THIS CHRISTMAS, JEFF IS OUT OF JAIL
J. Grant Swank, Jr.
My new son, Jeff, is out of jail, as of last February. Now this Christmas he put up the tree with his two children—Haley and Jeff Jr.
I saw them last evening. When I walked into the house, there the three of them were sprawled across the living room floor playing a board game. Haley is 8. Jr. is 11. Jeff Sr. is 35.
I met Jeff when I was a substance abuse counselor at Cumberland County Jail, Portland, Maine. He was placed for a daily job in the education center. The pay was a few cents per hour. But that’s okay. He got out of his cell during daylight hours in order to be productive with books, computers and such.
Then I left that position for another. Jeff stayed back in jail to serve out his time. We lost contact with one another. One day I got a letter in the mail from Jeff. He was back in jail—South Windham facility. I wrote back that I would make arrangements to visit him.
It was another Operating Under the Influence—driving while drinking. That’s what had sent him behind bars in his young for 6 out of those few years on Earth. In and out of jail because of the bottle. Not healthy. Not good. Not a life, that’s for sure.
But Jeff became a Christian—a real one, not one of those jail house religion conversions that’s made up for a time and then peters out when released to the outside air. Jeff became a Christian, read his Bible through, prayed earnestly and listened to counsel regarding the life to live.
In February, Jeff was set free to a rehab house in the city. I visited him there. Then he got a job and actually came upon a small house that an elderly lady had lived in for years. He bought it with the sale of some property he had had prior. That was nothing but a gift from God—Jeff’s dwelling in the city—large acreage around it, too.
While Jeff was in the South Windham jail, he told me of his childhood—not loving and kind but full of abuse. After tallying the detail, I asked him at one visit if he would like me to be his father. His bio father had not treated him that well. He responded by saying that he would be glad to be my son—so it was that I spiritually adopted Jeff as my son.
Now this December I am so justly proud of my son, Jeff. I wrote him that in a letter the other day. When I visited him last evening he took me aside in the kitchen to thank me especially for the father-son letter. We hugged. I told him I was so proud of him and knew that God would continue to guirde his future as he obeyed the divine will.
Now this Christmastide I think back over the years: Jeff at Cumberland County Jail, then South Windham, then released, now living in his own house, fathering his own children, worshiping with our fellow believers Sundays, and blended into our household as son.
God has truly blessed me this holy season. I thank Him over and over for a young, handsome fellow by the name of Jeff.