Present for the Execution

Prison Fellowship volunteer Bob McAlister found Rusty Woomer sitting in his cell motionless, face chalk-colored, dozens of roaches crawling over him. Bob tried talking with him, but the prisoner was unresponsive. “Rusty,” said Bob at last, “just say the word ‘Jesus.’ ” With much effort, Rusty pursed his lips together and whispered, “Jesus.” When Bob asked Rusty if he wanted to trust Christ as Savior, tears came to his eyes and he nodded.

The following Monday, Bob was stunned by the difference. Rusty’s cell was spotless, roaches and dirt gone. So was the pornography. “I spent all weekend cleaning my cell,” said Rusty, “’cause I figured that’s what Jesus wanted me to do.”

For four years, the men enjoyed a deepening friendship, studying Scripture, praying, talking. Finally, Rusty’s appeals were all denied and execution became certain.
On Rusty’s last day on earth, he said an emotional goodbye to his father, sisters, and brother. Everyone was ushered out, and the two friends sat in quiet, somber fellowship, waiting for the end.

As Rusty’s head and right leg were shaved he said, “Read me the Bible one last time.” I opened my Bible to Revelation 21. I read, “ … and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death. … ” A clump of Rusty’s hair fell on my lap; another on my Bible. I looked up, and, with a half-shaven head, Rusty was smiling—a peaceful smile I have never seen on another human being.

At 12:55 A.M. they came for Rusty. After reading him the death warrant, Warden George Martin asked, “Are you ready?”

“Let’s go,” he replied. I followed Rusty to the death chamber, and my final words to him were, “Rusty, look to Jesus.” Rusty was strapped into the chair and a leather helmet attached to his head. I heard his last words: “I’m sorry. I claim Jesus Christ as my Savior. My only wish is that everyone in the world could feel the love I have felt from Him.”

Five minutes later, Rusty was in heaven.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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