Want Some Gum?

crossOn April 1st, April Fool’s Day, a fellow jail chaplain passed away. Harry was 92 years old, but he was no fool.

The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  (Psalm 14:1)

I attended Harry’s memorial service this past weekend. I went, not to weep, but to celebrate a life that belonged to Jesus. To honor a man whose earthly fruit glorified God.

Folks called Harry the “juicy fruit man” because he always …and I mean always…carried sticks of gum. That’s how I met him one night, many moons ago, while I waited to go into jail.

Smiling, he offered me a stick of gum. The yellow wrapper said Juicy Fruit, but it was Harry’s “Gospel Gum.” Whether it was a jail guard or a stranger sitting in the lobby, Harry used gum to break the ice, to part the Red Sea.

You know, GUM stands for God, U, and Me.” Then he’d share the gospel or pray for the person, whatever the moment called for, while I watched dumbfounded that he made Christian ministry look so easy.

Before we’d enter jail, the guard would examine our Bibles to ensure we weren’t carrying illegal contraband. Harry would grin and say, I’m armed with the Word of God, which is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Many evenings, the spiritual warfare we faced in jail was darker than the night time sky. I’d arrive fearful as though I were going into the lion’s den. Harry would pray as we walked down the long, concrete corridor. So by the time we parted, each entering a separate tank, my courage was mustered.

At Harry’s memorial service, I learned that years earlier, before he was a chaplain, prisoners escaped from jail and held him and his wife hostage in their home. They stole his car.

His response? Become a jail chaplain.

Listening to testimonies about Harry’s love affair with God and His people inspired me. But Harry’s death encouraged me to….

Cling like sticky GUM to the Easter message of hope I’d celebrated a week earlier.

Cling to Jesus, my sweet Savior, and His promise:

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies,

and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?

(John 11:25, 26)