Billy Neal Moore’s Reflection on Agape’s 40th Anniversary
Sent by Billy, and read by Bob Wegener at Agape’s 40th Anniversary Celebration
What is agape? It is the word for Love, in the Greek language; It is the beloved community of the Christian faith. That brings us to the community in Ware, Mass.
I was sitting on death watch on May 22nd, 1984, waiting to be executed for my crimes of murder and robbery, coming within 7 hours of execution before God caused the state to stop the execution, and I was returned to my regular cell on death row, where I was given a lot of letters from friends and people who wanted to wish me well and or was praying for me. One of the letters was from the Agape Community of who I knew none; However, Suzanne and Brayton, said that they were a community that was against the death penalty and was praying that I did not get executed.
Writing them back, I inquired if they had been to any death rows in the country, and who did they know personally? To my surprise there answer was none, however they were opposed to the death penalty, and was fighting to help repeal the laws in the country. So, after writing for months I asked them to come and visit me to get a better knowledge of what death row was about. How can you fight something and not know what is going on? To my surprise, I was told that they were a small group of folks who took a vow of poverty and just did not have money to make such a trip.
I told them, that if the people with whom you guys are in touch with and support you, they would support you in this effort, so just let them know what your desire is and that you need funds to make the trip. Sure enough, all their friends sent them money for the trip to visit me on death row. In the visit were Suzanne, Brayton, Bob and Teresa, my baby girl, who was Suzanne and Brayton’s daughter, seven months old.
This was the beginning of our relationship as a family. We wrote letters for the next six years, and, by the grace of God, my sentence of death was changed to life in prison with 25 years to serve. But God in His mercy allowed me to get out of prison in 13 months. After 17 ½ years I was out in the free world.
Suzanne and Brayton had asked me if I would be able to come and speak to some of the churches and school where they were teaching non-violence and the ways of peace. Little did I know that we would travel all over the state, and the area called New England. I don’t believe that there is a catholic college, school, church, or meeting place that we didn’t go to, and I clearly remember staying at the community when there was only one house. I was there for three weeks, and we would go out in the morning and then in the evening.
When Brayton and I would go out we would have a list of five or six places that we needed to go and the times to be there, and a lot of the time, we had no directions (before the GPS systems) except to the city or towns. Brayton would say: “ Once we get to the city or town, we could just ask somebody where this place is, or stop in a gas station and ask.” And it would work out all the time. We were never late. Jesus said take no thought or this or that, at that time God would give you what to say or where to go. Brayton and I went trusting in the Lord.
Suzanne and I would have about four places to go to that were on either end of the state. She needed directions for every turn, and land mark in the area, so that we could get there on time, and we did. Jesus said that a person needs consider if it is wise to go to battle with 1000 men against 10,000 men, Suzanne counts the cost of time, and we were always on time.
All three of us, we were a mess trying to figure out to get to the many places that they had not been, because things began to pick up and we were in and out of the state on a regular basis with our put-together system of finding where we were going; Brayton would always stop and ask someone about directions and Suzanne would be on the edge of her seat, looking at her notes and saying that we are not going to make it. As usual we found the place and God allowed us the time to talk to the students.
All the teachers would tell me, that the students would only be attentive for only 20 minutes tops, so I should make the story short. It is a Godly story, and the students would listen to the end and ask questions until the bell rang. We did some wonderful work, and I am so grateful for all the people we met and lives we changed.
I don’t know if the sidewalk in front of the first house is still there, but I would take the old station wagon the community had and ride into the woods and haul super large rocks to make the walkway, we would cut wood for the stove .
I am not sure if folks know it or not, but this place is full of miracles, and the biggest one is Teresa. When you see her, you see a person who the doctors told Suzanne and Brayton: “This child will not live to get six months old. Why did you adopt her? It’s a waste of your time and emotions. Then it was a year she was not supposed to live. Then two years old, then five years old. The system tried to kill her by trying to feed her the same diet of lies that she would not see pre-teen years and if by chance she did, she would not be able to do anything like having a normal life.
But God that she shall not die, but live and she is doing it. Oh no, she will not have children, and her heart would never be fixed; and she was always hearing the words of death. But I would tell her: “Look at me. The people in authority kept telling me that I was going to die, and be executed. I am still here. You will be here too.
Every time Suzanne would call me because she had been discouraged by the doctors’ report, I would ask her: “Who are you talking to? If God can do it for me, then it is already done for our girl. We cannot believe the reports of the doctors. Have they been right so far? To God be the glory.
What is Agape…it is Father Charlie McCarthy and his wisdom; Bob and the design of the houses; Linda and her legal assistance, the many others who have supported and helped year after year. It is Suzanne, Brayton, and Teresa, the countless names and faces of college students who agape the community and all that they do. It is a life of love: Agape.