Adopting the Twins, Part 2: Introductions, Picnics and Dinners, Matching

After our friends went home, Carey and I pulled out my laptop. We pored over the birthmother’s e-mail, prayed, and decided to call her. When she answered the phone we began the weird dance. How do strangers decide together to enter into an adoptive relationship? How could she know us well enough to place her children in our family? How could we be confident these twin girls were the children we were meant to adopt? We began taking those tentative steps, asking and answering basic personal questions, discerning whether we would be a good fit for one another. The matching process is similar to dating in many ways. We agreed to meet the next day in Petaluma at a neutral site. The birthmother would bring her mother and daughter. We would bring Elijah.

Before I write more, let me be clear I intend to keep most of the birthfamily’s story confidential. Their story is not mine to tell. Further, there are details about the adoption that we want the girls to know first. If it seems I am withholding certain pieces of information, that is intentional. If you have a question, please ask, but know I might decline to answer it.

The next morning we gathered photo albums, bought scones and muffins, packed the family in the car, and drove to the Lucchesi Park in Petaluma. I wore the same shirt I had on when we agreed to adopt Elijah. I called it my “adoption shirt.” Don’t judge. We arrived and Elijah immediately began exploring the playground. The minutes of waiting for the birthfamily to arrive seemed endless. I tried to look calm, but each time a car entered the parking lot, I stared at it, wondering if the birthmother sat inside. A silver SUV pulled into a parking space and out stepped the birthmother with her mother and young daughter. Though she was obviously pregnant, both Carey and I were surprised at how small her belly was.

We made our introductions and the kids ran off to play with each other. The birthmother’s mom quickly put aside the small talk and asked, “Why did you choose open adoption?” This began a couple of hours’ worth of questions for one another. We shared with them the story of Elijah’s adoption and our process this time around. We described to them our two main motivations in adoption. First, we believe our Christian faith invites us to open our family to others through adoption. Second, both our families have been shaped greatly by adoption, going back generations.

The birthmother explained her reasons for pursuing adoption, a choice she solidified a couple of weeks prior. The weekend before she e-mailed us she went to the hospital with preterm labor. I think that experience lit a fire under her to secure an adoption plan.

I found it strange to have such personal conversations with people we barely knew. As the kids played on the slides, by the pond, and around the goose poop, the adults shared our hopes and fears, all the while wondering if we wanted to enter into a familial relationship with each other. As the morning progressed, everyone seemed more at ease. Certainly the kids enjoyed each other’s company. When we gave our goodbyes, we said we thought we really connected with the birthmother, but didn’t want to force any kind of decision at that moment. She informed us she contacted a few other families as well. We encouraged her to follow up with them. We all agreed to return to our homes and pray.

The next day was Father’s Day, and as we drove home from church, the birthmother called to say she wanted us to adopt her twin girls. Gratitude overwhelmed us. Her family invited us to dinner at their home the following weekend. We then headed out of town for vacation. Originally we were to attend family camp at Calvin Crest, but the Sky Fire made that an impossibility. We went to Pismo Beach after seeing some family and friends in Fresno.

We thought the birthmother would choose us, but we did not expect her to make up her mind so quickly. Later we learned when she first considered adoption she went to our agency’s website and came across our profile. She sensed we would be the family to adopt the twins. Then she contacted IAC, told them what she wanted in an adoptive family, and they sent her a number of Dear Birthmother letters. Our letter sat on top, though she did not request it, which encouraged her and the intuition that we were the right family grew stronger. After our first phone conversation her desire to place with us increased. Our meeting in the park settled the matter. She did not want to follow through with the other families she contacted because the connection we made with her was so strong. IAC tells us birthmothers often know immediately which family they will choose when they see the Dear Birthmother letter.

While in Pismo Beach we had a flurry of communication with our social worker. We agreed to be considered matched even though we had not signed any paperwork—being matched meant we would take ourselves out of circulation to avoid making adoption arrangements with more than one birthmother at a time. This move came with some risk because the birthmother could back out and we would have lost time wherein we could have matched with another family. While Elijah and Carey found crabs and sea anemones in the tide pools below the cliffs of Shell Beach, I arranged the match meeting with our social worker. There we would formalize our intent to adopt and set up agreements for ongoing contact. The social worker was in communication with the twins’ birthfather, inviting him to the meeting.

