East Sussex, United Kingdom
I was, for many years, a hardened militant agnostic. I used to read Christian material but could not accept its truth.
In February 1987, I began to feel that I could not breathe. But the doctor found nothing wrong. On the last Friday evening of April of that year, I met with three Christian friends to pray (speak to God). The young woman in the group said things about which only I knew. I concluded that there is a God and He knows absolutely everything about each of us.
Then it happened! There was a violent rushing wind from above. It occupied the entire room. It penetrated my ears and filled my whole body. I could breathe properly again. There was no wind outside. The doors and windows were closed. It was like a scene out of Pentecost! “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2 NIV).
Pentecost only happened because Jesus lived, died and rose again from the dead. “...Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 KJV). This “repeat” convinced me that everything Jesus said and did was true. I committed my life to Him and Him alone shortly afterwards.
Even if you do not believe me, ask God to reveal Himself and His truth to you.
Rey David Vargas
Georgia State Penitentiary, Reidsville, GA
I started using and selling drugs when I was 13 years old, and when necessary I was also carrying a gun. I grew up in a tough environment. If you weren’t into crime in my neighborhood, you weren’t ”in.” I offer no excuses however, I made all the choices. I was a hope-to-die drug addict, drug dealer, liar and gang member. I was in a gang that was considered to be one of the most notorious in the history of the state of California. I could care less if tomorrow never arrived as I was growing up on drugs. I did not care. This went on for years as I was selling heroin. I would tell the junkies to rob, or steal and bring me the money. They would! I have seen a few overdoses and die from what are called “hot shots,” because they were late on their payments or “burned” someone. I saw the narcotic business over the years turn into all out war.
During my years in the gang I saw the illegal drug business change also! At first we were just a gang... until a constitution was drafted, that’s when things began to change. Under the constitution members all over were ordered to place all personal feelings and obligations aside until the purpose and goals of the gang were accomplished. Members were not to spill the blood of a fellow gang member. We were to carry out all orders of the appointed leaders on the power ladder of the gang as mandated by the constitution. Members were to do battle for the gang without question. Many gang members were highly respected and were given positions of power for gang “hits” they had made.
One of the things I remember most among the many years of gang activity is that it was a life where you constantly lived in doubt. I was in charge of a regiment and during times of full alert, armed body guards were assigned to me. I was a high-ranking member and a gang enforcer. Once, I recall a high-ranking member announced he had turned his life over to Christ. He was expelled from the gang and a few weeks later he was shot to death!
I have seen many of my friends die from overdoses of heroin because the dope was too raw. Gang members were not allowed to use any drugs, it was an automatic death sentence. I was stunned when I learned of a situation. During an internal power struggle, a “Captain” I was close to was lured into a room by another gang member for a hit. Two gang members were waiting for him, one grabbed him with an extension cord around his neck and another stabbed him 37 times and then cut his throat! Why? They learned he had been “chipping” heroin. I don’t mean to disrespect any gang or any gang member but I, myself, would never want to lead another dangerous life of gang activity. I simply offer my testimony to warn anyone to think twice before joining a gang. And, I say there is a better way through Christ Jesus. I have seen so many lives torn apart by gangs.
I went into the church and turned into a “suitcase.” Church members put their arms around me and started to pray. Some of them wept as we prayed the sinners prayer. I was just so sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was to the point that I was abusing narcotics and I thought if I was going to get out of it I was going to go all the way! It seemed that up to that point all my life revolved around drugs and doing whatever it took to get them and sell them. I had come from a familia of heroin dealers, so I knew the game. When I left that service I was sober and alive. During the time of my conversion to Christ I was awaiting trial on my criminal case. I could have easily fled the country, but it was members of this church, who really didn’t even know me, that posted a $75,000 dollar property bond for my release. They told me if I was innocent to go to court and face my trial. I told them I would go to trial and no matter what happened I would take Christ with me... even to prison! Amen. Since then and my coming to prison I have done much study about this Jesus. I find life is a lot deeper than most of us wish to accept. One thing is for sure: There is a God above in a place called Heaven. I won’t say I understand it all, but if God created the world and everything that lives then what problem would this same God have in raising the dead? Seems clear to me.
I just give thanks and praise to the True and Living Lord Jesus that has spared me from death, hell and the grave. God has been so good to me allowing me to live this long. I was a violent person years ago. When I accepted Christ it was as if I had a new nature. Drugs change a person’s nature, I witnessed junkies and prostitutes getting gunned down in the streets for not paying their drug bills to the “pusher.” I had no pity for anyone, yet the Lord Jesus has shown me so much pity, I have learned it is God’s agape love, real love. He has plans for all who heed His calling. I now have life eternal.
Why I loved drugs so much is beyond me. Drugs are a tool of the devil, drugs change and destroy our human nature. I became violent. I was insane on drugs. I can say without hesitation that coming to Christ will change anyone’s life. It reduces crime and changes the moral attitudes of mankind. Christ provides moral direction for people encouraging them to avoid criminal behavior. That’s the bottom line for me!
To those of you who are suffering, you can pray this prayer: “Father God, I have acknowledged Your Son, Jesus Christ as my Lord and Redeemer. I am a sinner and I am ready to receive the Light of Your revelation that comes from Him. Let that Light find out every part of me and remove the darkness. Let it make me pure and alive for Christ and let it shine through me to others in Jesus Name. Amen.”
