Sisters and Brothers,
Words cannot express my gratitude for your outpouring of love for me and for my dear friend, Steve Henley. I have visited Steve for 10 years during his nearly 24 years on Tennessee’s death row. During those years, Steve became a part of this congregation. He organized the Christmas packages for death row inmates and saw to it that as many of the guys on the row as possible received something for Christmas. He was so grateful for your generosity through the years. He followed us through the fire and regularly prayed for the congregation during those hard days. His love for this congregation was immense.
I had the profound privilege of serving as Steve’s spiritual advisor during these years and particularly during his last hours on February 3. I must tell you that Steve ministered far more to me in those hours than I did to him. I have never seen him more at peace. He told me that he couldn’t explain why he wasn’t frightened except that he was experiencing the “peace of Christ which passes all understanding.” I was a witness to that peace and consider it not only a gift to Steve, but a gift to me and his family.
If anyone had reason to leave this world angry and bitter, it was Steve. He was convicted and sentenced to death based solely on the testimony of a codefendant who had implicated himself in the crime, made a deal, and served 5 years. Steve was a poor man in Jackson County with no prior record, with no resources, with a lawyer that was not qualified, and trusted that the system would deal with him fairly. He was wrong. And yet, he lay on that gurney, arms outstretched, with a smile on his face, encouraging those of us present not to worry about him. I have never been so proud of him.
The only two things Steve asked of me were to tell his story and to keep his family from bearing the burden of the cost of the funeral. I will honor both those promises. The funeral is costing $6,200, and I am attempting to raise that amount. If any of you would like to donate, please send a check made out to TCASK with “Steve Henley” in the memo line. If we raise extra money, the surplus will be used for further death row family support. Again, I cannot thank you all enough for your love and prayers.