The following weekend we drove to the birthmother’s parents’ home in Sonoma County for a fried chicken dinner. Elijah and the birthmother’s daughter played in the backyard, barely stopping for quick gulps of water or the occasional bite of a cracker. We met the birthmother’s father, who was warm and inviting. But this dinner was strange because our relationship ran backwards. In our first meeting, we discussed intensely personal matters and only now, with the big question of whether we would adopt the twins answered, did we engage in small talk.

On June 29 Carey and I arrived at IAC’s office in Concord with the birthmother, her mother, and the birthfather for a match meeting. It was our first opportunity to speak with the birthfather. We were grateful for the chance. Earlier that summer Elijah met his birthfather for the first time. We strongly desire for our family to know our children’s birthparents. We believe open adoption with its transparency and ongoing contact is healthiest for everyone involved, especially the adopted children. That we were meeting the twins’ birthfather before they were even born seemed like an extra blessing.

Our social worker guided us through a series of personal questions designed to help us know each other and understand what everyone thought about the adoption. Adoption, while beautiful, is incredibly complex. Carey and I celebrated we were about to grow our family. It is common, however, for birthparents to experience a profound sense of loss as they make a selfless sacrifice. We formally matched with the birthmother. Though the agreement was not legally binding and everyone could still change their minds, a formal match fosters trust and helps ensure the adoption will happen. We then formulated a birth plan and contact agreement with the birthmother. The contact agreement is very detailed and covers everything from the amount of visits in a year to boundaries for posting pictures on social media. Together we define the minimum amount of contact and can always choose to have more. This meeting was one of the first thorough introductions to the adoption process for the birthfather. It was like drinking from a firehose for him as he received vast amounts of information about open adoption and his rights.

We left the match meeting exhausted and grateful. That next weekend we hosted the birthmother and her family for dinner at our home. These informal meals helped everyone relax and build trust. We also ate a picnic dinner with the birthfather in Pleasant Hill Park. We introduced him to Elijah. The birthfather observed us sharing a meal and playing with our son. He said seeing us parent helped him trust us to be a good family who could raise the twins.

Though the adoption was progressing, we never felt settled given the provisional nature of our agreement. The weeks of waiting for the birth allowed the birthfamily more time to change their minds. We could reconsider too, so I am sure the birthfamily shared similar worries. With Elijah’s adoption, we met him after he was born and his birthmother made a fast and clear cut decision. Once we agreed to enter adoption together, there was little time for any party to withdraw. We would get to know his birthfamily and build trust with them after the fact. By matching weeks before the girls were born, we fostered a trusting relationship first, which proved helpful. All signs pointed to everyone being committed to making this adoption happen, still we could not shake the fear it might fall through.

Adopting the Twins, Part 1: Circulation, False Alarm, Silence, First Contact, the Car Seat Saga

In 2014 Carey and I decided through much prayer and deliberation to adopt another child. Adopting our son Elijah was one of the greatest experiences of our lives. We knew we wanted to grow our family and after being unable to conceive, we returned to adoption rather than pursue medical treatments. We chose Independent Adoption Center (IAC) again because we had a wonderful experience with them last time, and I am not referring to the fact we waited an outrageously short five weeks to adopt Elijah. Rather, the more we worked with the staff of IAC, the more impressed we became with their thoughtful services and professionalism. Also, because we adopted through IAC before, we would not have to jump through so many hoops this time.

Make no mistake, there were still plenty of hoops—reams of paperwork and interviews and home visits from social workers. We created a new Dear Birthmother letter, which would introduce our family to pregnant women considering adoption. Making our new letter took longer than last time and that frustrated us. We were anxious to go into circulation, which was IAC’s way of saying we completed all the requirements and were ready to adopt. Our adoption coordinator told us the average wait for families in circulation was fourteen months. She said in her experience families who already had children, like ours, waited longer.

Though a prototypical adoption does not exist, we knew because of our extraordinarily short wait last time, we did not share many of the experiences common to other adoptive families. We did not know the euphoria of matching with a birthmother before the birth, seeing ultrasounds, taking our time picking a name, or nesting. Nor did we know the frustrations of months of silence, scam phone calls, and matches with birthmothers that fell through. We had internal work to do to prepare ourselves. For Carey, she had to convince herself that we would have a long wait. It was easier for me with my natural pessimism to expect this adoption would take over a year. But because of our previous experience, I had to prepare myself for the chance that we might adopt another child at any minute.