Jerome and Maureen Callanan
Nassau County, NY
The following is as Maureen wrote it in her own words: “Approximately 12 years ago I met a young man of 19 who had just been released from a New York State Correctional Institution. At the time, I was a criminal justice student. Therefore, I had become very interested in this person. As time went on we fell in love. I knew we were destined for each other and I was going to save this soul.
At a very tender age, I was not only experiencing my own identity crises but feelings of rejection from family, friends, and the person whom I love so dearly loved crime, drugs, and guns more than me. Yet I was determined not to give up. As I continued my studies, we married, had 3 beautiful children, and my husband was constantly in and out of institutions. I shall not go into detail of the feelings of that phone call “Maureen, I’ve been busted again;” or a husband being gone from home for days and imagining the worst; or bringing a newborn home by yourself in a cab; and endless experiences being married to the devil. Yet I never gave up. I knew of a decent, loving, sincere, gentle man that lived beneath this hard, hatred and inconsiderate being. For years I tried everything I could and knew to bring this person out in him. It seemed that each time I would reach a certain point but he would fall back into the devil’s hands again.
About two years ago I thought I had reached my goal, but one day when our lives were beautiful, or at least I believed so, the devil walked into my house. While I was at work he left once again for the “better life” and a week later I received that phone call again from Erie, Pennsylvania, charged with armed robbery. I couldn’t believe it, maybe years ago yes, but not now after he changed so. Again, I bailed my husband out and while he was on the streets, he began attending charismatic meetings and reading the Bible.
On the day of our sixth wedding anniversary my husband was sentenced to 6-l/2 - 15 years imprisonment. I was full of hate, anger, loneliness, and left with more responsibilities than one deserves. This happened 9 months ago, and while he continued reading the Bible in prison, he received the Holy Spirit and speaks in tongues. I thought for sure he had become a “Jesus freak” or “Holy Roller.” Ironically, 3 months after Jerome was sentenced, I was appointed a Correction Officer in New York State.
One night, as I was working, I picked up one of Chaplain Ray’s books “Where Flies Don’t Land” and, at home, began reading it. I couldn’t put it down. I finally understood what my husband was trying to explain to me. During this time, I was in a state of confusion and was debating on a divorce. After reading this book, I contacted some Christian friends and, shortly after, went to visit my husband with the children after not seeing him for nine months. I had seen how he changed, and that being that I knew existed in him was finally brought out, and I realized only Jesus was able to do it, not me, nor therapists or counselors.
I had finally reached my goal through Jesus. After this experience I find myself renewing my Christian belief and trust in God and I thank God for sending my husband to prison again. I find myself more contented and at peace yet I know I have not yet received the Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus will reunite us again soon to share this experience and live in a good Christian family life. I believe that because of all of this, and our new predicament with Jerome finding Jesus and myself being a Correction Officer, that He had, and still has, a plan for us in our new lives. I do not know what it may be, yet I won’t give up on my new goal.”
In December of 1986, Jerome finally got out of prison and was reunited with Maureen and his kids. A few days later, Maureen died in a traffic accident on December 12, while she was helping to transport prison inmates to a new facility. After that occurred, Jerome lost custody of his children. He had made a commitment to live for Christ no matter what came his way, but he had no idea how soon his faith would be tested! As the Lord often does when He wants to use someone, Jesus took away everything that had been important to Jerome, his home, family, and children. Moreover, the Lord insisted that Jerome learn humility before He would use him (see John 13:2-17 and Luke 14:8-11). Jobs were so hard to get, especially for an ex-convict, that Jerome took a job cleaning up after the handicapped, wiping up vomit and cleaning latrines (1 Peter 2:21-23, 5:10, and 1 Timothy 2:3). Then, in 1993, when we first moved into our office building, I got back to the office one day after an appointment. When I walked in I saw a tall stranger in a jogging suit standing in our hallway, talking to Eric and a staff member. It was Jerome. He had heard about our ministry and felt led to visit us. He didn’t know where we were located, but started heading in the general direction someone had pointed him in and we were the first building he stopped at! Later that year, we hired him to work as our shipping clerk. (This follow-up was written by Anne Kaestner.)
Walter Paul Oswald, Jr.
Joliet Correctional Center, Joliet, IL
My name is Walter Paul Oswald Jr., I am a man of God bought by the blood of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of mankind. I am a forgiven man because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for me. I am currently in prison reaping what was sown in the flesh by the child that I used to be.
In our society man is the center of the world and not God Almighty. And that thought-pattern infiltrated me when I was young. I grew up in a Christian home and loved the Lord, but I gave in to the temptations of the world. It started out with pornography (magazines and television), I was in the third grade when this entered my life and has been the hardest of all sinful temptations to break away from (but God is faithful to deliver us from all the devices of the enemy). Later on as I was getting ready to go into High School I got involved in drugs and alcohol and the rebellion just got steadily worse. At this point in my life, church, the Bible, and God seemed not hip or cool (boring). I got in a lot of trouble because of my involvement with drugs and alcohol - with the police, school, my parents, and God. I hurt my parents tremendously.
