Yesterday, I attended the memorial service for our dear departed brother Breck. It was a precious time honoring a precious brother.
I was especially blessed as Paul Fairfield and Sharon Gravesen shared. When Paul heard that Breck was missing he set out for the spot where Breck’s car was found. He arrived very early in the morning, and as he looked out over the reservoir he sensed God instructing him to honor Breck, implying that Breck’s favorite fishing lake had become his grave. Paul honored him with the words of a song, which were projected on the Chapel’s screen while Paul played the melody beautifully on his trumpet. It was very moving! Sharon had a similar experience. When she heard that Breck was missing, she reacted normally by starting to pray. She asked the Lord how she should pray, to which He said, “Don’t pray for him.’’ Nonplussed, she told the Lord she didn’t understand, as He had never told her to stop praying before. He explained, “Breck is here with me!” Enough said!
Many wonderful things were said by family and friends, and as the service drew to a close, I marveled that no one had spoken about his remarkable vocation as a prison guard. I thought that perhaps even with the Chapel’s new hearing assistance equipment that my bad hearing had missed it. But as I inquired of various people with good hearing after the service, it was verified that no one had spoken about his prison ministry. I think that it needs to be told, so I will endeavor to do so.
A little background might be in order. I was the Senior Pastor when Breck, fresh from college, arrived in Tuolumne County and began to attend the Chapel. My dear departed wife, Alva, greeted him with a big hug and warm affection as she inquired all about him. Breck, not knowing that she did that to everybody, felt that he must be her favorite from their first meeting. Since he had been away from his own mother during four years of college, and she was still way up in Washington, Alva was instantly his surrogate mother. We saw a lot of Breck in those days, and Alva became his confidante. He was like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, who in his soliloquy spoke statement after statement, separated by “but then,” never able to reach a conclusion (a consequence of majoring in philosophy, no doubt). His main concern seemed to be what he was going to do to earn a living.
One day we found out that he had applied to the prison near Jamestown to be a guard, and was enrolled in their training course. We were flabbergasted. He wasn’t a large man, didn’t look tough and had sort of an apologetic manner. How could he have gotten by the shrinks and been approved? Great Scott! Those prisoners would eat him for lunch!
Were we ever wrong! Breck went through the Academy with flying colors and proceeded to do well no matter what duties he was assigned to. The Chapel has had many prison guards in its congregation over the years. During Breck’s career we had another guard that was big, strong, tough looking, tough acting and prison-wise because his father was a career prison guard. According to several other guards in the congregation, the big prison-wise guard was the one most hated by the prisoners and Breck was the guard best liked. What was the difference? Breck, either by nature, or by spiritual growth, or both, had internalized Proverbs 18:24a, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” The hated guard regarded the prisoners as scum and treated them like scum. Breck regarded them as friends, treated the worst of them like an equal about whom he cared. The hated guard survived because he was prison-wise and carefully watched his back. Breck mingled with the prisoners without fear. Why would his friends attack him? Indeed, it seemed like new prisoners were told by the current population to watch out for the blankety-blank (hated) guard, and by no means harm their friend, Breck.
Most of the guards disliked tower duty, but Breck gladly accepted or even asked for it. He told me that up in the tower all alone he could do his duty of watching the yard and still worship and sing praises to God, practice Bible verses he was memorizing and pray. His prayers for the inmates and others were not just general, but most of the time specific to some need for which he had been asked to pray.
Think of the accomplishments Breck made in that prison over the many years until his retirement. Thank you Jesus, and please reward him greatly!
See you soon, Breck-I hope!!