We completed our iheartadoption profile and made a Facebook page. IAC possessed copies of our Dear Birthmother letter waiting to go to pregnant women. Our toll-free number stood ready to receive calls. We had a new adoption-specific e-mail address. On February 10, 2015 we publicly announced we were available to adopt. Friends and family spread the word. A wave of encouragement washed over us. Dozens of likes and shares on Facebook. People promised to pray for us. After about a week, the excitement subsided. We settled into the wait.

One March afternoon, four weeks after going into circulation, we received a call from IAC about a last-minute placement. The setting of the phone call struck us as odd—Carey was home for lunch, which almost never happened. We wondered if God was up to something and we were about to break our five-week record. The birthmother, however, chose another family. The experience revealed we were not entirely prepared for a last-minute placement since we did own a car seat. I promptly went out that afternoon and bought one at a discount—it was a floor model.

Then we entered the silence. Over the next few months our phone never rang. Our e-mail inbox sat empty. IAC told us they sent out several copies of our letters to birthmothers each month, but we didn’t see anything come of it. In attempts to lighten the mood, we quoted Homer Simpson’s line about the waiting game over and over.

We wanted to do something more proactive. We posted videos of our family online. Carey drafted a letter to her ob/gyn colleagues in other practices and to my pastor friends, asking them to direct women considering adoption to our agency.

The silence brought about two extreme reactions in me. Some days I could think only about the new child. Who would she be? What ethnicity? Where would he be born? The adoption consumed me. Other days the adoption didn’t seem like a reality at all and I had to consciously remind myself our family of three would actually expand.

In April our friends gave us their car seat they would no longer need. We decided to return the one I bought, but I procrastinated and it sat in our garage. On the afternoon of June 19 I finally got around to returning the car seat we purchased all those months ago. Refund in hand, I went home to prepare dinner for my family and friends.

As we ate dinner I looked down at my phone—usually a taboo at our table—when an alert notified me an e-mail came to our adoption address. I read a message from a birthmother who was 31 weeks pregnant with twin girls. She liked our profile. She wanted to place the girls in a stable Christian home to parents committed to an open adoption. The birthmother thought we could provide these things and invited us to call her. My heart leapt into my throat, but I turned off my phone and didn’t say a word.

After clearing our plates, we went on a sunset walk with our friends in the park behind our home. I handed Carey my phone and said, “You’ll want to read this.” She read the e-mail, shocked both at the message and that I could sit on it throughout the dinner. We told our friends the crazy news. They were like us, excited and nonplussed.

My mind turned to logistics. We did not own a vehicle that could seat a family of five. I thought, twins means an immediate minivan. And remember, I just returned a car seat that afternoon because we thought it was superfluous. Now we were one car seat short and had to purchase another one with no guarantee that we would get a similar discount. But I was getting ahead of myself. We still had not spoken with this birthmother, let alone matched for an adoption, so I told my brain to shut up. Shut up and pray God would make it clear if this was an adoption we should pursue.

How to Pray for the Nation and its Leaders

Politics of Praise-page001This week Americans will celebrate Independence Day. The number of politicians who have announced their candidacy for President of the United States continues to grow. The Fourth of July offers us the opportunity to reflect on the history, values, and meaning of the United States. The upcoming national election in 2016 demands each of us reflects and expresses our vision for the nation’s future.

For Christians, it is easy to allow the loud voices of our nation and partisan politics to drown out the quieter voice of the Holy Spirit. If we are not careful we will confuse patriotism for America with Jesus’s call to seek God’s kingdom first. We run the risk of letting the platforms of candidates shape our political priorities rather than submitting our priorities to Jesus. In order to keep the values of God’s kingdom clear, and to ensure we are following Christ before a candidate or party, we must engage in that most basic Christian political act: prayer.

Until recently, Christians learned to pray by reading the Book of Psalms. In this collection of prayer-poems we find numerous prayers for the nation and its leaders. The psalms overflow with political speech. The writers show us God’s agenda and teach us how to prioritize it first. They teach us what kind of nations and leaders God blesses.

