Success Story: Cuba's Story
See how InsideOut Dad™ facilitator Jack Hardcastle is changing lives in Abilene, Texas, through the inspirational story of one inmate's journey:
Most people just called him “ Cuba” (named after his home country), as they couldn’t pronounce his real name; and he was equally hard to understand with his broken English. He left his home with only a few items: an inner tube, a flashlight, and a machete. As he and his brother paddled out late at night while being shot at, they had no idea what awaited them as they left a country of chaos and risked everything to find a life of hope.
After several days of being in the open waters, they had all but given up hope—the shark attacks were beginning to become more and more frequent. The brothers would work together with the machete to keep them at bay, and protected each other by allowing one to sleep while the other watched. Late one night, when they had all but given up from dehydration and exhaustion, Cuba shouted out to God for help as he saw his brother suffering from the effects of drinking sea water out of desperation.
He remembered something that was shared with him by someone who had attempted this sort of escape before: three long, then three short bursts of light. Suddenly, he saw a light in the distance: short and faint, but still a light. He reached as high as he could to wave, trying to keep his nearly unconscious brother’s head above water.
When the oil tanker’s captain had readied to retire for the night, he decided to take one last look around the main engine room, and just happened to glance out the window. In the distance, he saw a faint light, a very unusual thing this far out. He then realized that this light had a steady rhythm to it, and immediately called for the ship to change course. He remembered the old Morse code signal of SOS from way back, and continued to watch as the light grew closer and closer. To their disbelief, here were two men, barely alive, so far from home that they shouldn’t have survived. As they pulled them aboard, they asked if they would rather go to Italy or the US. Their thankful response was barely audible but recognizable: “we want to go to the United States!”
Even though the freedoms of America were great, a life of drugs and crime landed Cuba in jail, and eventually in Texas. At his facility, there was a strong chaplaincy unit, and specifically a program called InsideOut Dad™ that teaches positive fathering. As the facilitator, I was unsure when he came in if he would get much out of the class, as he had taught himself English.
The thing that struck me the most, though, was his heart; the hopes of changing his relationships in the areas of his life he had left behind—specifically, a wife and children in West Texas that he cared deeply about and wanted to reconnect with. His main problem, though, was the lack of a father in his life: most of the men had been abusive or absent, and he had no education in what a good father was or did. Through the InsideOut Dad™ program, he was not only able to learn what a true, nurturing father was, but was able to build a new relationship with his family.
As he graduated from the InsideOut Dad™ program, he wanted desperately to let his wife and children know of his love for them. He writes them every week, and lets them know as often as he can of his feelings and his plans for the future. One of those plans involves going back into the prison system after his release and ministering to inmates.
I will never forget Cuba, or Bolt, or Manny, or any of the dads that come through these groups. It renews my faith as a father and encourages me as I see the struggles many of these guys have gone through, and I realize that my struggles are very small compared to what has happened in their lives. With each new group, I learn new ways that my fatherhood has an impact in ways that I can’t imagine. I think of Pope John XXIII, who said: “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” Many of these men are now real fathers—and because of programs like this, their children will be blessed by it. Jack Hardcastle facilitates NFI’s InsideOut Dad™ program at Middleton Unit in Abilene, Texas.