A Letter From Prison

By Edmund H. Lopes

My name is Edmund H. Lopes better known as number 15286 by the state of Illinois. I am incarcerated in a state prison for two serious crimes. I have been incarcerated since 1970 and I come up to the parole board sometime in 1980 or early 1981. I became a member of the body of Christ in May of 1976 when Al Diestelkamp baptized me in our prison hospital whirlpool. How difficult it is for a man to have his soul salvation here in these man-made hells throughout our so-called free country.

We have what I term state-bought ministers. In other words the men we have as so-called ministers of God in here draw their paychecks from the state (except the Catholic minister who is paid by his archdiocese). These ministers who are paid by the state are dictated to by the state as to what they can teach and preach. It is a standing rule that ministers hired by the state are told to comfort the men but don’t get involved with them personally. Is that hypocrisy?

The chaplains do conduct a worship service of sorts. That is, they get up in the pulpit and give a short sermon on something that will not upset the men too much. Such as, “God loves you and if you accept Him as your Savior you are saved, period.” Yes, that’s right; “Once saved always saved” is taught in here. Oh, then there is baptism. The chaplains wonder why all this fuss over baptism. After all, baptism is only an outward sign of an inward expression. It does not mean that much. It only means we are showing we are trying to follow an example of what Christ did. It is surely not essential for our salvation. We are accused of being “cultists” because of our belief that baptism is essential for salvation.

My brethren, I make light of the subject so I won’t burst out crying in grief, because this is what is preached and taught in here. I know the truth of having been baptized for my soul salvation. I was pointed out the truths of it in God’s Word by Brother Dennis and others of the church of Christ. I tried for 2 months to get immersed for the remission of my sins. I was told by a minister who worked for the state (a very dynamic personality he was too) that he knew sprinkling for baptism was wrong according to God’s Word but we didn’t have the facilities to immerse people so sprinkling was all we could do and God would overlook this little thing. I wonder why God didn’t overlook the sin of the king in the Old Testament who went in and burned incense to God? Surely the man meant right. He said he did. But yet God said that was against His commandment and only the priests and Aaron were supposed to do that and so God destroyed the king. Oh well, maybe we have a changeable God and He is just willing to let man have his whims whenever he feels like it. Oh, you don’t think God is changeable? Well, now I read where God has a certain station in life concerning women. That is that they should be mothers and wives and not teachers of men. But our ministers here believe its all right to have women preach out of the pulpit. Even homosexuality is just something we should put up with and not make the afflicted one see his shame.

My dear brethren, I could go on and on about the falseness of this place but I tried to show you the devil’s work that goes on in this place. What do we do about it? Is it our concern? I’m afraid brethren these are questions you must seek to answer within yourselves.

It took me two months after I was totally convicted of my need for baptism to finally get immersed for the remission of my sins. During that period, or any period before that, had this vessel of human clay died, I would have gone to hell. My brothers and sisters, that very thought terrifies me when I think of how close I had come to hell’s doors had not God been merciful enough to extend the time to me. I pleaded. I begged to be baptized. I asked every official in here from the wardens to ministers to state officials and to the Head Chaplain in Springfield. I was given one excuse after another. “We are looking into it.” “God knows you mean well but He is teaching you patience.” “We don’t have the facilities.” I even went over to our prison hospital and asked if it would be alright to use their whirlpool to get baptized and the hospital officials said, “Why certainly: anytime you want to use it you can.” I told the administrators of this and how some Jehovah’s Witnesses had been immersed in the hospital whirlpool. Well the chaplain didn’t think that it was appropriate for a man to get baptized in a whirlpool or bath tub. “After all, what would God think?” I know what God was thinking for He desired that I obey His commandments and one of them was “repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.”

But anyway, these officials knew I wasn’t going to keep my mouth shut about this. The administrators here figured I was undermining the church work here and I was becoming a problem and so they knew they better get me out of population. Now since being here and having Christ in my life I never showed disrespect to any man or woman. So the officials here gave me what is called a bogus disciplinary ticket accusing me of something I did not do. But they decided if they put me in segregation and let me stay there awhile then this issue would blow over and that would be the end to all this baptism nonsense and seeking the Truth of Jesus. Well, they didn’t count on Jesus.

Our wonderful brethren here heard about my plight. The matter became bigger than the administrators here could handle. After five days in segregation I was brought out and interviewed by another hearing of officials. The security warden, who is now the head warden, was there along with a senior captain and the head of clinical services. The security warden called everyone of his staff who had anything to do with my being placed in “seg.” He questioned them all thoroughly and when he couldn’t find any justification for the ticket he asked me to leave the room and then he verbally thrashed out the major who had written the ticket. After having found no fault in me the warden dismissed all charges against me and restored my privileges. After the meeting was over I asked for a copy of my ticket but the senior captain quickly reached over and tore up both copies of the ticket stating, “there was no ticket issued.”

There are many other things to be told but the issue now is a lawsuit in the federal courts against the state of Illinois. We are trying to get a separation of the church and state based on the First Ammendment to the Constitution. I have not been able to partake of the Lord’s Supper since coming into the body of Christ. To have a Bible study I must sit in the visiting room with Dennis or another minister of the church of Christ. My brethren, please do not misunderstand me. I do not appeal for myself only. There are others in here who would love to hear and learn the truths of the Gospel. “But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed` and how shall they believe on Him whom they have heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” We need God’s truths to be brought into these prisons. We have many rich harvest fields here and the fruits are ready for picking but we lose them because we neglect them and they are rotting and spoiling. My brethren, we are going to be held accountable for these things.

I beseech you, my brethren, if you can help us please do all you can in Christ’s Name and for His glory. I will be eternally grateful. I know the sinful past I have. I also know “whosoever is in Christ is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things become new.” Yes, I know the mercy God has extended to me. I only wish to try and help extend that godly love to others. “For as we have many members in one body and all members have not the same office; So we being many are one body in Christ and everyone members one of another.”

Truth Magazine XXII: 26, pp. 424-425
June 29, 1978