Prayer concern

A note from our friend Preston Shipp. Thank you for your prayers for him as he mourns the death of his friend, and thank you for remembering, particularly during this week, how deeply flawed our attempts at justice are.

My friend Jerry Cammuse died yesterday. Not many people outside prison walls knew Jerry because he had been locked up since 1990.

Not long ago Mike Duncan and Jeff McInturff and I met with former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s legal counsel to ask for executive clemency. Jerry was a model inmate, a Bible scholar, a fine musician, a chaplain’s aide, and an excellent example to other men. He was also diagnosed with cancer, and he believed it was due to his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. And for the entire seventeen years that I knew him, Jerry adamantly insisted that he was not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. There was no physical evidence, and witnesses had recanted their testimony. Despite all this, Haslam rejected our pleas for Jerry’s freedom.

Unlike my friend Cyntoia Brown, celebrities never took an interest in Jerry’s story or turned his name into a hashtag. Haslam refused to show mercy, and very few people knew or cared. But to those of us who knew and loved Jerry, it was heartbreaking. Given his failing health, we knew that Haslam had essentially condemned Jerry to die in prison, and that is what has happened.

Jerry was born on February 8, 1950. Ever since 2002, when I first started serving as a volunteer chaplain, Jerry has been our song leader. He loved the old hymns: “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” “Trust and Obey,” “Victory in Jesus.” When he led “Amazing Grace,” the last verse was always simply the words “Praise God” repeated over and over. I had never heard that before, and I always was moved by it. He always asked for prayers and for us to continue believing in his innocence. He knew that he was a helpless victim of a terribly unjust system.

Like so many people I have met in prisons, Jerry reflected Christ to me and changed my life for the better. We exchanged many letters, and I knew him well. He should have been released many years ago. But all the system was willing to do with this kind, gentle man was crush him until he died. And we call this justice.

My children prayed last night for Jerry, that he is finally free and in the presence of the God in whom he placed his trust for so long. There are many more people like Jerry suffering in our prisons, all but forgotten and with little hope. If you have never visited a prison before, you really should. People like Jerry have taught me more about God than I’ve ever learned sitting in the comfort of opulent steepled buildings or in years of studying at religious schools.

Prayer concerns

Bess Henderson is still undergoing treatment of an infection in her jaw bone. She continued to experience a lot of pain, and learned on Friday that her jaw is broken. Please continue to hold her close in prayer as she completes the antibiotic treatment and discusses with her medical team what surgical procedures might be appropriate to treat the fracture.

Lyn Dorris asks for prayers for the family, friends and students of Pam Woodard. Pam, a teacher at Lyn’s school, died on Sunday at age 60.

Katherine Young, who moved to Louisville a few months ago, is hospitalized with pneumonia.

Donna Woods is happy to announce the birth of her newest grandchild. Blake Hudson Barr was born to Donnell and Leah Barr on April 10, weighing 8lbs. 1oz. and measuring 21 1/4 in.

Wednesday prayer requests

Bill Cannon died on Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by friends and family. Thank you for continuing to keep Debra and all who love Bill in your prayers. Once funeral arrangements have been confirmed we will share them with the congregation.

Joan Strasinger is recuperating at home after surgery and overnight hospitalization. Joan fell and broke her elbow when a very excited dog accidentally pushed her over on Tuesday. Thank you for your prayers for Joan.

Jackie Halstead will be in Kenya, April 5-14, to lead the East Africa Women's Retreat for missionaries and English-speaking Kenyans. We pray for safe travel for her and all participants, and a fruitful retreat.

Saturday update

We ask for prayers for Bill and Debra Cannon. Bill is in ICU after suffering a major cardiac event last night.

Virginia Grimm is still hospitalized but expected to return tomorrow to her residence at Charter Senior Living in Hermitage. Thank you for continuing to hold her close in prayer.

Monday afternoon prayer updates

Wayne McNatt is scheduled for a second surgery Tuesday morning. This will prepare his leg for being able to fit and rehabilitate with a prosthesis. Please continue to pray for Wayne, his upcoming surgery and the rehabilitation to follow. 

Julia Callaway asks us to pray for those affected by the floods in Papua, New Guinea, town of Sentani; relatives of the Callaway family, the Ingles, are doing mission work there. Over fifty people have died but the Ingles family is safe and is ministering to those injured and needing shelter, food, and water.

Wayne McNatt

Another brother of Lester’s, Wayne McNatt has been hospitalized in Marietta, GA with a  severe foot infection. He will have to have his foot removed; the surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning with a follow up procedure on Monday or Tuesday. Please pray for Wayne, and his two boys, Marlon and Marshall and all of the family during this difficult time.