The Gang at Kosmophilos State Prison

The gang at Kosmophilos State Prison is a strange group of people. Their very presence in the place is the ultimate proof of that there's not a single one there that couldn't have gone free at one time, and yet, there they all sit, still doin' their time!

As things stood, the Kosmophilos State Prison was the ultimate 'dead-end street'; a hopeless place with no way out. Which was as it should be, I suppose. After all, the crimes of its inmates were such that no pardon was possible, not if justice meant anything at all. 

Still, the place was not without its pleasant aspects. Like most prisons, there were the usual things to do: exercises in the yard, card-games in the cafeteria, basketball in the gym, movie nights from time to time, and a lively underground cigarette business, for those who were lucky enough to score a few cartons 'from the outside' once in a while. 

The men kept busy, and life—if you could call it that—went on at a tolerable pace. 

Then one day something happened. The warden walked in with a stranger at his side. Standing at the very center of the cell-block, he shouted out, for all the men to 'listen up', he had something to say. Then, introducing the stranger, he said: 

"Gentlemen, this man is taking your place. He has pled guilty to every single one of the crimes you've committed ... all of you! He will be executed at 6:00 this evening. After that, you will all be free to go.

The initial response throughout the prison, of course, was an ear-splitting roar of laughter!    What an absolutely ridiculous joke this was! The taunting and the joking began to echo through the halls, rising to a great deafening crescendo. 

Amidst all the uproar, and without further ado, the stranger was escorted to an empty cell and the warden took his leave. 

Of course, they thought he was some kind of lunatic. They'd seen this type before: 'delusions of grandeur', 'martyr-complex', 'savior-syndrome' and all that stuff. They taunted and teased him all through the day:

"Just who do you think you are, boy? " 

"What right have you got to go spoutin' off about settin' men free? " 

"Yeah, and what makes you think you can go payin' off another man's crime? Whatchya think? You got some 'in' with a Supreme Court Judge or somethin'?"

And he answered them not.

Later that afternoon, a little toward sunset, two guards entered the block, came to the stranger's cell and, without a word, led him away to the cheers and the jeers of every inmate in the place! 

Thirty minutes later, the lights flickered off and then back on; a great electrical 'crackling' sound reverberated through the halls, and the laughter died down. Everyone grew silent; not a sound could be heard; that is until the cell-block door opened once more. It was the warden again; this time alone. 

And much to the astonishment of every man there, he pulled out his keys and unlocked every cell, flinging open the bars as he walked by. Then, without a word, he took his leave.

Their initial response, of course, was one of disbelief; followed by suspicion; then caution; then just plain pride. 

There they all sat, still in their cells, trying to sort it all out; trying to process the significance of what had just happened. Incredibly enough, the incident stirred up no small amount of debate among them all. Some of the inmates vehemently insisted that it was all an elaborate hoax; it was a fake, a fraud! A few were suspicious of an elaborate scheme to humiliate them all. 

Still, others had bristled at the offer, insisting, as ever, upon their own innocence. "No, sir! Why would I want someone payin' my way when I ain't done nothin' wrong?" 

But the saddest of them all was the little group that just couldn't leave because they'd grown accustomed to the place. "There's a good movie in the rec room next Friday night."  Those great daily poker games were nothing to walk away from! And "how about that cigarette business? Hasn't that been booming lately? No siree! I wouldn't want to leave that quite yet. Besides, we can always leave later, right?"

Interestingly enough, there was never a good, solid answer to that question.

And, then there were the few...the precious few: the ones who didn't hesitate. Without looking back, they just stood right up and walked through the cell door! Down the hall toward the prison exit, never to return! 

Well, a few, in fact, did return, from time to time, just to bring the good news: "It's all true! It's real, I'm telling you. He really did set us free!"  But most of the time, for one reason or another, the message just fell on deaf ears. Like I said: the folks at Kosmophilos are a pretty strange breed.

Whenever the tale of Kosmophilos is told, people respond with sheer disbelief: "What an absolutely ridiculous story, " they say. "It doesn't make sense!" 

No, it doesn't, does it?

"'s fiction, right? You just made it all up!"

  Well...not exactly. I don't suppose I would call it 'fiction'. 

See you Sunday.                            RAS

Himalayan Center For Missions