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Speer: Alpena tie to Nixon’s ‘hatchet man’

April 27, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

It really is a small world after all.

Many, many times over the years I've been reminded of that.

I once ran into, literally, a cousin at the "Honey, I shrunk the Kids" display at Disney's Hollywood Studios Theme Park in Florida. I hadn't seen her for over a decade and haven't seen her since, as she lives in Pennsylvania. Yet we used the Disney opportunity to get caught up on life's memories.

Another year our family was in Yosemite National Park in California and needed a quick snack. Inside the park store we ran into Betty Werth and her family.

Think about it. What are the odds of traveling across country all those miles, to be in the same location, at the same time, on the same day, in a crowded store, and manage to bump into each other?

This past week many of you probably read of Charles Colson's death. While at one time Colson's mention would have garnered front page headlines, his passing wasn't much more than a few paragraphs on the inside of most newspapers, if they even carried the story at all.

Colson was infamous as one of the Watergate Seven, who as special counsel to President Richard Nixon back in the 1970s, did jail time for obstruction of justice. Many considered Colson Nixon's "hatchet man" and in subsequent books that he authored and interviews that he gave, acknowledged his involvement both in the Watergate cover-up and break-in at Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg's office.

While serving time, Colson became a devout evangelical Christian, and for the rest of his life his vocation centered around his Christian conversion. After his release, he founded a nonprofit ministry, Prison Fellowship, whose focus, according to its mission statement, is "to seek the transformation of prisoners and their reconciliation to God, family and community through the power and truth of Jesus Christ."

And, in one of those "small world moments," the CEO of the ministry is an Alpena native, Jim Liske. Jim is the son of Alpena residents Don and Shirline Liske, both of whom are quite active in church-related activities throughout the region.

Jim joined Prison Fellowship in July of last year, after having served for nine years as the senior pastor at Ridge Point Community Church across state in Holland.

Jim's biography at the Prison Fellowship website says "under Jim's leadership, Ridge Point began a para-church organization that helps newly released prisoners deal with addiction recovery challenges, find employment, and transition back into the community.

In a blog posting last week, Jim wrote: "When we (Prison Fellowship) reach out to touch prisoners and their families, we become the hands and feet of Jesus to some of the most despised, vulnerable people in our culture.

"Prison Fellowship is passionate about equipping the local church to serve the 'least and lost...' We can help equip churches to lead life-changing Bible studies and seminars inside prisons. We can show churches how to embrace prisoners' children and families. We can train churches to safely and wisely welcome returning citizens into their fellowship."

While some would never forgive, nor forget, Colson for his work in the Nixon administration, few would argue to the effectiveness of the ministry he founded.

Noted Evangelist Billy Graham would write "I rejoice how God is greatly using Prison Fellowship" and Dr. James Dobson said this of the ministry and Colson: "I've known Chuck Colson and the ministry of Prison Fellowship for many years. They do marvelous work for the cause of Christ among prisoners around the world."

With Colson's death last weekend it now is up to Liske, as CEO, to continue moving forward the ministry's efforts.

From Watergate to Alpena to prison ministry, who knew what paths would cross where, why, and how. It's a small world after all.



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