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“Draw Me Nearer"

Roy Borges
Fifth Prize - $2,000

Roy A. Borges has been incarcerated in Florida since 1990.  He started writing in 1994 for “Inside Journal,” a Prison Fellowship publication.  In 1998, Guideposts published his first short story “Good Words Bad Words,” a story about an obstinate cellmate God taught him to love.  In 1998, “Love Your Enemies,” a short story about forgiveness and overcoming evil with good was published in Discipleship Journal and won first place in the Amy Foundation’s 1998 Awakening the Giant Writing Awards.  HomeTimes, a Christian newspaper, as well as other Christian periodicals, publish his stories and articles each month.  Roy’s first book “Faith and Love Behind Prison Fences” was published in 2002 by Publish America.  For the past five years he has been writing and directing Christmas and Easter plays in the prison chapel.  The response has been awesome. 

Life on the other side of the razor-wire fences can seem like another world.  The violence that exists within this environment can be hard to imagine.  I compare it to a war zone.  At any moment that brutality can erupt.  At any moment something terrible and unexpected can happen.

In any war it is always good to know your enemy.  In Florida the guards wear brown uniforms and the prisoners wear blue and the line between the two is tightly drawn.  I have heard it said from both sides, “It is us against them.”  I admit I have seldom had anything contrary to say to that conclusion.  My personal experience with abuse and mistreatment has left a sour taste in my mouth toward those in brown.

This year corruption in the Florida prison system led to the forced retirement of Secretary James Crosby, the head of the Florida Department of Corrections.  This investigation found prison officials and employees had broken many of Florida’s criminal laws.  Numerous arrests of current and former prison employees were made and the new interim Secretary James McDonough has fired or forced the resignation of many top FDOC officials since he took over in February 2006.

Many inmates applauded when they heard the news, me included.  In a microsecond I judged and convicted them and felt my veneer of self-righteousness thicken.

But then something happened that changed my whole outlook toward those in brown.  On August 21st, 2006 brutality erupted in H-dorm at DeSoto Correctional Institution.  Two prisoners attacked me.  One had a shank he had made out of a sharp piece of metal.  The other had a key-lock on a belt that he used like a golf club.  The one with the knife was my roommate.  We weren’t getting along.  He used it for an excuse to try to kill me.  I didn’t even know his recruit.   

I ran but I slipped and my roommate began stabbing me while his recruit hit me repeatedly on my head and in my eye with the lock.

In a matter of seconds I was defenseless and at their mercy.

But thank God Officer Woodal was working the booth that day.  Her alert response many said saved my life.  She was on the intercom, walkie-talkie, and telephone almost simultaneously.  As a result help came quickly and my attackers fled.

Sergeant Smith, another quick thinking officer, came to my aide and put towels in my hands and put them on my wounds to stop the bleeding.  Disregarding the dangers, she put her hands over other wounds to stop the bleeding and kept me calm until the ambulance arrived.

I was rushed to DeSoto Memorial Hospital in Arcadia where a team of interns and doctors sewed up my wounds.  They put a tube in my chest because one of my lungs had collapsed.  Then I was air-lifted to Tampa General Hospital where a team of eye experts operated on my eye.  They saved my eye but not my sight.  “Too much damage,” they said.

Then God did something only He could do.  He began to pry open my heart and show me the real enemy.  The war isn't “us against them”, but good against evil.  It started way back in the beginning when God gave humans free will.  But they chose evil, which brought suffering and death into the world.

It exists in whatever world we live in; in our daily choices and in our moment to moment decisions.  However, not every tragedy is the design of God’s will.   People do things that anger and grieve God.  But it doesn’t stop Him from achieving His purposes.  The apostle Paul reminds us of that purpose with his words to the church at Corinth, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2Corinthians 4:17).

I didn’t know if Officer Woodal or Sergeant Smith are Christians but I know they unselfishly chose to go beyond the call of duty.  It was a choice many said saved my life.  I believe it and I began to see how wrong I was to judge others just because of the color of their uniform.

The prison inspector asked me if I wanted to press charges against my two attackers.  I said “No,” I had forgiven them.  It was something else I knew God wanted me to do.

The doctors said I may not ever see again out of my injured eye.  But that is okay, because suddenly I’ve begun to see what God is doing.  He is taking this catastrophe and turning it into an incredible opportunity for me to know Him better.  In the middle of the pain I began to draw nearer to Him and I realized that I could see things more clearly now with one eye than I ever could with two.

Draw me nearer, nearer Lord, to Your precious cleansing blood.    

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