I published a devotional, The Politics of Praise: Devotional Readings on Psalms 72 & 146, that helps readers pray through these two very political psalms. Psalm 146 is a terrific prayer as we listen to candidates share their agendas. Praying this psalm allows us to see God’s agenda of creation, justice for the oppressed, and renewal for the abandoned. Psalm 72 is a prayer for governmental leaders, but it gives us an image of the kind of nation God blesses. As we celebrate this July 4th, let us think of the kind of nation God desires. This is a nation that prioritizes the weak and needy, the people on the margins.

The Politics of Praise is available in both the Kindle format and paperback at Amazon.

Religious Thinking in the Public Square, Same-Sex Marriage Edition

The Supreme Court recently issued their ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing same-sex marriage as a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution. The reactions from Christians have ranged all across the spectrum from celebrating this decision as God’s will to fearing this decision will only invite God’s wrath against the U.S.

Perhaps the most fascinating response has come from those who wish to separate the Christian and civil definitions of marriage. This position essentially says Christians and churches are free to define marriage as they wish, but the state is also free to define marriage as it wishes. These definitions need not overlap so long as the state does not force churches to endorse types of marriage they find objectionable. Just as importantly, Christians of a certain view should not force their definition of marriage on the broader public. These Christians, the argument goes, should respect their neighbors’ free expression of religion, namely, their neighbors’ right to define marriage differently than they do. Writers have taken different approaches to reach this point. Some of the reasoning has been better than others, and I’d like to address some of the reasoning that I find lacking.

Take, for example, the writing of Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan. I find her reasoning wanting with regard to the role of faith in the same-sex marriage debate. I refer to Howerton not to single her out, but because she writes very well and offers a paradigmatic picture of a certain type of reasoning. (She writes exceptional posts on adoption and race—it’s a blog well worth your time.)

In her most recent post, Howerton goes to great lengths affirming an individual’s right to believe whatever he wants about marriage. She also offers a good example to make a point: Christians can believe the Bible’s teachings about God and still respect the freedom of Buddhists to practice their religion as they wish without diminishing the Christian understanding of God, or threatening the Christian’s ability to worship. With regard to civil rights, Howerton says an individual’s beliefs should have no bearing on the rights of others. Howerton and others making this argument come dangerously close to saying faith is a purely private matter and religious reasoning is not welcome in the public square. Howerton writes:

The relevance of your biblical beliefs on homosexuality in regards to marriage equality? THEY AREN’T RELEVANT. So stop talking about them in relation to civil rights. And stop acting confused when your Christian friends express happiness that our homophobic laws have been overturned.

In a pluralistic democracy, citizens are free to not only believe what they want, they are also free to reach those beliefs however they wish. Further, they are free to bring those beliefs and reasoning into the public square. Other people do not have to accept these positions or the reasoning. If folks of one religious tradition cannot convince other people outside their tradition of their position, then they have to find new ways to communicate their values. If I were to speak for anti-human trafficking laws, I would do so because of my religious convictions, but I would use different reasoning and language depending if I were speaking to atheists or to Methodists.

I don’t think any of us fault Martin Luther King, Jr. for using religious reasoning and language as he called for civil rights for African Americans and others in the 1960’s. His public speeches all dripped with religious reasoning, not merely his sermons delivered in churches. His religious conviction that all people bear the image of God shaped his interpretation of the political claim that “all men are created equal.” The call for civil rights from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was rooted deeply in religious convictions and biblical beliefs. Was King, a Christian pastor who spoke out of his religious tradition, imposing his religious views on atheist Social Darwinists, or even Christian segregationists who disagreed with his theological interpretations?

Or take the example of Bree Newsome, who recently climbed a flagpole at the South Carolina state capitol to take down the Confederate battle flag flying there. Newsome responded to the police ordering her to come down, “In the name of Jesus, this flag has to come down. We come against hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today.” Was Newsome not imposing her religious beliefs on others as she made a stand for justice?

Trying to remove religious thinking from the discussion of civil rights is not only undemocratic, it is also historically inaccurate. The development of civil rights in America owes much to religious thinking. As noted above, many of the leaders and activists in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s were largely motivated by religious convictions. Abolitionists in the 19th century called on the U.S. to outlaw slavery, often using extremely religious reasoning and quoting from the Bible. Many of those who advocated for women’s rights, including suffrage, allowed their religious convictions to shape their vision of what American society should look like. We have been made better as a nation because of people bringing their religious convictions into the public debate concerning civil rights. To be sure, in each of the areas I mentioned, there were also people using religious reasoning to stop the expansion of civil rights. Then it becomes a matter of debate and decision, that is, we engage in democratic practices. We discuss, we try to convince others of our position, and we vote. (In the case over the abolition of slavery we also went to war with each other, but thankfully we have been otherwise able to avoid that evil.)

