the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956

Jonathan BeachyRestoring 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 fortune.”

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 the prison.
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 didn’t 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 this possible?”

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 Pablo’s 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 prison.

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 Pablo’s 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 – that’s what God is about, and that’s 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 nation’s largest men’s 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 his service.

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