A Foreigner in a Foreign Land

The other night I went with a group from our church to a ministry called Shepherd’s Inn. Shepherd’s Inn is a place where people who come a long distance to visit a loved one in prison can stay the night. Many cannot afford to stay in a motel after paying for getting there. Many live too far away to drive to the prison and back home in one day. So, the local Baptist association has a ministry where people can have a place to stay. Once a month our church takes an evening meal to those staying for the weekend. I went for only the second time this past weekend. It is usually a very strange time for me. It floods my mind with thoughts and questions about the past. You see, over 26 years ago I was sentenced to serve time in Texas’ State Penitentiary. My mind begins to recall many of those times again. I also wonder about my parents and loved ones as they made the trek month after month to wherever I was so that they could see me.

Prison. A time in my life that I don’t talk about hardly at all. A time in my life that can really stir up a whole range of emotions inside to me. You know what the hardest part of prison was for me? I just didn’t belong there. Really. I was different. I was totally out of place. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I was guilty as charged of all the crimes that I had been charged with. They were certainly crimes worthy of prison. But I’m talking about me as a person. I had never been a real “tough guy” if you know what I mean. I was never the kind of person who was just looking for a fight. I was never real quick to get into it with someone. I was much more laid back. I really wasn’t what I would call “street wise”. There was a certain naiveté about me. I was just a normal white, middle class, suburban raised child. I had always been a very popular guy. It really never occurred to me that some people didn’t want to get along, they just wanted to hurt you or get out of you what they could. I had never really met anyone who was just pure mean. Now, I was living in the middle of them. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to learn to act contrary to my natural inclinations. I may not have been a tough guy, but I learned to act like one. I also developed some “street sense” very quickly. My survival depended on it. I had to look and act like I belonged, even though in my heart I knew I didn’t. It was an absolute miserable 2 ½ years. I was trapped in a world in which I didn’t belong.

You know, honestly, I still feel like that sometime. No really I do. It may be when I am around a bunch of men. Or just a bunch of people in general. I realize that I am just different. I don’t think like they do. I have a completely different moral and value system. The things that I think are really important, they scoff at. Many people do not understand why I go where I go, to the people that I go to, for the reasons that I go to them. They don’t get it, even after I explain it to them. They still give me that look like, “okay. Weirdo! If that’s what you think then go ahead.”

I guess that this shouldn’t surprise me. The Bible talks about many of the great heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter 11. In the last part of the 13th verse it states that they all realized that they were “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Peter calls the Christians that he was writing to “sojourners (strangers) and pilgrims.” (1 Peter 2:11) In Philippians 3:20 Paul declares that our citizenship is in heaven! Wow. I really don’t fit in, and I shouldn’t! This is not my home. I’m just passing through I am different. Just like when I go to Vietnam or China. I look different, act different, talk different, eat different, etc. I am different. I am a foreigner in a foreign land.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to share with you lessons I’ve learned from these places where I didn’t and don’t belong. Just consider them letters from a foreigner in foreign land. Have a good one. God bless you all.

It’s okay if you’re different. In fact you should be.


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4 Responses to A Foreigner in a Foreign Land

  1. randyc says:

    I see through a lens, colored by my experience, shaped by my history, ground fine by my past. Much of who I am is the result of where I’ve been, what I’ve done, nearly all of it inexcusable. As I read through His Word, I discover that I’m in similar company. Many of those He chose to use in a mighty way carried scars of some type from the past; Abraham did not wait on the promise of God; Jacob was a schemer from the beginning; Moses fled Egypt as a murderer; David stole another’s wife and murdered him; Paul watched the cloaks at Stephen’s stoning, and these are but a few.

    But then that begs a question… these were used mightily, what are His plans for me? He desires the very same from me, obedience.

    Luke 7:40-47
    And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
    So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
    “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
    Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
    And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.”
    Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

  2. Carla says:

    I trully do understand and I wonder where I should be? What if I had not allowed Satan to lead me down the wrong paths? What does God’s word say the price is for not being on track with where he planned for you???????

  3. Chazz Decker says:

    Hey brother keith! You are awesome! Tell Tanner I said hi!

  4. Mrs Lisa Jones Collins says:

    Keith, I’m proud of you, you found Christ and was able to leave the life you was living back in your teen years. I didn’t know you very well, but I remember we hung out with same people….Which I have out grown all of them. (except Kim)…. I know you had a hard time and have some pretty bad memories..But, God Found you and put his arm around you and got you through all of that..

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