On April 14, 2009 Charles Lowry came to the Steadfast Bible Class for the monthly prayer meeting, and shared with all those present a devotional having to do with his recent incarceration for what is known as white collar crime.
The Lowry family is well known in Lynchburg - Charles has had a law office here, Bev was a professor of psychology at Liberty University for many years (is still an adjunct professor), and has been a featured singer on Thomas Road Baptist Church/Old Time Gospel Hour telecasts for a long time. They have three children: Mark, who is a Christian recording artist and songwriter, Mike is a musician, and Missy is a mother. Charles has been a faithful member of the Steadfast class for many years. Here is Charles' story:
"At the age of 74 I entered the Federal Prison Camp at Petersburg, Virginia on October 10, 2006 at 11:15 AM.
At the age of 76 I left on January 2, 2009 at 11:15 AM, having been there:
2 Years, 2 Months and 23 Days, or 793 Days, or 19,032 Hours, or 1,141,920 Seconds
Upon arrival, I was met by an officer and told to give my wife all my personal property I had on me, such as watch, billfold and Pen. I was allowed to keep the money I had on me and it was taken from me and credited to my commissary account.
It was a very sad feeling to see my wife, crying as she walked toward our son’s van containing our son, son-in-law, daughter and 2 year old granddaughter.
I was then taken into a building and told to strip and put on my new green prison clothes and steel-toe boots.
My personal clothes were placed in a box and mailed home.
Then an ID photo was taken and I was taken across the street to the Camp, carrying a green duffel bag containing five green shirts, 3 long sleeve shirts and 2 short sleeve shirts, three pair green pants, three white tee-shirts, three pair white boxer shorts, three pair white socks, one tooth brush, one tube of tooth past, three razors and one comb, walking in my new black steel-toe boots with my ID number on the back.
I was introduced to a female officer caseworker who handed me a manual of the Prison Rules and Regulations. She assigned me to a lower bunk and instructed an inmate orderly to take me to my bunk.
We walked down a flight of about 12 steps to the first floor and my bunk was located in the back of the room on the north side of the building.
I had a locker next to my bunk, about three feet tall, twenty inches deep and about two feet wide to place all of my belongings.
My steel frame bunk bed contained a four-inch cotton mattress about thirty inches wide and six and one-half feet long with no springs.
Shortly after 3 PM, the inmates who had work details started coming into the Camp Building consisting of five floors containing about 345 inmates. This is when I met the young man who slept in the bunk over my bunk. And I met a few of the other inmates who resided in my area of the first floor.
The new inmate always stands out with a puppy dog expression on his face.
At 4PM I was advised to stand up against the wall for count. We had count every day at 4PM and 10PM. If you were not on a work detail, the inmates inside of the Camp Building also had a 10AM and 12:30PM count.
After the 4PM count, we were called by our floor number for Supper. We walked about one-quarter of a mile to another building containing the dining area.
As I entered the dining building, reading the Camp Rules and Regulation Manual, an inmate saw me and told me to put it inside my shirt, because we were not permitted to bring anything into the dining area. This inmate is a Baptist Preacher. We became good friends, and he helped me get accustomed to the rules and regulations of the Camp. He left Camp about 6 months later.
At breakfast on October 30, 2006, an inmate told me he was being discharged on November 1, 2006 and asked me if I would like his job.
I asked him what his job consisted of and he told me he was the chief clerk for Central Maintenance Services, consisting of the Garage, Plumbing, Electrical, Painting and Construction Departments.
I told him I thought I would like that, and he introduced me to the Foreman of each department as well as the Facility Manager.
When he introduced me to the Facility Manager, he said, “Don’t let Mr. Lowry’s age scare you, he can out walk me.”
The Facility Manager and Garage Foreman called the Unit Manager and one of the counselors and requested that I be given a job as one of the three clerks.
On November 2, 2006, I started working as one of three clerks in Central Maintenance Services, which I later found out to be the best job in Prison.
A 28-year-old inmate moved up to the position of chief clerk after the other chief clerk was discharged from prison. He seemed to be a very intelligent young man, but stayed to himself all the time.
About six months later, he stole a prison pickup and drove to Charlotte, North Carolina. He was captured before the prison officials knew he was missing. He had called his former cellmate and told him he was escaping and to meet him at a certain restaurant in Charlotte. When he pulled into the restaurant parking lot, a FBI Swat Team surrounded him.
His former cellmate called the FBI and told them what he had heard and wanted no part of an inmate escaping.