Imagine what a parent goes through when their child turns from all that they were taught (God and right from wrong), and turns instead to a life-style of chains that bind and cause nothing but heartache and pain. It is amazing when we are able to see how tolerant and patient God, our Father, is with us when we’ve done all the foolish things that we’ve done.
Towards the end of High School I got very interested in the occult and Satanism. Of course listening to Heavy Metal helped to cultivate an interest in occult ideals and demonic attitudes and desires. A lot of the Heavy Metal music is based on lyrics that are totally evil and dangerous to the mind. I started reading books on the subject and pretty soon I was a practicing Satanist. I had given myself over to the enemy without a fight. I was consumed by the darkness and had no control of what was to take place in my life. It was inevitable that my life was going to get worse. Eventually I came to the point of taking a persons life, Kevin Merfeld. I betrayed a friend and his family’s trust. I got so depressed about my life and the inability to make something positive come of my life that I had planned on taking my own life. I wasn’t thinking very rationally at all and I knew that my Dad would have a hard time dealing with me killing myself, so I ended up taking his life too. I loved him very much and wish that I could have done better in my choices in the past, but we have to live with the choices that we make, no matter how foolish. These were not rational thoughts, it was idiotic and this is what happens when God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, are not the total motivation of our lives. I failed in my attempts to take my own life and prison was to be in my future.
After coming to prison I continued on my path of ignorance of God by choosing my own path of unrighteousness and evil. About four years after coming to prison I started to realize the mistakes that I have made in rebelling against God, His Son Jesus Christ and His creation. I knew that if I continued on my own path, that Hell was my destiny. And when in the past I thought that I wanted to go to Hell, I realized how real Hell is and that it is a place of torment and not pleasure. I was awakened to the reality of my sinfulness and the need to give my life to God and accept His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. I didn’t have control over my life and knew that in order to do what is right in life God had to be in control of my life, not me.
After recommitting my life to God I thought that the biggest struggles of life were over - so I thought. For the first few years I struggled terribly and even gave up (but I still knew that Jesus was the only way). I had so ingrained ungodliness and sinful practices into my life that God had to use trials to break the hardness off of my heart in order to be able to use me. When God calls us it’s either His way or no way.
These things that I’ve written about I am forgiven by the grace of God Almighty and only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We must have faith in Christ and His atoning death, burial and resurrection. The things that I’ve done and gone through are no joke. If we give in to the ways of an ungodly world (of which Satan is using to destroy billions of souls) then we are allowing Satan access to creating even a greater mess of our lives and God only knows how many others we influence in our day to day activities. God is calling everyone to His Son Jesus, to accept by faith Jesus’ Death-Burial-Resurrection, to repent from our own sinful ways and to turn to God with our whole hearts. God wants all of us, not just a part of us, while we hold on to some secret sin. God knows you can’t fool God. Be sure, your sins will find you out, what we sow that shall we also reap, God is not mocked.
Don’t get involved in the New Age of astrology and spirit guides, secular music and movies. If you let these things into your life, then you are sure to have more trouble than you can imagine. There are Christian alternatives to the world and its ways. Life is the beautiful gift of God through His Son, Jesus Christ, and we should not take for granted what God has done for us. The Bible is the [written] Word of God and sheds Light to guide us and teach us. We should take heed of God’s Word before we listen to anyone. ...God is unchangeable and won’t lie. God’s Word is sure and we should eat of God’s Words and continue in it, not being swayed by what the world is saying. We had better listen to God rather than man. We are close to the “Day of the Lord” and we all need to repent and turn to God with a pure heart. If we are not rooted and grounded in God’s Word then when the storms of life come we will fall and be destroyed. Let the love of God rule and reign in your hearts.
There is another thing which I would like to share. I have a Christian brother here in prison with me who is from Yugoslavia and lived most of his life there. He is one of the most sincere and dedicated Christians that I have met and God has put it on my heart as to why we in America are so lukewarm in our Christianity. We have become undisciplined in living as Christians at all times (we’ve allowed sinfulness to be accepted into the church without a fight). We aren’t committed to our commitment to God. We have taken for granted the Bible, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, and all the rights that our Constitution was meant to stand for. Now that we are losing our freedoms we see the possibility (reality) of losing our Christian freedom. A time is coming when martyrdom will again be a common word among true Christians. I’ve seen in my Yugoslavian brother a commitment to God and a disciplined attitude to live a holy life for God that we as Americans should have. We should be setting an example to a dying world of Christ Jesus living in us and through us. If we truly believe that Jesus Christ is coming soon - we should be doing everything possible for God. Let that Light shine!
Julie Elizabeth Parsons
Broward Corr. Institution, Pembroke Pines, FL
I was raised in a lower class environment as a child and given the standard education in Christianity. Even though I understood on an intellectual level, I never truly understood or felt in my heart a true relationship with God. At a very early age I was introduced to the gangster mentality, and so began my personal little crime spree. It lasted almost 20 years. During those years I was involved with everything from prostitution to extortion, from armed bank robbery to international smuggling. It was all quite grand and glamorous, the Devil’s work always is in the beginning. It never can last because Satan is ugly as is all he puts his hand to, and I had become a part of that ugliness. The last two years of my spree were spent on street corners trying to sell the only thing I had left. But most times using a gun because what I had left wasn’t worth paying for. I suffered from severe drug addiction, “gangsteritis,” but most of all complete spiritual and moral bankruptcy. I had hit bottom. I really don’t want to get into the things I saw or did or what was going on out there. Trust me when I tell you it was beyond the most horrid of nightmares. What I do want to tell you about is the night God touched me and I awoke from the horror of what was my life.
