Bob Goff tells the story of his longtime friend Charlie. Charlie was one of those guys who measured his life not by what he was but by what he has given up. He was a graduate of law school and then became an FBI agent. He met Bob for coffee and then said he wanted to use his training to help kids and fight for justice. Bob was involved with conducting investigations and raids to free kids from slavery, brothels and human trafficking in both Uganda and India. But the goal wasn’t just to free the kids but to bring the perpetrators to justice. After hearing this Charlie said, “I’m all in!” Charlie quit his job at the FBI and showed up for a non-paying job with Bob the next day. They went to Uganda to meet the President and all of the judges and then travelled to a town called Gulu where there was a jail. It was dilapidated concrete building surrounded by razor wire covered with rust. Inside were 100’s of young Ugandan boys and girls. Most had been arrested on petty crimes and had been in for 2-3 three years. And none had been to court. As Bob was talking to the warden, he lost Charlie. He started to look for him and found him in the cell of a young man named Kevin who was sharing his crime. He was sitting on the bottom bunk in a dark cell, holding Kevin’s hands and praying for Kevin that he would get our of jail and return to his life. It was a serious crime and that made this prayer all the more audacious.
Several months later, when all of the legal briefs had been written, there were 72 cases to be brought before the judge. The children arrived and then their parents, their accusers arrived and then the judge arrived. The children glanced back over their shoulders at their parents, ashamed they were there. But then the judge surprised everyone and asked the children to leave the courtroom so he could speak to their parents. When the children were gone, he spoke, “Parents, forgive your children.” For the judge knew whether the kids were guilty or not, they would be unable to move forward with their lives without the forgiveness of their parents. When the children were brought back into the courtroom, the judge said, “Children, your parents have forgiven you.” They had received what they needed as much as they needed justice. They had received forgiveness. And Kevin? He didn’t go back to jail and saw that the audacious prayer in the dark cell was answered. And then he writes, “What I’ve learned the more time I spent following Jesus is that God delights in answering our impossible prayers. The kind of prayers made in a dark cell by someone holding unwashed hands… But what I forget is that we’re talking to a God who knows that what we need the most is to return to Him, to return to our lives. And like the judge, God knows that we cannot return until we know we have been forgiven.”