His slave and do His work. Thus, to me, ministry to inmates is no idea, but a way of life.” Because of the connections that have grown out of Jeremy’s witness, Connie now maintains correspondence with at least eight other prisoners who are spread all across the state.
One such person is Doc, who is serving a life sentence. Doc now has cancer and is in a medical ward, where he will probably die, but he will not die without the hope of the gospel! You see, for a time, Doc and Jeremy were cellmates. At first he didn’t want to hear anything about Jeremy’s faith, but over time his heart softened, thanks in part to a book Connie first shared with Jeremy, which he then passed on to Doc. Today, Doc is a believer, and he leads a small group of other prisoners in regular Bible study. Who can say what seeds are being sown through those conversations?
The relationships Connie has formed have not always been easy. “These guys live in a completely different culture that we can’t identify with,” she says. “They face pressures and trials I don’t know anything about, so one of the biggest obstacles or challenges is communication.” Sometimes it weighs on her. The more Connie has come to know about their world, the greater the burden she has felt for them. She understands they have made bad choices that landed them in prison, but she also realizes many of them came from terribly dysfunctional circumstances where there was no one to guide them or teach them a better way. Without something or someone to intervene, most of them will drift right back into the same old patterns of behavior. “All they’ve known all their life are people who drop them. I’m going to be here for Jeremy for as long as I can,” Connie explains.
When this all began, Connie had no idea she would be that intervening presence. She was simply responding to a burden God placed on her heart for a young man society was ready to toss aside. In the 13 years since that first letter was sent, God has done things through Connie and Jeremy’s friendship neither of them could have expected. It all began with a spirit of openness and a single letter from one stranger to another.
When asked how others can learn to sense God’s leading in their lives, Connie says, “Don’t try to anticipate what God will do. Just be completely open. I never imagined God would lead me [to minister to prisoners]. I just felt like God was asking me to do something, so I did the only thing I could figure out to do. Do your part, plants seeds, whatever you need to do. God will take it from there.” Jeremy offers a similar insight, saying that we simply have to be ready to be a blessing to other people. He writes, “For me, I truly believe it is God’s will for all His children to be blessed... We should be willing to do such at all times since it is His will, not just under certain circumstances.”
One of the key initiatives in our strategic plan is to go and serve. More specifically, we want to create a culture in which everyone is actively serving someone else. Some of those acts of service will take place through the programs and ministries of our church, but some of the most important ones will happen in the individual lives of believers who simply respond to the needs God places in their path. When we are responsive to the burdens God places upon us, he will often do things we cannot even begin to imagine.