“The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want” (Psalm 23).
The past six months have been the most difficult times I and my family have had to face. As most of you already know, I was involved in a tragic motor accident that sadly resulted in the deaths of three children. I was charged with manslaughter and was in prison for three months. I am now out on bail awaiting the state to charge me. This waiting has been even harder than being in prison. While in prison, I was constantly reminded that I will soon be out on bail. That eventually happened. And, while in prison, the Lord opened gospel opportunities that proved to be a good distraction for me. These opportunities helped me to understand that, despite the hardships of prison, God allowed me to preach to several hundred and I was also afforded an opportunity to teach the prison teachers and preachers how to put together a sermon. These opportunities helped me make some sense of my imprisonment.
I taught on expository studying. Basically, I challenged the men that, if they are going to preach for God, they first have to study for God. The common message in prison is, “Trust Jesus and he will set you free from this prison.” I had to teach them that there is a greater prison that this physical one. It is life without Jesus. You could be released from this prison, but if you are not forgiven of your sins and reconciled with God, it is no good. This is a hard message, especially in prison. But it is the only message that gives real hope. I am filled with joy to say that there have been individuals who told me, “Newton, you changed my life.” While I know I have no power to do that, I know it’s the message of the gospel that does that. And since I have been out, I have been more joyous to see three people I had met in prison come visit our church. One has brought his wife with him and are considering membership. I have visited the prison a couple of times since I was released on bail and have been encouraged to hear that they have missed my classes. I wonder if David’s words—“he leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake”—have anything to do with the fact that he also takes us “through the valley of the shadow of death.” It is easy for me to miss the connection. But what I didn’t miss was the fact that, as much as prison was hard, his presence was evident. As David says in Psalm 23:4, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Although I had to go through this deep valley of darkness, he was with me. The overwhelming care and support I received while in prison, and the many of you that reached out to Vanessa, were reminders that God was and is with us. He does, indeed, prepare a table. I was comforted to learn that the word “prepare” means God ordains my circumstances. He orchestrates the details in my life. And although trials are hard, his goodness and mercy shall chase me. This psalm has been a source of great comfort in this rough season.
The hardest part now is the uncertainties of the court case. I am still waiting for the state to take me to court. They were instructed to do this within thirty days after the high court granted me bail. My lawyer called me last week saying there is a strong possibility the state will amend the charge from manslaughter to cause of death by accident. The latter charge is finable.
However, the lawyer said he cannot guarantee that I will not get a custodial sentence. He said that, although the lesser charge usually ends in a fine, my case is complex because of the number of deaths. The possibility of a custodial sentence has been hardest to process. I know what I believe but nonetheless it is hard to know that I could go to jail. This is hard for my wife, and I don’t even know how to explain this to our children. Our God is good. He knows which goodness and mercy will follow us. He has been good to us. He has been faithful. We will cling to his promises. He is our Shepherd. He knows the paths of righteousness. He does all things well.
Will you kindly continue praying for us? That he will be glorified through this.
It is well.
Newton, Vanessa, Chisomo, Karabo, Kisa