I arrived in a taxi and an apprehensive mood. This was new ground for me and I was not a little worried. The prison looked frightening from the outside; I wondered what it would be like on the inside. This place was for the bad boys with a capital B.
The request had come at very short notice---would I be prepared to talk to a guy with only a couple of days to live---convicted for murder and just about everything else you could think of. I hesitated before answering, and hated myself for it---without asking any questions I agreed. You will realise now why I was a little apprehensive.
I cannot imagine how anyone could break out of here, it being nearly impossible to get in, I was assured however that prisoners had indeed escaped. After numerous checks and locks, I eventually arrived at my destination. I was looking into a very grubby room. There was a long table with a guard at either end, at the far side of the table sat the guy who I had presumably come to see. He was shackled, hand, foot and waist. I entered the room and the door was locked behind me, I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t frightened---I was petrified.
One of the guards pointed to the vacant chair and I sat down.
‘I am Charles Picard; I understand you asked to see me’. I was directing this question at the shackled prisoner whilst trying not to display any nervousness.
‘It’s okay you can speak’ interrupted one of the guards looking at the prisoner.
‘Well not exactly’---I didn’t ask for you personally, but I am sure you will do okay’.
‘Well let’s start with your name’
‘It’s Robert Cando’.
‘Okay Robert would you like to be the one to tell me why I am here’
‘Can I have some privacy to speak with this guy please’ Robert directed this question at the guards. One of the guards left the room, when he returned a few moments later he indicated to the other guard and they both left the room---but not before showing me an alarm button just under the table top. The prisoner was still shackled.
‘Okay Robert, I will try to make this easy for you. You have had a lifetime of crime culminating in a murder. You have been sentenced to death---there is no appeal.
‘You have two days to live---the reality of death has just started to sink in, you are looking now for a glimmer of hope---hence my presence here; am I right so far?
‘Yea, pretty much so.’
‘I have to ask this, Robert, why me? It is only by chance that I am in this country. You could have asked for a Rabbi, a Muslim priest, a Buddhist, a Catholic, indeed any of a score of religious folks in these parts to speak with---and you choose an Anglican, who just happens to be in this country because of travel problems’
‘Just let’s say I like the English, I reckon you will do fine’.
Robert was fifty two years old---I had some details in a folder I had been given. He didn’t look like a murderer or indeed a criminal, but he clearly was. I was thirty one, not qualified for long, very inexperienced, and only in this country because of travel problems.
I had been working in a war zone to gain (I had been told) some valuable experience. Whether I had gained any valuable experience I do not know, but I most certainly had my eyes opened. I can say without doubt that there is much spiritual feeling (and talk) in a war zone; I was both surprised and busy. For some military reason there had been disruption to civil flights and I had at least two days to wait. I don’t know why or how I was summonsed to this place---somebody obviously knew my movements.
‘Okay Robert, let’s cut to the chase, what is it that you want from me? If you give me a clue and don’t try to waffle me, I will try to help you.’
‘The vilest offender will be forgiven if he repents---what does that mean? Is there any hope for me? What does hell mean?’
‘Hell is not a place of punishment, Robert, it is nothing to be afraid of. Hell is just like being in a deep sleep with no dreams---no awareness, nothing.’
‘So what is the punishment?’
‘The punishment is that you will never experience heaven and a perfect everlasting life.’
‘I cannot get my head around that.’
‘Well then it is Hell for you my friend---full stop.’
‘Is it possible for me to avoid Hell?’
‘Well you have left it a bit late and have a lot of explaining to do. If you truly repent and are willing to face your punishment---it may be possible, but let me tell you there will be no fooling anyone.You may have read or heard of “As you sow so shall you reap” and “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.” He means it; there will be no easy ride.’
‘Yes I have been reading that book over the last couple of days---I must admit I cannot understand it.’
‘Well let me try and explain Robert...’
Part 2 of this story can be found at