what is broken: God's intervention to bring wholeness to relationships
By Jonathan Beachy '72
Ten years ago, a young 12-year-old exchanged angry words with
his mother and siblings, and told them he was leaving home
so they could learn to love him. He told them 10 years would pass
before they heard from him, and off he went to seek his
Pablo left home and traveled some 200 miles to the city of Asunción,
stayed with a friend for some time and then moved on, to surviving
on the street. Determined to show them his worth, he made no effort
to contact his family.
While still a minor, need, hunger and pride led to four or five
brushes with the law. Several years into a five-year sentence,
he met men whose lives made sense and who offered valid options
for starting over. Those men were part of an active church within
Thus, unconsciously, Pablo started his search for God. As a chaplain
pastorally responsible for two wards, with a population of about
240 men, I first got to know Pablo a year before the events described
here. He told me about his encounter with God, the peace, and
wholeness, he was experiencing, and about his family, and his
desire to seek reconciliation with them as the first order of
business on his release.
Well, things didnt work out as he thought regarding his
release, so he realized that he would have to take initiative
from within the prison. He wrote a loving letter to his mother
and siblings, asking their forgiveness and expressing his love
for them. He knew where they used to live, but had no proper address,
saying, Its somewhere about half-way between two towns,
about 20 miles apart ... close to a certain farm, and told
me there was one bus line which passed by there.
Pablo gave me the letter, a copy of the New Testament and cards
he had written and asked me to help. I packaged it all up, included
a cover letter with my phone number and wondered, How is
On arrival at the bus station, I found out that yes, there was
only one bus a day, but no, I could not send a package. Ten minutes
later the bus arrived and I approached the driver, briefly told
him the story, and asked if he could help. He was very helpful,
told me he knew where the farm was, and that he would deliver
the package. I gave him a generous tip and prayed for a miracle.
Several days passed and the phone rang. A women with a tired but
joyful voice said, I am Pablos mother. I got the package
... I have prayed so long. How can I talk to my son? She
had gone about 10 miles to the home of someone who had a phone
to call me. We made arrangements to have further conversations,
including, hopefully, during a visit to Asunción.
Just over a week later she called to say she would be in the bus
station at 6 a.m. Pablo looked just like his mother, so I easily
found this incredible woman who had prayed for her son for 10
years and just would not give up. She had a glow of love and faith
about her that left me very moved as we talked on the way to the
With the help of guards who know and value me, I was able to get
her into the main part of the prison early and to the church building
itself where Pablo is head usher a while before church started.
We sat and waited, joyful beyond belief. I told her, Any
minute Pablo will come out of that door. Soon, the door
opened and a heavyset man came out not Pablo. A dark-skinned
man came out not Pablo. An older man not Pablo.
And finally, Pablo. He looked at me and then at his mother, glanced
back at me and walked toward us, looking very dumbfounded. But
his mother was out of her seat, arms wide open and hugging him.
He responded likewise.
A usual greeting here is a kiss on both cheeks, but Pablo got
a long hug on both sides of his face. His mother held his face
in both her hands, stroked his face and hugged him again. Both
of them were crying, and men around us where crying. I arranged
for another usher to take Pablos place and he sat beside
his mother with his arm around her, and she had her hand on his
knee, patting him and talking.
I thought, Yes, and in heaven there is even more joy.
Prison chaplaincy. Despair? Danger? Darkness? Yes, all of those,
but the rewards of bringing wholeness overwhelm the darkness.
Working to restore what was broken thats what God
is about, and thats what we who bear the name of Christ
are and must be about.
This is one story; there are many others, but the common thread
is about relationships, between God and humanity and between people,
redeemed and restored. May it ever be so.
In 1973, Jonathan Beachy graduated from GC with a degree in nursing.
In 1973, he and his wife, Ruth, took a two-year Mennonite Church
service assignment in Paraguay. But that term was too short,
Jonathan says, so when we finished our last Mennonite Central
Committee assignment in 1996, we decided to stay on independently.
For nearly five years he has been a pastoral counselor/chaplain,
sponsored by a local German-speaking Mennonite-Brethren church,
in the nations largest mens prison. Almost 250 men
out of 1,700 are actively involved in the church.
Editor's note: Based on the Spanish language verison of this
story about Pablo, Jonathan Beachy was asked to write a twice-monthly
column in the largest daily Spanish newspaper in Paraguay. He
said, "I am surprized, and grateful, for this opportunity
to spread light in the darkness." Blessings to Jonathan in