I had gone to the dope house to collect money and drugs. When I walked into the back room, I saw a very young girl being used by three men. In payment they were throwing little pieces of crack cocaine onto the floor. I stood watching as she crawled around naked on the floor, shaking and crying, searching for the drugs. I was sickened, disgusted, and seething with internal rage. I felt the gun in my hand without even realizing I had taken it from my pants. To this day I believe the only thing that saved me from committing murder that night was God, and that I couldn’t decide who should die, her, them or me. I began to walk. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t care. I was lost. I remember sitting down on the curb and thinking, “Some work of art you are, a gun in your jeans, a pocket full of dope, cash in your sock, and so sick and miserable death would be a blessing. Maybe it was me who should die.” It was at that moment I surrendered and my darkness became light, so bright, so complete. The light of God filled me with warmth, love and peace, and I heard a voice that has no words but speaks directly to your heart. It called to me over and over again, “Have you had enough? Are your ready?”
I sat for a long time, though it seemed only a moment. I’ve come to realize God is timeless and when you’re in His company He eases the burden of time, a definite bonus in prison. So finally I picked myself up from the curb, totally confused because I knew beyond a doubt what kind of person I was and God doesn’t visit “BAD” people, does He? About this time a friend pulled his car up next to me and called my name. I got in the car and he asked did I want to go home. I told him where I lived was never a home. He took me to his house. No sooner was I through the door before I was smoking dope. But the funny thing is I couldn’t get high; no escape! I really didn’t understand until my friend walked into the room. He looked at me, shook his head and said, “Oh Julie haven’t you had enough? Aren’t you ready? God’s waiting you know, and there’s no moment so dark that he can’t make light.” At first I thought, “This guy must have seen what happened on that curb.” But he hadn’t. In that moment I knew with all clarity that this friend, who I had never known was a Christian, did not happen along by accident and that what he said was the repeating of a divine message sent just for me alone. I knew no matter who or what I was, God loves me. I knew He was reaching for me because my pain and shame were so great I couldn’t reach for Him.
I took hold of the Lord’s hand and now where He heads I follow. In the beginning it was a very hard path. I had over a dozen felony warrants for my arrest, but in His love I need have no fear. Our first walk was to BCI, Florida State’s Max. Security Prison. Often I’ve cried, but as time goes by, the way gets easier and the scenery more and more beautiful as I learn to see the world thru the eyes of Jesus. I still reside in BCI and I’m all right with that because I’m never alone and I’m still walking with the Lord.
David Wayne Schuler
United States Coast Guard
I grew up in a non-Christian home. I was a teenager lost searching for the meaning of life. I tried alcohol and it did not satisfy. Then I tried marijuana and it did not satisfy. “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25 KJV). I was 15 years old, searching for the eternal peace back in 1974. I was not big in the alcohol and drugs, but my taste for the world was growing deeper and deeper. God reached down in the nick of time. “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” (Psalms 40:2 KJV). A lost teenager, I did not want anything to do with Christianity. I lived 4 blocks from a large church down the road from the South Dade Baptist Church. Every month I had people knocking at my door, friends at school, or customers on my paper route, all tried to get me to go to church and witness to me. I flat out refused to go to church.
During the month of September, one month before my 16th birthday, I was looking for a job in the help wanted column of the local newspapers. There was a phone number for part time ground maintenance and janitorial work which I was looking for. I called the number and it was the church down the road. My first question was, do I have to attend the church? The answer was no. Ok, I will be interested in working there. I worked there 3 weeks and another employee asked me a question that I could not answer. “If I was to die today, would I know that I would go to heaven?” I had to think about this for awhile. Yes, I starting listing all my good works. To his surprise, he thought I was kidding him. He continued to question me and realized that I was serious. I did fear God and the Bible and he asked me if he could show me in the Bible how I can know. Well within 10 minutes the great thing happened to me. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8 KJV). Yes, something happen to me and I cannot explain. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). Church worship took on a new meaning. The preaching, hymns, and reading the Bible, all brought joy and peace into my life. Twenty-six years later, I am still going strong for the Lord without a day of regret.
In the fall of 1976, I attended the Baptist Bible College for four years and received my BA in Theology. 1980-1982, I worked in a Christian School teaching 5th grade. In 1983, I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. On June 1, 2000, I was commission a Chief Warrant Officer. Still a lighthouse for the Lord Jesus Christ pointing men and women to Jesus Christ. This world is not my home I am just a passing through. Will be retiring in two years seeking to work full time in the ministry.
