I have a story I’ve told to the inmates in the jail about a young man who lived in South Central Los Angeles. This young man’s name was Miguel. Miguel’s older brother was the head of a local gang and was very successful as a gangster. He was so successful that his gang territory was slowly expanding. The head gangster in the neighboring territory decided Miguel’s older brother had to go. Shortly after that decision Miguel’s older brother was shot and killed. In addition, Miguel himself was marked for execution. There was some justifiable fear that Miguel would grow up and look for vengeance.
Miguel’s grandmother heard that Miguel had been marked. She gave Miguel some money and told him to leave. Miguel got on the bus, rode over to the beach and sat on a bench looking at the ocean for several hours. Then he got back on the bus and went back home. Within a year Miguel was dead.
Miguel’s story has an obvious conclusion. If I’m an inmate in the jail and I get out of jail and go back to the same neighborhood, hangout with the same guys and do the same things that got me into the jail the first time, I’m coming back to the jail as a repeat offender.
The repeat offender issue isn’t the most interesting fact that falls out of this story. The most interesting fact is that Miguel went back home. I asked the inmates why Miguel went back. They said he missed his home, his friends and his grandmother. My bet is that Miguel’s grandmother was the only point of sanity and love in his life.
I suggested to the inmates that Miguel had put his grandmother in the place in his heart that God had created for Jesus. If an inmate wants a new life, Jesus needs to be in that special place in a person’s heart.
One very positive result of putting Jesus in that special place is freedom. This kind of freedom can’t be taken away – ever.