Paul,Chuck always signed his handwritten memos like that – “CWC,” Charles W. Colson. This memo, along with his picture, a flyer promoting the seminars I conducted with Prison Fellowship, and a news article of an inmate who wanted the judge to let him finish the seminar before he was released; hang framed on my office wall along with family and other pictures. It commemorates the three years I spent with Chuck and Prison Fellowship, many years ago, near the beginning of that incredible ministry to inmates and their families.
I know what it is for strong, tough and proud men to humble themselves. I’ve had to do it and it is painful. Maturing, however – What I want you to know is that I am proud of how you handled yourself – proud you are my brother and part of the team. – CWC
Let me say at the outset that I have never met anyone who was more committed, whose Christian testimony was more authentic, more genuine, or had more integrity than that of Charles W. Colson. His life and the meaning of his life towered above so much.
We were riding down Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C., in my Karmann-Ghia convertible with the top down. Chuck was in the passanger seat and we were talking about something, only God knows what. As usual he was making gestures with his hands and arms as he talked, his black rimmed glasses punctuating each assertion. We pulled up to a light. While we waited for it to change, a car pulled up in the lane to the right of us. The female driver looked over at us and her eyes widened. “Mr. Colson! Mr. Chuck Colson!” she shouted. Chuck was hardly more than an arm’s length from her. He turned, greeted the lady with a warm smile, a hearty "Hi there," and an acknowledging wave. The light changed, and off we went. Chuck resumed his topic as though nothing had happened.
Perhaps it hadn’t.
After all, he had spent three years advising the President of the United States, carrying out often execrable orders, served time in prison for his trouble, and in the process was “Born Again.” He wrote a book about it. They made a movie out of it. Then he founded a ministry to prison inmates and their families (especially their children – does your church have an “Angel Tree” each Christmas?), of which I was then a part. Perhaps next to this, celebrity recognition was hardly a new experience to him.
I could tell more stories about this, mostly hilarious.
Working with Chuck and Prison Fellowship was for me, one doozy of a ride! In those early years, he often said that working in this ministry was "like trying to build a moving locomotive." I conducted week-long seminars in well over 100 prisons, both state and federal, throughout the U.S. and Canada. I was in charge of all the seminars, both in-prison, and those programs where we brought inmates to Washington, trained them and sent them back to finish their sentence. Lord, were I to recount all the experiences, I think I could fill a book.
Chuck was not perfect. None of us who worked with him in the ministry were. Nor, it should be noted, is anyone who reads this account. That said, God used him in a way he has used few men over the centuries. Like his hero, William Wilberforce, Chuck’s legacy will endure, perhaps for centuries to come.
He was a man of God. And because of this, he now is in the direct presence of the One he served so faithfully. I count it one of the most significant events of my life to have known him, and to have served with him.
To put a fine point on it, I do not believe Chuck is “Resting in Peace.” I prefer to believe that he is “Working in Joy.” I have never thought of heaven as a place where one sits on a cloud and plays a harp, or casts crowns, or spends the rest of eternity singing, “Hallelujah,” and stuff like that. I suspect the Lord has CWC busy doing stuff, and that there are still people who shout, “Mr. Colson! Mr. Chuck Colson!”
If I am ever in his neighborhood again, I'm going to look him up and see if he remembers my Karmann-Ghia!
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