Thomas L. Savells
California State Prison at Corcoran, Corcoran, CA
For almost twenty years, I was a helpless victim of a tremendous addiction to drugs, and had ultimately served the devil and an inanimate master. Being on the inside of an obsession of my magnitude did not afford me the privilege of an objective outlook and because of the progressive nature of my disease, I couldn’t really see myself going down the toilet. I could feel my life deteriorating before my very eyes and was hard-pressed to effect any permanent, major change. In MY feeble attempt to salvage what was left of my family and life, I tried every possible avenue of rehabilitation. In spite of personal criticism by my friends and neighbors, my wife and family were also powerless to invoke a positive response in me. I subsequently promised to cut down and when that had no lasting effect, I swore to quit altogether. A vow, which I might add, was impossible for me to keep.
I kept doing this and that and the key word here is “I” because the BEST I had to offer, got me in that situation in the first place. So anyway, I successfully managed to go through a couple of Mental Health Workers, a Social Worker, a City/County Health Dept. Worker, several personal relationships, five separate employers, two wives, and relating children, one set of parents, a couple of concerned neighbors, a family counselor, my ex-in-laws, the state department of rehabilitation, two separate chemical dependency aversion therapy programs, four R-4 drug and alcohol recovery homes and sustained sobriety residences; and even went so far as to solicit the assistance of a private psychologist and hypnotherapist. Nothing seemed to work for me. I had long since reached the end of my rope and was truly at the bottom of the barrel. I came to prison and sincerely wanted to effect some major changes in my life and leave that drug insanity behind me, but it’s not that easy.
When I arrived here at this prison, I was shocked to find that long-term rehabilitation was virtually nonexistent in here, so quite frankly, I was convinced that my stay in prison would only be a period of time between the last time I got high and the next time I would get high. Discouraged would put it mildly to say the least. And apparently my desperate mood emanated from my being, and a couple of Christian Brothers who were walking in the yard, saw me in my dejected state and asked what the problem was. I explained my dilemma and the misgivings I was having.
They subsequently asked me to sit down with them and explain my anxiety. And after I had spilled my guts to them, they calmly said, “it doesn’t have to be that way, anymore!” I said, “SHOW ME HOW!” They simply said I had tried all the normally effective methods of cure, but that I hadn’t really given the supernatural one the benefit of the doubt. They said they had a fail-safe plan of breaking annoying and destructive habits. All I had to do was to give my life to God and accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. That sounded easy enough and believe me, by this time I was willing to try anything.
Once it was done, I was amazed at just how easy it really was and now, thanks to the grace of God, I have something I didn’t have before - A CHOICE! GOD HAS GIVEN ME THE STRENGTH to make up my own mind and serve Him rather than the devil. At the height of my reign of terror, all I wanted to do was just die and leave all that insanity behind me. Now, all I want to do is praise God and discover what it is in this life that He wants me to do for Him. I don’t think for a minute that God caused me to get caught, but I do believe that He allowed it to happen. If the embarrassment and degradation of prison, in conjunction with the amount of time I must remain a guest of the state, are the prices I must pay to leave a life of addiction behind me, then truly, it’s a very small price to pay! Once again, let me reiterate that I owe all this euphoria to God and God alone. What I like, particularly, about this new ambiance that God has given me, is it’s free and it’s legal.
Somehow, during the course of my addictive past, I managed to secure five separate major college degrees, one of which was a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and with that wealth of knowledge crammed into my brain, I couldn’t help myself without Divine intervention. I’ve come to the conclusion that knowledge without wisdom is a very dangerous tool. In conclusion, thank you for letting me share some of my experiences and hopes, as well as the answers to everything.
There’s no hope with dope and only God has the real answer. I now owe everything that I will be and am, to the Power of God. But regardless of the total metamorphosis I’ve undergone, I always seem to come up short of God’s glory. I’ll continue to try to do what God wants me to do. Please don’t stop your ministry because it reached me in a very special way. I shall remain your humble advocate and forever Christian Brother.
Nova Scotia, Canada
“You just need a little help,” the doctor looked at Phyllis with a smile as he tore the prescription off the pad, “follow the directions and you’ll feel better in no time.”
And just as the doctor had indicated, Phyllis began to feel better almost immediately. Gone were the memories of a birth mother who gave her up for adoption at the age of two, gone was the feelings of being bought by her adoptive parents who paid for anything she wanted but never showed the love she desperately needed.
For the first time in her teenage life Phyllis felt good, and whenever she needed a little “help” she went back to the doctor who gave her something else. However, Phyllis found that she had to take the pills more often to keep those good feelings. In fact if she missed taking the pills she would get cramps, she felt nauseated and very spaced out and, frankly, that didn’t feel very good.
Valium and barbiturates had been given to Phyllis to help, but when it became apparent that she simply traded in old baggage for new, she was sent to the Walter Hoving Home in Garrison, New York (part of Teen Challenge ministry). She left the facility during two separate attempts to get clean. She didn’t want the discipline required. She wanted someone to help her as long as they didn’t take away her drugs. While she didn’t let go of the drugs, good seed was planted during her stay that would later bear fruit.
The consistent drug use only served to bandage gaping emotional wounds. Phyllis had suffered sexual and physical abuse and the more she was hurt, the more she sought comfort in her pills. She wanted to be relieved of the pain and wrongly assumed that the drugs would calm the sadness. It only relieved it for a time, while Jesus Christ, the ultimate Healer of wounds waited with nail scarred hands spread wide to gather Phyllis in an embrace she refused to accept.
