Mary Mortenson, Pamela Deacon-Joyner, Prison Congregations of America (1)
Jan 15, 2017
by Gary Gurwell from his prison cell, December 1998
Prison is cold. Languishing in a plastic chair, an elbow resting on my bunk's metal headboard, I wistfully gaze through metal bars guarding my cell. Four feet beyond looms an expanded metal mesh barricade between angled iron uprights. All is a uniform gray - the color of fog, dirty dishwater, endless storm clouds.
Ten feet separate the mesh from a massive concrete and granite wall punctuated by openings posing as windows. From these glass blocks, refracted sunlight illuminates darkened corners. Then more bars, encrusted with oxidation and flaky paint exhausted from decades of exposure to the weather. A fortress built to keep men in - to keep the world's colors and life out.
The prison compound is surrounded by a towering 12 foot, heavy-duty chain link fence. Its double-thick, over sized steel posts embedded in concrete, buried in South Dakota soil. At ground level spirals a loosely wound roll of razor wire so sharp if you touch it bare-handed, you bleed. All is topped off with two more rolls and armed tower guards with orders to shoot. My world is gray and harsh and cold - so cold it chills the blood and freezes the soul.
Suddenly a burst of sunlight pierces the clouds, casting beams through the prisms of the glass blocks, spraying dancing, flickering rainbows across the walls. Colors so close, I can touch them - a ray of hope. Colors so bright, I can embrace them - a touch of warmth. A flicker of God's smile! God certainly knows how to gift-wrap his creation.
I recall a trip to Niagara Falls where I witnessed a complete and magnificent rainbow, stretching from New York State to Ontario, Canada. Another memory drifted across my mind, this time chasing a rainbow across Grandpa's Black Hills ranch. The summer rain's double rainbow surely ended in that aspen grove. I grabbed a shovel, ran out into the trees, ready to dig for that pot of gold. But it had already moved down the valley.
The rainbow colors are fading on my cell walls. I find myself reflecting on God's covenant to Noah in Genesis, chapter 9, written in the heavens in brilliant ribbons of blue, green, yellow, red, purple. It brings color, hope and a promise of a future to my gray world. An almost imperceptible voice whispers, "Rest easy, child, it is I who sets the captives free. I am the rainbow and the rainbow's end. Seek and you shall find."
Gary is now a returned citizen and a stained glass artist.