The laughter is of a redeemed man, however. A member of Monadnock Covenant Church, he was sitting in jail leading Bible studies.
His ministry involvement continues to expand. This year, Babbitt and 15 volunteers from the congregation delivered 43 turkeys to families of inmates at the Cheshire County jail in Keene. He had served a year at the jail when it was located in a nearby community.
Babbitt is overseeing the dinner distribution and will do so again when the congregation delivers Christmas dinners. The ex-offender started the holiday ministry in 2005.
Babbitt was sentenced in 1990 to 15 to 18 years for stabbing a man to death during a fight in Massachusetts. He served his time in three Massachusetts correctional institutions.
“He recalls entering his new reality the first day. “When that door slams shut in D block, cell 121, when that door slams shut and they’ve taken away your clothes and given you a shirt . . . their shirt, their pants . . . and a number – W51071 – that’s all you are. You’re no longer a name, you are a number,” he tells the Keene Sentinal. “When those steel doors close you can’t say, ‘I want to go home.’ That’s it.
“And then I found a Gideon’s Bible in the drawer.”
That first night he prayed, “Oh Lord, I can’t screw up my life anymore than I have.”
Babbitt committed himself to helping others. He studied the Bible, involved himself in jailhouse ministries, and participated in multiple programs, including one modeled on a program called Scared Straight.
After being released, Babbitt spent several months living in a tent at a nearby park before he was able to find a permanent home. He walked into his church home just three days out of prison.
[pull]”I am a product of this church’s openness and love to accept who you are . . .”[/pull]
Babbitt visited Monadnock Covenant, which was holding its services at a local school. As he shared his story with three men from the church, he was surprised to find he was accepted.
He has since inspired church members to stretch themselves into new ministries. Church member Dawn Andonellis of Keene tells the Sentinel she comes from a “complete whitebread world” and never imagined herself working with inmates. But thanks to Babbitt, she now conducts creative writing workshops at the jail.
“He was my inspiration to do that – just to see how enthusiastic he is,” she says. “He’s just a very neat and humble guy.”
Babbitt says he still thinks about the man he killed every day and hopes that Jesus will forgive him.
Click here to read more of the Sentinel story.
Following is a letter addressed to then Pastor Garth McGrath and Associate Pastor Ron Ferguson that was published in the church newsletter earlier this year:
Hello, Garth and Ron,
This is an open letter to both of you to let you know it is an honor and a privilege to become a member of this church.
It was encouraging to hear you both speak in light of where I have been. You see, I am a product of this church’s openness and love to accept who you are and whatever level your walk with the Lord may be.
The reason I say that is on May 10, 2000, I walked out of jail after serving 11 years of a 15-18 year sentence for manslaughter. I was very rough in character and not in proper attire. Mind you, I was living in Wheelock Park in a tent. That was a Thursday.
That Sunday, I walked into Symonds School and was met and greeted by Bob DeJong, Doug Mealey, and Ron Rasza. That was a beginning of a walk with God that I have been blessed with by becoming a member of this church.
Pastor Ron’s speech (at the Annual Meeting) also sets in line with my life in regards to me taking the Alpha course and adapting what I learned to my life. So that I may now take my walk of faith to a new level by bringing the Alpha course up to the jail with nine men signed up for the course. May God bless you both for having God’s ideas and vision for this church.
(Editor’s note: Sentinel photo by Steve Hooper)