It was early January and I was lying awake unable to sleep. I had just been led by God to the decision to host and coordinate an Amnesty International Death Penalty Action Week on my campus at Martin Methodist College. After struggling with my insecurities on whether or not I of all people could pull something like that off, I had decided that I had to. My college town of Pulaski has suffered much pain in recent years due to a horrible triple murder in 2009 still fresh in the minds of the locals. The case was a sure-bet for a death sentence on two eighteen year olds, but after the families of the victims declared they did not want to seek the death penalty, many in the Pulaski and Giles County community still believed the two boys deserved nothing more than a cruel death. I decided to obey God’s leading and to start planning an anti-death penalty week at Martin.
I laid down to sleep, telling myself I would think about it more in the morning before class. Of course, the blur of ideas began and there I found myself rushing back and forth between my bed and the computer to jot down ideas before I lost them, one of which was to ask Jeannie Alexander to come speak. Jeannie, who has been an indispensable person to Amos House and the rest of society in general, is the chaplain at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, Tennessee’s main death row. I emailed Jeannie and was ecstatic when she agreed to come speak about the intersection of faith and the death penalty.
In the following days, a friend and I went to a Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty event, where Stacy Rector, the executive director of TADP, and Charles Strobel of Room in the Inn were speakers on a panel. My friend leaned over to me and said “Wouldn’t it be cool if we got Stacy to come speak too?” I thought that was way too lofty of an idea for my small college. Stacy Rector is a big deal. She’s awesome. That might cost money. And even more so, I am shy. I dismissed the idea in my mind while trying to keep myself open to whatever God may have in mind.
Little did I know what God did have in mind. The next day, Laura, my campus minister, informed me that Stacy Rector from TADP had contacted her asking if any students from Martin Methodist were interested in the abolition of the death penalty. I was floored- Laura then proceeded to connect me to Stacy, who was eager to help our Death Penalty Action Week in any way she could. I asked her if she could come speak alongside Jeannie, who little did I know happened to be a good friend of hers. I couldn’t believe where God was taking this.
In our emails, Stacy told me that she would try to find a relative of a murder victim to come speak too. I, for some reason, had interpreted this as a, “I’ll try but I’m not sure who I can find” sort of thing, so when she told me that Father Charles Strobel would be coming to Pulaski as well, my mind was blown. Jeannie, Stacy, and Charles? It seemed like a dream team against the death penalty! At my little college!
I give all thanks to God in setting this up, as well as enormous thanks to Jeannie, Stacy, and Charles for being so willing and helpful to me and my Death Penalty Action Team at Martin Methodist College. We invite everyone to join us this Thursday, March 15th, from 8:30pm-10:00pm in Martin Methodist College’s Gault Fine Arts Center Recital Hall as we take a look at Faith and Facts of the Death Penalty in a panel discussion and Q&A. The address is 433 West Madison Street, Pulaski, TN 38478.