During a stay at a local jail, a pastor visited her. He may have had some good intentions, but the words he said to her had a very negative effect, “I don’t think even God can help you.” Her outer shell remained hard, but inside she crumbled, for if God could not help her, what hope did she have? Since she felt that all hope was gone, Phyllis pursued her rebellion at an accelerated pace.
Nearly 3 decades would pass as Phyllis continued a lifestyle filled with drugs. She would marry & have children, but the drug use didn’t stop until a night in 1979 when Phyllis went on a crime spree after taking too many narcotics. 9 criminal charges were levied against her. Although 5 charges were dropped, she would spend time in prison for the other 4 charges including armed robbery.
It was in the humility of a prison cell that Phyllis saw first hand the pain that her behavior had caused her family. When her family came to visit, her youngest son expressed great fear for his mother’s safety. She would watch as her family left while she was forced to stay. She had reached bottom and didn’t like the view.
While in prison, a different pastor involved in prison ministry dropped by and told her about the love of Jesus and the hope only He could provide. Her heart wanted to believe it while her head had trouble dismissing the idea that “even God can not help me.”
However, over several weeks of counseling and Bible study, Phyllis did invite Jesus into her heart in the confines of her prison cell. Tears streamed down her cheeks, as she became totally overwhelmed by what Jesus had done for her. Finally those inner wounds were placed under the care of the Great Physician who would deal tenderly with this broken woman.
In time, Phyllis was released from prison. However, being on the inside gave Phyllis a heart that burned to help those who, like her, found themselves in conflict with the law and in need of a Savior.
Following a year of counseling, she discovered that God wanted her back on the inside to counsel inmates and their families. This was possible only after receiving a pardon from the Canadian government.
Phyllis attended Bible College where she completed studies in biblical counseling. These days she is involved in a full-time, gospel-based, Internet ministry. This followed a career as a parole supervisor, which she retired from in 1989, following a car accident.
She has had many opportunities to reach out not only to those who have been charged with crimes, but judges, lawyers, and police as well. In a twist of irony, Phyllis was even able to share what God had done for her with a prosecuting attorney. This was the same attorney that successfully tried her case, sending her to prison.
The life she has led may not have been what she wanted, but in the end God did indeed work all things together for good and the story concludes much better than it began. Phyllis would be the first to tell you, “God will give you the same hope that He gave to me. He will give you something worth living for.” After all, He is the author of Good News.
Roy Lee Jenkins
Eastern N. Y. Correctional Facility, Napanoch, NY
My name is Roy Lee Thomas Jenkins and I want to share with you how I came to find the Lord Jesus Christ behind Prison Walls.
I was Born October 2, 1951 in New Castle, Indiana, to Joh and Vivian Jenkins. Why we ever moved to New York is beyond my comprehension but, I had no choice in the matter. Times were rough and I knew what it meant to be without all my life. Early one morning I woke to my mother’s screaming and the fear I felt at that time I cannot describe. When I entered the kitchen at four years old, I witnessed my father throwing my mother down the stairs and from that day forward I was abused mentally and physically. I was searching for a meaning to life at a very young age and I knew I had a burning desire to find out about this man they called Jesus.
Easter Day of my thirteenth year I got myself as clean as possible and put on my new Easter outfit so I could go to church and hear about Jesus. I was so happy to hear about Him and I also knew my days of searching for the meaning of life were over. I knew then I wanted to live for Jesus but, I did not know about the pain and hurt I was to face when I got to my house. I arrived home about twelve noon and my father was waiting there with anger on his face. When I walked in he immediately began to beat me so bad that when he finished I had blood coming from my mouth, nose, and my eyes were swollen shut. I ran around the corner, to some people I knew would give me the protection I needed, and they laced into my father for what he did.
I cursed Jesus and told Him I wanted nothing to do with Him or church ever again. This is the time when I rebelled against my father and all authority. The next twenty four years I was total terror to anyone who crossed my path and I did not care about any life, whether human or animal. I started setting fires, killing animals, stealing, and whatever else I could do to rebel. In 1967 I was arrested for inciting to riot, harassment, and mischievous conduct, but I got away scott free, so I continued my rampage.
I joined gangs such as the “Demons,” “Savage Nomads,” “Savage Skulls,” and I had become an alcoholic by fourteen years old. In 1969 I was arrested for felony assault and other related charges and was sent to New Hampton State Training School for Boys for 18 months. That, as before, did not deter my attitude for authority. In 1976 suicide was on my mind, so I set my house on fire after getting drunk, and then climbed into bed in hopes to be burnt to death. I guess it was not in the cards for me to leave this world, for I was rescued but, I was charged with arson, and was sentenced to five years in prison.
In that time it was the big thing to go to the parole board as a Christian, so I went as a Born Again believer, and was paroled, but I left Jesus in Prison. The Bible says, God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7), and this is what I did. I mocked God so I could get out of prison, and it worked. However, today it is a different ball game. The Parole Board does not believe you when you say you are Born Again. All they want is programs and proof you have tried to help yourself to change. Well, God showed me I was not the big shot I thought I was.