The inmate was returned to prison and was facing an additional five years to be added to his sentence. He had already served four years of an eight-year sentence.
He was placed in isolation confinement and after about two months committed suicide by hanging himself with bed sheets.
The other clerk was transferred and two new inmates joined me as clerks for the Central Maintenance Services. Again, we had the best inmate job in the prison. We worked inside of an air-conditioned office.
An inmate is allowed only ten points for visits per month. Two points are charged for visits on Saturday, Sunday and Federal Holidays. One point is charged for Friday visits. Therefore, I requested that my visits be limited to my family members.
A very sad picture was watching an inmate stand at the window of the visiting room and watch his family members walk away from the visiting center to the parking lot.
Many times, I saw big tough inmates with tears in their eyes as they left the visiting room.
A Great Event happened every Thursday Night, (Which was later changed to Tuesday Night) when three volunteers came to Prison and conducted church services. Two of these men, Earnest (Ernie) Thomas and Robert (Bob) Minor had been coming over thirty years when I left in January, 2009. The other volunteer, Pastor Monteria, had been coming for over sixteen years. Bro. Thomas and Bro. Minor preached from 6PM to 7PM and Pastor Monteria preached from 7PM to 8PM.
At various times, when they couldn’t come, other volunteers would come and the volunteers, in my judgment, were always better prepared to preach the gospel than the chaplains.
Bro. Thomas spent nine months of a five-year sentence in a North Carolina Prison. While there he got right with the Lord and started conducting Bible Studies and many inmates were saved. He came out of prison with a desire to go to the prisons and tell the inmates about JESUS and he does a GREAT Job of telling inmates how to be SAVED!
All three of these men love JESUS and the inmates. It shows in their actions.
SOME EVENTS THAT STAND OUT DURING MY STAY IN PRISON
(1)I never had any fear of being in Prison. (2)I had cataract surgery on both eyes. After each surgery, I had to wear a plastic shield over the eye for 24 hours.
After the first surgery, a large black man, called “TANK”, with biceps as large as my thighs, came up to me and said, “Mr. Lowry, just tell me who did that and I will take care of him.”
I said, “You ought to see the other guy.” Then I told him I had eye surgery.
He said, “Okay, but if you ever need me just call on me.”
I told him, “I have JESUS, do you know him?”
He said, “Yes, I do, He is my Savior.”
I said, “Great, I will meet you again in Heaven.”
He said, “I will be there.”
(3)One day a black man walked into my room, about 90% of the men in the Camp were black, about 2% were Spanish and Asian and about 7% were Caucasian. This man told me that he had just been transferred from the Low Prison, which was across the street from the Camp. After an inmate’s prison sentence is less than ten years, they are transferred to the Camp.
He said someone in the Low told him to look up Richard Collins, who was the inmate I shared my room with. He said, “I want to get what you called Saved.”
Richard Collins had worked for “Word of Life” at Schroon Lake, New York.
I told him that he was in the right room. We both talked to him and Richard had the privilege of leading him to the Lord and he made a public confession at the next Church Service.
(4)I was asked to speak several times when a Chaplain failed to show up for a service and even some of the Chaplains would let the inmates speak at some of their services.
Several inmates asked me for my notes and I remember one young man telling me that he didn’t hear me speak, but wanted to read my notes. He also said that his Mother and Daddy were praying that he would accept JESUS as his Savior.
About one month before I left prison we had a three-day Revival and this young man accepted JESUS along with twelve other men in that Revival.
Later, I asked him if he had called his Mother and Daddy and told them what he had done.
He said, “Yes Sir, and they sure are happy and so am I.”
I told him, I would see him in Heaven, and he would recognize me by the smile on my face.”
(5)During the three-day Revival, we had a different Preacher each night. The second night an elderly Preacher came with his young associate. He told us that he had intended to let his young associate preach, but after hearing the testimonies of several inmates and hearing the inmates sing, he felt like the Holy Spirit wanted to hear him preach and he did a great job and several of the 13 got saved that night.
Each Preacher who preached during the three-day revival remarked how they were blessed by being in the service with the inmates.
When Beverly and I participated in the Prison Ministry of Hope-a-Glow, with Garry Sims, we always received a blessing and talked about our blessings in being in the presence of the inmates as we drove the two-hour trip back home.
At that time, I did not know that I would have the experience of being on the other side of the fence.
I want to say, “Some of the Greatest Christians I have ever met are in Prison.”
I heard more than one inmate say, “If I had not come to Prison and found JESUS as my Savior, I would be dead today.”