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April 22, 2022

That first Easter was very hard. Very, very, very hard. I was in Clark County Jail and for a independent person, being confined behind bars was tough (but I put myself in that position). I was slowly learning to walk again, and that pain was uncomfortable but bearable. I also was learning to write again with my right hand. I used to have beautiful penmanship but now it just looked like scratches. Writing with my left hand was ok but took longer. It was the excruciating pain in learning to write again and work to use my hand again. The nice thing about that Easter was that my parents and brother were able to visit me. That lifted me so much.
As hard as thought that first Easter behind bars was, the reality is the second Easter behind bars was even tougher. I learned quick that county jail is a whole lot easier and quieter than prison. The second Easter I was in Green Bay Reformatory or Green Bay Correctional Institution. It was lonely, an occasional visitor, but the loneliness would get to you. I kept busy, working in the morning and going to class in the afternoon (UW-Green Bay had professors that would teach classes at the prison) and study at night. But still the time went so, so slow. A day would be brightened by a letter, a package and, especially for me, a book or two. The prison librarian loved when I got books because I would read them (the Bible, Louis L’Amour, novels, classics, mysteries, etc.) and then give them to the library… oh, and I loved to read, even to this day.
Then the next Easter or third Easter that I was incarcerated came around. But this Easter was different. Why the difference? Three things had happened since the last Easter, and they all had to do with… hope. It all began when another prisoner (serving a life sentence) I worked with mentioned that I should come to church on Sunday and join in Bible Study. I had thought about it previously but just hadn’t requested to go. I requested and was approved to attend and met the Chaplain and really enjoyed the services and talking with him and we met regularly. Secondly, l started attending Bible studies and was also introduced to biblical correspondence courses that I ordered and worked, meditated, and prayed through.
Finally, during this time I was able to experience Residents Encounter Christ. REC was a three-day evangelistic event held in county jails and prisons throughout the country. Over the course of a weekend, Christian men (volunteers) came in and shared the love and grace of Jesus Christ with us. The goal is to make Jesus Christ known to men and women who are incarcerated in prisons throughout Wisconsin and the United States. There were talks, studies, worship, communion, and prayer. It was so spiritual filled and a new and eye-opening experience for me and many of the other residents.
My faith grew and I noticed that as it grew, I was not as lonely or down as I had been. I always thought my faith would get me through but now I knew my faith would get me through. I believed not just in mind but in heart. It was then too that I noticed that I had stopped focusing on the past (woe is me) and began focusing on the future… hope.
With the celebration of Easter just past, let us not forget about the risen Christ! There are many forms of imprisonment, not just the ones behind bars. There are addictions, troubled relationships, troubled jobs, etc. Then there is the imprisonment that tears and eats away at a person: holding a grudge, not forgiving, forever angry, etc.
Life can be hard, no doubt about that. But Easter reminds us that there is hope and eternal hope. Easter reminds us that Christ, God and the Holy Spirit love us and continue to love us. That is comforting. Easter reminds us that we are not alone.
Have faith and believe in the risen Christ! Get rid of the clutter in your heart that keeps you from experiencing the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ. May you have and always experience hope. God bless and God’s got this!

About Rev. Bud Budzinski

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