May 1983, sentenced to serve 9-18 years in prison for crimes committed against society and for ruining the lives of others. In November 1983, God put me on my knees asking for forgiveness, and inviting Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior. I was baptized in water, and three years later baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of tongues. Oh, do not think it has been easy, for it is not. You do not change over night. It is a long process, and many headaches. Yes, for all who do not know Jesus, He is in prison today, preparing a mighty army to go out into the world to win souls for Christ. I love the Lord and thank Him every day for rescuing me from the fires of Hell, and from hurting myself and others.
I am no saint, but I am a lot better off today than I would have been if I did not come to prison. I still have much to learn, but when I leave this prison I will leave with Jesus, and I will serve Him the rest of my life.
Roy Lee Jenkins had been in touch with us from 1989 to 1997. During those years he has been incarcerated at Eastern New York Correctional Facility, Midstate Correctional Facility, and Fishkill Correctional Facility. We last heard from Roy on March 31, 1997 when he was at the Infirmary in Fishkill Correctional Facility. He told us that he was admitted for internal bleeding from serious liver and kidney damage due to his past with alcoholism. In his last letter to us, he said he was still living for Jesus and wanted to have a preaching ministry of his own when he was released. On November 7th, 1998, Roy’s copy of “The Good News Letter” for November - December 1998 was returned to Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc. marked “DECEASED.” Perhaps, the ministry that Roy wanted to have will be in his testimony printed here in which his words will be read throughout the world.
Stewart E. Mclean
My testimony is one that reinforces God’s love for sinners! I was an alcoholic at age 16! From then until 38, my life was a shamble. At times I lived on the streets, slept in doorways, ate out of garbage cans, etc. I can certainly identify with the homeless.
I couldn’t hold a job, lost my wife and daughter and my dignity. I couldn’t support my habit and turned to crime. I was in and out of jail, then ended up doing federal time. While in prison I finally yielded my life to Jesus about 14 years ago and I’ve never looked back and God has done miracle after miracle in my life! I was completely healed of my alcoholism and later of my smoking (2 and a half packs a day). My limited day parole came earlier than it should have and I didn’t even request it as I knew it was too soon!
God also brought a Salvation Army Volunteer into my life while still inside and we were married 12 years ago! He knew I couldn’t make it on my own and was sincere about changing. It hasn’t been easy but I wouldn’t go back to that old life for anything!
God has provided for us abundantly and when I look around my home and see the things he has blessed us with I can’t believe it. I never dreamed one day I would hold a good job, have a vehicle to drive, a camper in the summer, and a wonderful church family to fellowship with! I have also prayed for my family and slowly they are turning to Christ!
I give my testimony whenever I can in prison groups, Harbour lights, etc. Wherever God sends me. This is a short note of what God has done for me and I want to share it with anyone who will listen so they can be encouraged to change and give their lives to Jesus!
The Bible verse I quote often is Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (NIV).
I asked, sought and have greatly received.
U. S. Penitentiary, Lompoc, CA
In my first thirty six years of my old life, I was living in Satan’s world. I was doing all the sins man can think of. When I was about three years old my father and mother got divorced and the words of hate, bitterness, and lonely were in my heart. By the time I was eleven years old, the hate and bitterness grew to everyone who loved me. My father and step-mother had me locked away, because I would not do what they told me to do. I was placed in a boys home. But I learned what crime was all about. At age twelve I was raped by the older boys in the home. Every night I was there I was getting raped and no one cared about what happened to me. I never cried out for help. In my mind there was no help for me. By the time I was seventeen I had run away from home about twenty times. My father’s step-brother raped me when I was living with my grandmother when I was fifteen years old and he was seventeen. I stayed with my grandmother until I went into the army when I was seventeen.
I was looking for a new life in the army, but I came to watch my friends being raped one after another in the United States Army! These were teenagers, of seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, and twenty years old. It started to get me sick of the army. I went AWOL three times to get away. The army kicked me out because I wouldn’t do what they told me to do. Everywhere I went, city after city, I saw teenagers being raped for money, drugs, and sometimes a place to live for sex. I lived in many states by the time I was twenty-one years old. I lived on the streets in their cities, eating when I could find the food, or asking for money to get the food I needed. When it was getting cold in Seattle, I would move myself and go to San Francisco, where it is warmer.
I got married when I was twenty years old. My wife and I had two children but she started seeing someone else, and I divorced her when I was in prison. I have been in and out of prisons in Washington, Oregon and California for fourteen years now. This prison where I am now is my fifth prison. I tried to kill myself in a state prison in Washington, but that was what Satan wanted me to do. The state sent me to a state hospital to get some help for my problems, but I was sent to prison for taking and riding a motor vehicle without permission of the owner. I was given five years probation. That was my first crime in 1976. But this probation was revoked and I was sent to prison for five years in 1978.
When I was on probation in Washington, I was in Oregon doing burglary 2nd degree, and sent to prison for eighteen months in Oregon. Then I got out of prison in 1982 and went to San Francisco to live and to stay away from Washington. Well, in this city I was given three years probation and one year in jail for robbery 2nd degree. After I got out this time, Washington wanted me. I went back to prison and was released in 1985. Then I was sent back to prison six months later for malicious mischief for five more years. I was paroled in March 1986 and my parole was revoked because I moved out of the state without permission. I was paroled again and my file was closed June 6, 1986. I was free to go where I wanted to go. I didn’t do any more crimes until August 2, 1989 when I was charged for malicious arson. I was sentenced to forty-one months in prison. I will be released in January 1993. I pray to stay out of prison. Please pray for me.
