As a young 20-something, I had the unique experience of working at Prison Fellowship and serving as an aide to Chuck Colson. Over the next few years, Chuck became my friend as well as my hero. Chuck called me his chief-of-staff – which meant bag carrier, travel agent, office manager, radio producer and chauffer. It also meant airport restaurant table mate, prayer partner, fellow globetrotter, and companion in prisons all over the planet. He took me along on overnights in governor's mansions, breakfasts with senators, dinners with billionaires and death row Bible studies.
Everybody knows that Chuck was a brilliant thinker and visionary. He was truly one of the premier Christian leaders of our age. However, Chuck was my boss and I loved his passion, his fast pace and his tremendous sense of humor. Every great leader has a few quirks – Chuck was no different. While driving him around, I learned to just follow his instructions as he knew the perfect driving route from any point to any other point. Just accept the fact that Chuck loves practical jokes and that you are going to be the bunt of many of them. Don't waste ministry money. Chuck would run us ragged trying to find him the absolute cheapest airline ticket even if it meant inconvenient connections through small Midwestern cities. And never be late – anywhere – especially to the airport. Sometimes he would be so early he'd take the earlier flight.
I learned a few things very clearly. Chuck loved prisoners. Chuck loved his family. Chuck loved Patty. And Chuck loved Jesus. He was completely and utterly sold out. No one could every question his motives as Chuck gave every cent from speaking fees and book royalties to Prison Fellowship.
As I reflect, I am so thankful that I had the honor and privilege of becoming friends with this truly remarkable individual. Like no one else, Chuck had an amazing ability to spend the morning with the very least of these – prisoners rejected by their families and outcast by society, and then spend the afternoon with the president all the while feeling completely comfortable with both. I often watched in amazement as Chuck would walk into the darkest of prisons and greet a group of inmates. It was not uncommon to see a prisoner, hardened by a life of violence and depravity, dissolve into tears thanking Chuck for sending Christmas gifts to his children through Angel Tree and expressing his new found faith in Jesus. On a trip to Ecuador visiting a dilapidated, disease infested prison, Chuck dismissed the warden's warning of immanent danger and marched into the yard to give the Good News to the crowd. Over 100 inmates, covered with open sores and filth, all huddled around Chuck and listened to every word. He stayed to shake every last hand.
The last time I saw Chuck was about a year ago when he and Patty had lunch with my wife, Penny and I. We recounted funny stories of trips to Greece and Scotland and prison visits in Russia. To no surprise, with no retirement in sight, Chuck was focused like a laser on advancing the Kingdom through yet another worthy project.
As we all feel his loss and the tremendous hole that is left in our lives, let us remember his words – "Remain at your posts and do your duty – for the glory of God and His kingdom" and honor him be striving to live up to his charge.