Articles

PRISON WAS NOT IN OUR PLAN
by Jan Goris

My journal this morning is dated March 1, 2012. It has been two years since my husband's trial began. I remember the days, the weeks as if it were yesterday. In another way it seems years ago. I wondered how I would get through the trial, and if he were to be found guilty, what would my life look like?

Four years earlier we were awakened to a loud banging at the front door. "The police searched our home; they removed most of our files. Bob had been given bad advice from our financial advisors. We thought we had everything in order to give money to Christian ministries. Now we lived every day in dread of another knock at the door.

My husband of fifty years was a successful business man. We had been very involved in our church and other ministries our entire married life. His plans for our retirement years were to travel and raise support for training church leaders internationally. We had visited many of these churches and had seen the need to train ministers in their own culture and language.

Three years later, the agents arrived again. This time they arrested my husband and took him to the Federal Courthouse. A friend drove me to the court later that day to post his bail. Bob's trial was postponed for another year. Once again we moved to another level of uncertainty. We now had some time to plan and prepare for what we had hoped would never happen.

For many years Bob and I had taken daily walks - sometimes two for three or four miles. They were wonderful times of talking, praying, and reciting entire Psalms. Some of them are: Psalm 16, Psalm 121, Psalm 118, and Psalm 34.

Over and over God's Word ministered to me like never before. How thankful I was and am today for those verses that flooded my mind. It has been my guide, my comfort, my refuge, my stronghold, my protection.

During the two week trial, I held a small three ring binder in my hand. Each card contained a sustaining verse of Scripture that I read throughout the day. God's promises to me were true and His mercies were new every morning.

The trial was grueling, but God was faithful. Regardless of all the witnesses that took the stand on Bob's behalf (several flew in from overseas) and testified of his character, his giving, his honesty, his genuine love for people, he was found guilty of tax evasion. We had five weeks to prepare for the day of sentencing.

When that day came, I walked out of the courtroom that which was packed with family and friends. Bob was taken that day. A new, very different chapter in our lives had begun. Today, I look back over the past two years and see God's sovereign hand in all of it.

The Bible has a track record of God's provision. Jehovah Jireh means God is my provider. I cannot list all the ways the Lord has provided for me but I will name a few.

First of all He provided a wonderful place for me to live. Many friends and family helped move us out of our home (which sold two months later) into our daughter and son-in-law's home. Friends of theirs helped finish off a beautiful apartment in their home for me. Being with children and grandchildren has been a great comfort and encouragement to me. The loneliness I anticipated has not come. My home is filled with activity. I have a beautiful garden to tend, vegetables to grow and birds to watch at the feeders.

I became involved in an interdenominational Bible study and met many wonderful women who love God's Word. This has been another provision from the Lord. I feel blessed to have more time to study, maintain new friends in my life, as well as receiving many cards, calls, emails from old friends that encourage me and stay connected.

Our seventeen-year-old granddaughter stayed with me recently. She asked, "Grandma, what do you miss the most about your home?" Perhaps a bigger closet - but then, it was time to sort and get rid of many of those things anyway. I had to stop and think. I didn't miss all the upkeep. I didn't miss the big yard. I can help my daughter with both of these. I could not think of anything at that moment that I really missed. Even in that question, I realized how the Lord has helped me move on and dwell on all I have and not all I had!

Eight months into the sentencing, the material Bob used at our church to teach and train young men was approved for him to use in prison. The field "was white for harvest." He began holding classes three to four times a week with men coming to Christ as their Savior and others coming BACK to Christ.

The time has not been wasted. Only God could have orchestrated all of this. Over two hundred men have attended his classes and now several by correspondence as they have heard of the study from inmates and are sending in their lessons for Bob to correct.

My life has purpose. On weekends I travel to the city where my husband is incarcerated, and stay at a special house provided for prisoners' wives. I have met and shared with many hurting families as I visit him each weekend.

We look forward to his release and are on the downward stretch. How kind and merciful our God has been. Our Shepherd, who leads us from despair to hope, from brokenness to healing, from loss to gain, from darkness to light, from sadness to joy.

"I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth." Psalm 34:1

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If you care to contact Jan, you can do so at jbgoris@gmail.com

Jan is the mother of 5 children, has 16 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
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Editor's Note: We recommend two excellent books, When I Lay My Isaac Down and A New Kind Of Normal by Carol Kent. Carol has lived every parent's nightmare. After her only son was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, her life took a permanent detour. She and her husband, Gene, have been adjusting ever since, moving to Florida to be near the prison, starting a new ministry for prison inmates and their families, Speak Up For Hope.