A visit to Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay harbor has left me with some stark and troubling images. Here on The Rock, men were known by their number and warehoused like hazardous material. Row after row of cramped, cage-like cells housed men who were told,
“You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else that you get is a privilege. You earn your privileges by conducting yourself properly.”
In the audio memoirs of former inmates there’s indication that when the wind was right prisoners could hear sounds and even faint voices from the city.
Saw the name “Jesus” scrawled on a cell wall. A Bible on a shelf.
Thought of Paul, whose letters from prison, have changed many of our lives. Chained up like a dangerous animal, he wrote to the family of Christ in Philippi,
For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die. For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better.
Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, but it is better for you that I live” (Philip 1:20-24).
Note:Visited Alcatraz on a rainy day that allowed us to see this rainbow from “The Rock.”