We have a wonderful brother and friend named Codaniel, whom we met at a local coffee shop, at McDonald’s, at a friend’s BBQ, at a church potluck, and all at once, seemingly everywhere. Tall and skinny, with a huge smile, and often with a guitar and singing Jesus music, Codaniel walks fast with a springy step. He talks fast, uses a large vocabulary and draws upon an astonishing amount of memorized Scripture. Gregarious and funny and deep, he writes amazing poetry which he delivers as a rap to a hip hop beat.
As you can see, Codaniel is a large and lovely personality. He is also a recovering addict, acutely aware of the bottomless grace of God. Codaniel suddenly appeared in our community because he had recently been released from prison and had moved to town to live with his mother. It’s quite a story and I will let him tell parts of it as he related in an informal recorded interview,
I didn’t live a very wholesome life. I was always kind of averse to Christ because of what people represented through their street corner condemnation evangelism and that whole scene. I didn’t dig it. So I lived a life very contrary to that and as a result one night this kind of culminated and came to a head because I was very frustrated and very disappointed with my life. So I obviously drank all day to feel better about it, right? Well that didn’t work. So I decided that maybe driving really, really, really fast would make me feel better about my life. Plus we were trying to make a liquor store run before the store closed and it was about to close. So my buddy hopped in the back seat and my sister hopped in the front seat, I hopped in the driver’s seat and we started booking it down this road. I knew this road really well. I thought I knew exactly how much time I had but the thing is when you’re going twice the speed limit it takes you less time to get to the curve in the road than you normally would and my drunken mind didn’t realize this. So right as I hit a hundred miles an hour I looked down at the speedometer. I’m like “Yes! I hit a hundred!” I looked up, and I’m like “Oh no, I hit the curb!” I flipped and rolled and crashed in the peoples’ yard [resulting in considerable property damage]. My back passenger was ejected from the vehicle, had punctured lungs. He broke some of his neck bones or something – should’ve been paralyzed, should’ve died. And I went to prison for vehicular assault. Luckily my sister realized how crazy I was at the time, put her seat belt on right before we hit that curb. She was okay. She had some lacerations on some organs but like, was pretty minor somehow. Me, I wasn’t injured at all. How wretched is that?”
Codaniel told me that apparently a prisoner can get almost anything he wants in jail. So he and his cellmate used drugs all day, and his life on the inside was just as empty and miserable as on the outside. But one day he “happened to find” himself with a New Testament. (The way he described it to me made it sound like an unexpected occurrence.) He had tried to read the Bible in the past, but quickly gave up. Thinking that he now had some time on his hands, he decided to try again. At first he found it really depressing, “It was awful! This guy gets crucified four times!”
But then, at Romans 5, something clicked.
In any case I went to prison and while I was in prison I read through the gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, read through the book of Acts, read through Romans 1, 2, 3, 4, got to Romans 5, verses 1 through  just floored me. It says ‘Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into the grace in which we stand and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so but we also rejoice in tribulation knowing that tribulation produces perseverance and perseverance, strength and strength, hope and hope does not disappoint [because] the love of God was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us. For while we were w – w – while we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ [Codaniel quoted this from memory.] And that just ripped my heart apart, took away all my intellectual protection, and I dropped to my knees and I gave my life to Christ right there.”
He got plugged in with a prison church service or bible study. But more importantly he met a fellow born again inmate, Jonas, and they challenged each other to memorize Scripture. (Once, while Codaniel was living in our house, we had a “household talent show” at Christmas time. His act was to recite the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7, which he had committed to memory years earlier in prison. We were all blown away. He didn’t just recite the text, he delivered it, he performed it. His telling of the Sermon on the Mount was given through the lens of great understanding, so it powerfully affected the listeners as he emphasized the words in just the right way.) Eventually Codaniel was released from prison, lived in a halfway house for a while, then three years after the accident, he ended up living with his mother in our town of Estes Park. That could be the happy ending of the story, but there is more. Our God is so amazing, causing all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28).
Meanwhile there was this wonderful coffee shop in Estes Park called The Caffé Collage. The place was started by Rachel Hartman when she was only 19 years old. Our daughter Rosemary and several of her friends worked there off and on, and sometimes as volunteers when times were tough, because all of them understood that the place was not primarily a business. It was a coffee shop, art studio with craft classes, music venue with music lessons, general hangout place, and a sanctuary of the Kingdom of God. Once Codaniel found the place he became more or less a permanent fixture, soaking in bible studies, musical worship nights, reading, and conversation both with the proprietors and the customers, many of whom were students from the local bible school. Codaniel grew rapidly in his new faith. And then one day, while talking to Rachel…
…we were talking and it turned out that she brought me mangoes when I wanted bananas. She said “Well I got them from Esh’s where they were really cheap.” I was like, “Oh you know Esh’s?” Got to talking, [and found] she lived on Glade Road. I said, “It wasn’t by chance third Glade Road was it?” At the time I said this, I didn’t think it would be. Turns out it was. I said, “You live next to an alpaca farm by chance?” She’s like, “Yes?” I was like, “Did I crash my car into your yard three years ago driving drunk?” She said, “That was you?” And so this crazy thing happened at this point. I can’t even say that she forgave me. She was overjoyed that this person that had crashed into her yard – that it turned out her family had been praying for every single day for like six months after the accident – had come to Christ. And what’s more, because I damaged their fence and their mailbox and other parts of their property I ended up paying restitution to their family while I was in prison. So [while] they were praying for my salvation, they were going through a financial hardship at the time, so my restitution was paying for them to eat and also gave them some, like, seed money for the coffee shop that I was now plugged in at… and… my word… God is so absolutely amazing, it’s unbelievable. Yup.”
Now we know how in prison, Codaniel went from having drugs in hand, to a New Testament in hand, to Jesus in his heart… through prayer!