I am a wanted man by the Federal Officers in the Seattle area, for the crime of arson. I ran away from my problems in October 1989 and went to San Francisco. There I got a job at a hotel where they gave me room and board. And on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 P.M. we had a big earthquake. I was afraid I was going to die. I started thinking about my crime in Seattle, about my family, and my crime against God the Father and His Son Jesus. So this earthquake was God’s way of telling me to get right before it was too late. I went to church and sat there feeling sorry for myself. I was so lonely it hurt my heart. I wanted to go back home and face what I did wrong. Then the Federal Officers arrested me and sent me back to Seattle.
When I was in Tacoma County Jail I went to church and gave my life over to Jesus Christ my Lord. That was in January 1990. And I came to Lompoc Federal Prison on May 24, 1990. I’ve been going to church every day. I am the chaplain’s clerk here. I praise the Lord for His love and the kind words He put in my heart. But when the earthquake happened, that made me do some thinking about God and Jesus. And if it was not for this Earthquake, I would still be running from this crime and my past sins and problems.
Jesus loved me so much that He opened my heart and mind. I found love and peace in my prison cell. God is watching me every day in here. I don’t know what is in the future for me, but praise the Lord, now I know who holds the future and I can safely trust my all to the Lord Jesus Christ. Although I am locked up in a cell, Spiritually I am free. Jesus set me free in this prison, for “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
I hope this testimony will help someone in prison or on the streets of our cities. My heart cries out to all children and teenagers in our world. I pray that the Lord will watch over them so they will never have to see the prison bars like I have all these years. God bless you all at Bible Believers Fellowship, Inc. God is watching you all.
Rev. Derek Craig
CONtact for CHRIST, Prison Ministry
Burk’s Falls, Ontario, Canada
Have you ever received one of those presents that made you so happy that you HAD to share it with everyone that you met? Well, let me share with you the most wonderful present that I have ever received in my life. The date was December 7, 1975 (10:00 a.m.). I was at the time serving “time” in a maximum security prison. In fact I was in solitary confinement. A guard came and banged on my cell door, “Hey !! Craig. Do you want to go to the Chapel Service?”
Up to this point of my life I had NEVER read any Bible or been to Church etc. I did not know about Jesus or an altar call or anything. At this time of my life I hated so called Christians, they were all a bunch of sissies. I had no use for any one who talked about Jesus or the Bible. However, I figured out that an hour in the Chapel would give me a break from the “hole.” So I said, “Sure, let’s go.” I went in and sat right at the back of that Chapel. Looking towards the front you could see a large plain wooden cross mounted on a red brick wall. The minister was busy talking about something, I turned him off real quick. There were about seventy inmates in that service, bank robbers, child molesters, con artists etc. I settled back and started to enjoy my break from solitary when suddenly it happened...
I looked up to the front and I could hardly believe what I saw... I SAW JESUS... That’s right, I saw Jesus and He would not go away. I closed my eyes and settled back once again to the quietness of the moment... then I looked up for a second time... HE WAS STILL THERE... and He still would not go away and He was looking right at me. I put it down to the fact that I had been in the “hole” for so long that I was going what they call “stir crazy,” I was sure that I had gone over the edge.
I looked up for a third time... YOU GUESSED IT, HE WAS STILL THERE... WOW, I could not see His whole body but His eyes were looking right into mine. It was like a flowing of Love from Him to me. As I have said, I have never heard of an altar call etc. Yet, I knew that He had something that I needed. So I got up and walked down to the front. It was like someone had taken a large barrel of warm water and dumped it all over me. There I was a big lump of nothing on the floor of that Chapel. I remember saying “If you want what is left Lord, you are welcome to it, what ever I have it is yours.” Please keep in mind there had been no altar call and in fact that poor minister was still trying to get through his prepared sermon. I looked either side of me that day, about thirty five inmates had come forward. I went back to my cell that day and gave away ALL of my cigarettes and tobacco etc. I was placed in general population that afternoon.
There was a revival in that prison that day. I was to be in prison for another year. During this year I read my Bible from cover to cover nine times. When I was first returned to my cell that day I opened up a Bible and the VERY FIRST thing that I ever read in any Bible was “Psalm 142:7.” YES, by all means look it up for yourself.
How many of you know that when we become Christians that all of our problems do not go away. In fact in many cases a true disciple of Christ will undergo hardship like never before. In my case I was originally ordained with the Pentecostal Holiness Church Of Canada in 1982. I was used by our Lord to head up a very large prison ministry. I saw many souls come to the Lord because of this ministry. However, I came under spiritual attack to the point that I almost gave up everything. Yet our loving Father was not finished with me yet.
On May 21, 1999, the Lord saw fit to bless me with a beautiful spirit filled Christian wife. Jackie is now a very strong supporter of CONtact for CHRIST, Prison Ministry. I thank God for His continuing hand upon my life and this ministry.