Prayer Breakfast Spellbinder is prison inmate on furlough. Tautunu Tanuvasa tells his tale of findi
A-S A-S A-S tnday, Apni 11, labo me honoiuiu Advertiser Prayer breakfast spellbinder is prison inmate on furlough By Anne Harpham dvetlinrr Religion W riter The Governor'sMayors' Prayer Breakfast has tended to favor politicians for its keynote speakers, but the 1,000 people at yesterday's breakfast heard and gave a standing ovation to an Oahu Prison inmate on extended furlough. In fact, Tautunu Tanuvasa, who is serving four concurrent 20-year 20-year 20-year terms for armed robbery, robbery, replaced Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy of Washington. Washington. D.C.. the scheduled speaker who had to cancel at the last minute. Tanuvasa told the receptive audience his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ made the difference difference in his life in prison. Tanuvasa said he had a troubled troubled youth in American Samoa, arrived in Hawaii in 1968 and was sentenced to prison in 1978. He has been on an extended extended furlough in which he is allowed to live with his family family for a little more than a year. Tanuvasa said he had "no fancy story to tell," but nevertheless nevertheless held his audience spellbound. spellbound. He recounted his trouble trouble with alcohol, his life of stealing, his move to Hawaii, his troubles here with alcohol and drugs and then his convic- convic- r.u.,u., ...., ,., ..,,.- ..,,.- : 'if k - --- --- --- mi j, Tautunu Tanuvasa Found religion tions for armed robbery. Before he found faith, Tanuvasa said, his life "was full of bitterness, hatred there was no rest or peace in my life." He said he tried to commit commit suicide many times when he was in American Samoa. Tanuvasa was described in his introduction as a prison bully. He said he was locked up in a segregation unit for eight months. While separated from the main population of the prison, Tanuvasa said, "the more I thought about my life I felt depressed." One day, when the mail was distributed, a package arrived for Tanuvasa. It was a Bible with his name engraved on it. sent to him by a woman who read of his sentencing. "I tried to reject it," he said. "Having a Bible was a sign of weakness." But. he said, he didn't didn't have anything else to do and had questions and doubts about salvation and Jesus Christ. He tried to read the Old Testament but found it difficult. "So I flipped through the New Testament. I read of Jesus Christ and the life of Paul. As I was reading the Bible the spirit of the Lord opened up my eyes and my ears." Tanuvasa began working as a chaplain's assistant and a few months later was given a chance for extended furlough. He faces the parole board in July. "They say a lot of men in prison use Christianity to cop out," Tanuvasa said. "I don't worry because God keeps a record." Tanuvasa said the Christians in prison have used their influence influence "to mellow a lot of situations. situations. A handful of us went against those who started a hunger strike and it folded."