The type of argument Howerton offers would be made stronger if she did three things.

First, move away from the idea that religious thinking has no place in the discussion of civil rights. It is uncharitable and unrealistic to demand people leave their most cherished convictions at the edge of the public square. We do not demand a democratic socialist keep the philosophical commitments that shape her socialism out of discussions of civil rights. Not everyone is going to share the same core convictions. Let us hash out our differences in the light of day.

Second, Howerton’s example of Christians respecting the rights of Buddhists to worship as they wish is one of her strongest points. She should similarly demonstrate how the issue of marriage is another example where Christians ought to restrain themselves. Show how the state’s understanding of marriage is different from a religious understanding. Then argue why we ought to allow the state to sanction these marriages even when we find they go against our religious views.

Building off the previous point, some Christian thinkers have argued respecting the freedom of others to worship as they see fit is a deeply Christian act. That is, we do not set aside our discipleship to Jesus Christ when we support the religious freedom of others to worship something other than Jesus (or nothing at all). In fact, we deeply engage in our discipleship as we extend this freedom because Christ calls people to follow him, but he does not coerce them. The third way Howerton’s argument could be made stronger would be to follow a similar tack. Speak to Christians from within their tradition. I do not mean she should enter the debates of whether churches should bless same-sex unions. Rather, she should show how it is a Christian act to support or merely allow for a state-sanctioned marriage even if it does not resemble the definition of a Christian marriage.

My concern with this post is to address a dangerous tendency that says religious thinking is not welcome in the public square. It’s perhaps one of the most commonly held understandings of the social contract, but I find it deficient. We have benefited greatly as a nation from people bringing religious thinking into the discussion of civil rights. I use the example of same-sex marriage because it is one where this sort of restriction is often called for. Not everyone will agree with the religious convictions or reasoning of their neighbors. They are free to reject this reasoning and offer arguments of their own.

Worshiping with the Church Behind the Walls

I went to prison recently to worship Jesus Christ with the inmates. San Quentin State Penitentiary allows church groups to volunteer in their chapel services. I attended the Protestant Sunday night service with one of those groups. This was the first time I had ever been in a prison as well as the first time I worshiped with men serving their sentences. When I worked for the Salvation Army in a rehabilitation center, I would worship weekly with men on probation and parole.

I do not want to communicate that because I went into the prison for one night I am somehow an expert on the criminal justice system or the spiritual life of the inmates. If anything, my experience showed me how little I know, but it also gave me a desire to learn more. Take this post as a reflection of a first-time volunteer. Several of the people I went with have been ministering in San Quentin for many years. They have forged trusting relationships with the men there that can only come from consistent encounter.

California builds most of its prisons far away from major metropolitan areas, making San Quentin unique as it sits in Marin County, overlooking San Francisco Bay. I wanted to visit San Quentin when I ministered in Fremont, but was never able to do so. Friends in my current congregation began attending worship services last year. They shared their overwhelmingly positive experiences, giving me a small sense of what to expect.

I want to avoid the twin errors of romanticizing the experience and refusing to see the men beyond their legal status as convicts. In the orientation for first-timers, our leader said the chapel service would look and feel like a normal worship service. He said the congregation would be like any other Christian body, comprising devout Christ-followers, nominal Christians, seekers, and some folks who attend just to get out of their cells for a couple hours. The congregation would differ from churches outside the prison in two significant ways. First, the congregation would be entirely male. Second, the all the congregants would wear prison uniforms.

Our leader described what would happen as, “The Church beyond the walls going to worship with the Church behind the walls.” We were not bringing the good news to people who had never heard of Jesus before. Rather, the Holy Spirit has been active in that community for decades. Our ministry to the men was one of fellowship, letting them know through our presence that their brothers and sisters in Christ outside the prison love them.

We approached the first gate of the prison where we underwent another identity check. The prison has to clear all volunteers prior to arriving, but some folks have been turned back anyway. Then we walked across the employee parking lot to the main entrance of the prison proper. Again we signed our names and showed our identification. Guards waved a metal detector at us and ushered us through the sally port. Having operated since 1852, the prison is a hodgepodge of architecture and technology. It still appears foreboding despite also looking like something schoolchildren would tour on an historical field trip.

