Many of my friends on death row know exactly what started me off doing death row ministry. They know who God first laid upon my heart. From time to time, we talk about it – especially when there is news. After Jahar was sentenced to death by the jury in May, I wrote to my dear friend and amazing brother in Christ Carlos Treviño, who is on death row in Texas, and shared my anguish over the sentence. (Please note this is being shared with his permission. He says “Anything and everything I write, you can use. It’s not about me. It’s about Him. And I want you to put my name out there. I will testify for God and you.”) This was his response (I hope you get a chuckle out of the first couple sentences like I did):
Over the years that I have been fervently praying for Jahar daily, I have prayed time and time again that God would spare his life and that he would receive a life sentence. When you pray for someone daily, you come to care about them deeply – and the last thing you want is for someone you care about deeply to be strapped to a gurney and poisoned to death. However, I have always tried to honestly pray, “If receiving a death sentence is the only way he will come to You, then I trust You.” When the sentence was read, my heart shattered into a million pieces. But my brother Carlos gives me hope. “If I were given a life sentence or whatever, I don’t think I would have come to the cross,” he says. “Being sentence[d] to death was the best thing that happened to me. I found God.” And Carlos is not alone. There are many, many stories of prisoners on death row who came to Christ only when faced with their own death.
As Carlos explains, “Death is not a bad thing. It’s being without God that is very bad. Then one should fear death then.” If Jahar’s life is spared and he lives out the rest of his life in prison and dies a natural death but dies without Christ, his eternity will be far more unspeakable than his punishment on this earth. But if he finds Christ in the time he has left on this earth and gives his life to Him – his death sentence will only be a reward.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a staunch death penalty abolitionist who would love nothing more than to see the death penalty disappear forever. If the day ever comes that Jahar is executed, it will be by far one of the most difficult days of my life. But if it is because of his sentence that he goes straight from that gurney into the arms of his waiting Savior – to live in joy for eternity, completely free from his chains – then the sentence that broke my heart will have been worth it. Your will be done Father. Whatever it takes. Just bring him home.