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Crime.Justice & America - Faith and the Criminal Justice System - "Life in the Desert" by Christiaan VandenHeuvel

"Better education means better justice. Better education means a higher standard for government to insure proper prosecution and incarceration. Better education means reduced recidivism, and in turn, less financial burden on society".

 "Life in the Desert" by Christiaan VandenHeuvel

Introduction from the Publisher – Ray Hrdlicka

Recently during the interview with a business magazine about CJA, they wanted to take pictures inside a jail facility. The Alameda County Sheriffs department graciously allowed the photographer to shoot pictures inside their Oakland facility. As I walked from cell to cell and read the elaborate scrawls on the walls, I was struck by how many messages of faith were evident. Each one recognized the pivotal moment they were facing in their life, which was usually at sentencing. I was moved by these messages, and asked a friend of mine, the pastor at Cornerstone Fellowship in the children’s ministry to write about the type of faith that was apparent in the jail cells.


Life in the Desert


Christiaan VandenHeuvel


I was in the Middle East a few weeks back and had an opportunity to spend some time in the Judean desert. Its rocky, barren, windy and desolate environment is not suited for much. People, plants and animals are quickly faced with an all consuming quest for survival. Nothing but survival.

Interestingly, camels are perfectly designed for life in a desert environment. Its feet are wide and unusually padded, perfect for sandy or rocky paths. It can drink and store over 20 gallons of water at one time. None of this water is stored in its hump or humps as commonly believed, but are huge fat deposits instead. The water gets stored in the camel’s blood stream, perfectly situated to keep a camel hydrated for up to three weeks. Even more amazingly, while all other mammals have round red blood cells, the camel’s blood cells are oval shaped in order to travel more easily in dehydrated veins. Additional camel anatomical features make this an animal that not just survives, but thrives in the desert.

One of the defining characteristics of life in the desert is the absolute quest for survival. Everything becomes a lot clearer, a lot simpler and distractions are blurred. The air is clear and crisp, the circumstances of wind and sun are hot and blistery, and your will to survive awakens. All your senses are heightened and your spiritual sensors are much more astute. Your gaze always drifts upwards and short bursts of prayer become second nature. “Is there someone out there who can save me from this desert experience?”

Certain periods of my life feel a lot like being in the desert. I hate being in the desert. I was made for the oasis, for smooth paths, for green, cool pastures and well-lit, level roads. It’s easy to think that God’s blessings are like that too. But it is actually the time in the desert when I grow the most.

God oftentimes allows us to go through desert or wilderness experiences in order to teach, mold and change us. In the middle of the wilderness I ask God if there isn’t some other way to teach me whatever I need to learn. But it quickly becomes clear that my conversations with God might not even have taken place if I had not ended up in the desert. The wilderness experiences always bring me to my knees.

In Matthew chapter 14 Jesus meets the needs of a large group of people by miraculously providing a full meal for each person at the end of a long day. Some of the people in the audience that day were not Jesus-fans or even remotely willing to believe that He was the Son of God. But Jesus looked upon each and every one of them and “had compassion on them.” He had compassion on those who fervently followed Him wherever He went, and he had compassion on the skeptics, the critics and the unbelievers. In the same way He wants to provide for us in our need. If you find yourself in a desert experience know that He is there with you. He is there to provide for you.

Take a moment to thank God for the desert experience He is allowing you to go through. You are no camel, you cannot self-sustain in this environment. Instead, you need the Master to guide you through, to lead you to water, to provide sustenance for you. Thank Him for drawing you closer to Himself in dark times.

Christiaan VandenHeuvel

Pastor to Children

Cornerstone Fellowship

Livermore, CA


This entry was posted in Faith and the Criminal Justice System.
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