Inside the main courtyard our leader pointed out the buildings. In the distance were the main cell blocks. In front of us was the new hospital ward. To the left of us was the “Adjustment Center,” or solitary confinement. Off to the right were the chapels where the men began to gather in the sanctuary. (Services for Roman Catholics, Protestant Spanish speakers, and some non-Christians [Buddhists?] gathered at the same time in different rooms.) As we approached the sanctuary, the men began to greet us. I have not been to such a welcoming and friendly congregation in a long time. The men showed genuine interest in meeting me and knowing my name. As we entered the sanctuary, I was reminded of chapel services I attended when I worked in a Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center, where most of the men in recovery were on probation or parole. We volunteers could not sit among the men, but had to sit together up front for safety reasons.

People will ask whether I felt safe. Guards were not in the chapel. I still felt safe, thanks in large part to the stories I heard from my friends who previously volunteered at the prison. To attend chapel services, the men must be on good behavior. Sure, I initially wondered for what crimes these men were convicted. As the service progressed, I found myself drawn into worshiping God with my brothers in Christ, not worrying about my safety.

The worship service did progress like any normal worship service, although no offering was taken. The inmate choir first led us in songs and then our group led a couple songs. There was a time of sharing testimonies and prayer requests. We read Scripture. A pastor with our group preached a sermon. Then we mingled for a bit afterward. I had some great conversations with the men, hearing a bit about their lives. One asked me to pray for him as his parole hearing was approaching. Another described his studies to me.

One of the inmates offered a prayer in the service. As he came to the pulpit, he addressed the congregation as, “Saints.” This word surprised me, revealing my prejudices about these men. But as we prayed, I realized he was right. We have deemed these men too dangerous to be a part of the rest of society, perhaps with good reason in certain cases. We have reduced them to the status of criminals and convicts. When our society looks at them, we can only see the crimes for which they are sentenced. The Holy Spirit sees these men differently. They are made in God’s image, people for whom Jesus loved so much that he died to set them free from their sin. They may wear the clothes of convicted men, but Christ is setting them free and changing them. Saints is right.

I went on Pentecost Sunday and while no one made mention of the Christian holiday, I couldn’t help but reflect on the birth of the Church. The author of Acts tells us the followers of Jesus were shut up in a house in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit burst through the walls and began speaking through the disciples in different languages. God truly is no respecter of persons or walls. The Holy Spirit climbed over the walls and made his home in San Quentin. Aside from some first-hand accounts I’ve read and heard, I don’t know what daily life is like in prison. I imagine that it often seems like a God-forsaken place to the inmates. And yet the Spirit’s presence was evident as we worshiped together on Sunday night. What is more, it was clear the Holy Spirit has been active in the prison for a long time.

As I reflected on my time in San Quentin I also realized that these men relate to God in ways I cannot. I wondered, what must it be like to read the story of Moses, who killed a man, when one has committed murder? I imagine the prison letters of Paul, like Philippians, ring true on deeper levels for those serving long sentences. A Bible commentary written by inmates would be a wonderful gift to the Church.

I cannot speak to the ethnic composition of the other chapel services, but the congregation of the Protestant chapel was almost entirely black. I could not help but think of Michelle Alexander’s argument in her book, The New Jim Crow, that the current criminal justice system—particularly, the War on Drugs and mass incarceration—has created a system of social control based on race that has led to a caste-like system. As I worshiped with my brothers, I was aware that even those who would one day be released would forever be disenfranchised in many ways. I wonder, when one commits a felony, at what point is his debt to society paid?

I was also struck by how bureaucratically difficult it is to minister to our brothers in prison. We had to undergo background checks. As volunteers we were not to foster friendships with the men beyond the chapel. I was not to give out my name and address, nor was I to take their names and addresses. That is, I cannot write to anyone I met. I cannot return to the prison to visit any of the men on an individual basis. The prison system distinguishes between visitors and volunteers and makes sure the two never mix. If I were to start writing to one of my brothers in prison, I would no longer be a volunteer and would become a visitor. I then could not attend chapel services. I am sure there are valid reasons for these boundaries, but it saddens me that our society makes it so difficult to share God’s love with prisoners.