Wall of Fame

Darwin “Hutch” Hutchinson, Angola Malachi Dad

Darwin “Hutch” Hutchinson has been in Angola prison for 17 years, becoming incarcerated when his two daughters were 7 and 8 years old. He explains that he hit rock bottom, slipping into trends of selfishness. But it was the spirit of God and the word of God that worked together to break through his hard heart.

During his first Returning Hearts Celebration, his daughters were 14 and 15. It was this event, just one day of the year that encourages them to treasure their relationship as father and daughters. The relationship-building process was not always an easy one. Hutchinson was allowed to send cards to his daughters to maintain communication, but for every dozen cards he sent he would get maybe one response back. It was a bit discouraging, but he was determined to stay firm because he knew, as a Malachi Dad, how important it was to pursue the relationship.

Since Darwin’s daughters have aged out of the program, he is now able to spend time with his grandson.

When his youngest daughter turned 21 she was able to freely communicate with him over the phone instead of just through the cards and letters. Hutchinson had sent a birthday card to her for her 21st birthday. He called to ask if she received it and she told him yes, she had, but she was in a dilemma. She had no more room on her wall. Hutchinson didn’t understand. He was certain that only a few of his cards had actually gotten through to her. But not only had she received all his cards had been sending her throughout the years, she was putting them up on her wall and now had run out of room! She still had boxes of cards under her bed. Hutchinson’s face broke into a wide smile when he described the amazement he felt when he found out she had saved the cards.

“All along I was sending these cards, I was writing these letters, and I was doing so with the sole purpose of trying to build the bridge of communication when all along I was building a wall of cards,” Hutchinson says. Most people think of a wall as a barrier. This was more like a wall of fame.

The Returning Hearts Celebration facilitated that bonding time between him and his daughters. It gave them one-on-one special moments to bond and develop a relationship. Without those times, Hutchinson says, he would not be the person he is today. They have helped him learn to treasure his family and love them unconditionally. And saving those cards, he says, showed him how much she did care about his words and their relationship.

Over 300 dads spent the day with their children (545 of them!) at last year’s Returning Hearts Celebration, at Angola Prison near Baton Rouge, LA.

Hutchinson’s relationship with his children and grandchildren capture the essence of what Returning Hearts Celebration does for families. In his own words, it’s a “priceless” opportunity — one to be valued and pursued with the greatest efforts.

Saying goodbye at the end of the day is difficult.

By Tess Schoonhoven, California Baptist University and John Walton, Awana Lifeline.
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