One of the recurring themes of these humble ramblings is that real, deep rooted growth comes through trials. Adversity introduces a man to himself and you find out if your faith, or lack of faith, will sustain you. I have been following the story of a young man going through a terrible and unjust trial. His name is Eric Volz.
Eric is a US citizen who is being held in a Nicaraguan prison for a crime that he could not possibly have committed. In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a personal connection to this story. My son works at Belmont University and through him I have met Eric’s stepfather, Dane Anthony. Dane has left his job to devote himself fulltime to freeing his stepson.
Dateline recently ran a story about the case.
Here is a bit of background. A website called Friends of Eric Volz outlines the entire story. Here are just a few facts of the case.
Doris Jimenez was killed Tuesday, November 21, 2006, between 11:45 am and 1:00 pm, in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Her body was found at about 2:00 pm inside a clothing store she owned. She was tied, strangled and asphyxiated. Doris was popular and attractive and her murder deeply unsettled this small tourist town.
Eric Volz was two hours away in Managua at the time of the murder. Eric, a 27-year old American, had been living in Nicaragua for some two years. Not only were there 10 witnesses who saw him in Managua during the time of the murder, none of the physical evidence recovered from the scene linked Eric to the crime. Indeed, none of the blood, fluid, hair, or other physical evidence collected at the scene had any tie to Eric.
Throughout the day of the murder Eric was in Managua at the house where he lived and worked. Eric’s house in Managua served as the offices of EP Magazine — a sustainable development and lifestyle magazine. Eric awoke there early that morning and entered the office area at around 9:15 am. The housekeeper, security guard and no fewer than five EP workers were there at the time and saw Eric.
The website carefully documents the arrest, prosecution, defense and conviction of Eric Volz. Reading the facts of this case will make you ill as you try to comprehend the injustice of this conviction. It is impossible for me to imagine what Eric and his family must be going through right now. Volz was wrongly convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
I thought of Eric as I read the book of Philippians. Paul could empathise with the experience that Eric Volz is enduring. Paul wrote that epistle to the church at Philippi while chained to a Roman prison guard. You talk about writer’s block! Yet Paul was able to see how God was using his awful circumstance for His glory.
And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
Eric has recently written his own letter from prison. He receives letters and printed copies of emails every two to three weeks. He responded to the outpouring of support in a letter dated April 17th.
Most important regarding the support I want to say the following: a man can live weeks without food, days without water, but can’t go minutes without HOPE.
Eric Volz has gained a lifetime of wisdom in the fires of this trial. He concludes his letter…
I have no idea why I have been appointed to be the lightning rod for all of this, but you can imagine how it makes me feel to read from in these walls that “my suffering is producing good fruit” in people’s lives around the world. It overwhelms me with deep strength and peace.
At times the is despair so overwhelming there are no words, there is pain so deep it does not have a name, and the fear is so powerful we cannot paint his face. Yet, as a result of those who love and support me I see beauty above it all.
I can almost hear the Psalmist as I read Eric’s lament. David wrote these words in Psalm 13.
1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.
Will you join me in praying for Eric Volz? Pray for his family that they will feel the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the family of the victim and that real justice will prevail for her and that suffering family. Pray that God will move in hearts of the authorities both here and in Nicaragua. Pray for the gatekeeper who will oversee Eric’s appeal. Pray for justice. Pray for Eric’s strength and safety. Pray that God will mold Eric Volz in this terrible trial into a man who will glorify Him as he lives his life in freedom that we believe will happen soon. And pray that Eric will trust in God’s unfailing love and the knowledge that even in this prison He has been faithful to him.
Note: You can contribute to help the family’s defense funds or send a letter to Eric by clicking on the links. You can also let your congresspersons and senators know that you care about this case. I am waiting on Representative Jeb Hensarling’s response this week. I will keep you posted.