How can I tell this story the way it deserves to be told? I guess Ill start from the beginning.
Within the last few months, momentum built for a traveling evangelism tour around the U.S. With a little luck and some gracious support from The Urantia Book Fellowship, an anonymous donor, and many others involved, this dream became a reality.
I found myself flying over Tijuana sitting next to a nice young girl who had just joined the Army and was heading home to Ohio. We joked about being from states no one knows about and I told her that I was going on a two month road trip which of course lead to me telling her about the UB and giving her a flyer. She seemed semi-interested but after reading the card said she had a friend in Canada who would love the book. She said he also loved yoga and spirituality like me. It was a very warm and easy first introduction.
So after landing in Chicago and getting my bags I headed to the train to make my way into the city. I sat down exhausted and the train took off. After about ten minutes, a man sitting about four seats in front of me stood up and started to talk. For a second I thought he might be robbing the train. Boy was I wrong.
He introduced himself with his full name but all I heard was Melvin. Though he had his back to me I could hear him talking about how he had recently been released from prison where he had spent 22 years. He said that he was trying very hard to find a job and that he refused to be a victim of the system. Expressing that all he really wanted was honest work. Then he talked about the skills he had like being a mechanic, painter, and an all around hard worker. He ended by saying that he was slightly embarrassed to have to do this but that he refused to “twiddle his thumbs” and that he was sorry if he had made anyone uncomfortable. Then he sat down.
I knew before he was even finished talking that I would be offering him some kind of help. So I approached him and asked if he would like to come sit by me and chat. He came over and started to talk with me about how he had gone to prison in the first place. Chicago being one of the worst murder capitals of the nation, they have some very strict laws on the books.
Melvin grew up in a rough neighborhood. When he was 17, he went to a party with a group of friends and one of the people in the group had a gun. They weren’t gang-bangers, but one kid thought he was cool or tough or something. While at the party that kid was confronted and he ended up shooting two people. One died, the other was paralyzed. According to Illinois law, if you are aware of someone having a weapon while they are in your company and they kill someone, you can be charged with murder. So all six boys who went to the party with him went to prison. Melvin received 44 years and ended up doing 22. He is now 41.
After hearing this story and having already witnessed his courage and genuine desire to do right, I felt incredibly humbled. I offered to buy him dinner. So we got off the train and I called Allison, who I hadn’t even seen yet and told her to come meet us for dinner. We walked over to Qadoba and sat down to wait.
Having helped me carry my bag he asked why it was so heavy and joked that it “better not have a dead body in it”. As we sat down, I opened it up and showed him the stacks of outreach materials which filled the bag to every edge. He saw this sticker and asked if he could have one.
Then he asked what the Urantia Book was. I told him that my Father had found it in San Fransisco and that to me it was the guide to the galaxy. He asked to see one and I pulled mine out to show him. He instantly looked in the index and saw the sections about the universe and started to get the happiest look on his face. We both quickly started to realize that I had just introduced him to what he had always been looking for. He asked more questions and just kept getting more excited by the fact that he had somehow discovered this book. When Allison, Mike, and Jay arrived, we all got food and sat down to eat.
By this time Melvin was so excited that he was almost getting emotional. He shared that he had written a book in prison called “Holy Men Without Religion”. He said he was a theology junky and had always been looking for a better explanation about God and the universe. So I decided that I was going to give him the only book I had brought with me. He was so excited and grateful and kept saying that he was for sure going home to read the book untill 4 or 5 in the morning.
As we parted ways it felt like I had a new brother. I told him that everything that had happened was because he had, against all odds, made a commitment to God to keep his integrity in check, even after being screwed over by life and the system. With nowhere to work or a place to stay he still refused to give in. He refused to let his morals go or to give up in God.
This was the most humbling, inspiring introduction of my life. And this was only day one.
Written By: Teuvo Orjala