Something happened to me...
I became full of hate, bitterness, and resentment.
I'm a fifty-one year old retired rodeo cowboy. My childhood was as normal as it could be for a kid with no father and a mother who battled alcoholism and depression.
I was raised by my grandparents. We lived on a small farm in Central Indiana and lived off the land with hunting, fishing, and lot's of hard work. My grandmother was the sweetest lady that I have ever met, and she never met a stranger. My grandfather was a good man who believed in working hard and handing out many chores to do. However, when he drank, he had a mean streak. We got along fine while I was a child, working, hunting, and fishing together. He would listen to my stories of someday being a rodeo cowboy.
My childhood ended when I was nine years old with a phone call from my mom. She was drunk and depressed. She wanted to talk to me, but my grandmother wouldn't wake me because it was late. I woke up to the commotion on the phone. Just as I picked up the other line, I heard the gunshot. My mother took her life, and that was the end of my childhood.
I know my family meant well, but for the next few years my life was full of broken promises. One after another promised to take me into their family, when all I wanted was for things to be like they used to be.
I became full of hate, bitterness, and resentment. My relationship with my grandparents was never the same. I became very dark, isolating myself for hours and sometimes days in my room. I was so rebellious that my grandfather had no choice but to discipline me the only way he knew how; in the form of beating me with a fist, switch, or a whip. I will admit that most of them, I deserved.
I was fourteen when I left home the first time, chasing the dream of being a cowboy. I ended up working for a Wild West show and Rodeo, living like a 'Carney' on the fair circuit. I was way too young and small to be on my own.
While hitchhiking that year, I was raped by a truck-driver. This fed my lack of trust and my anger, but I never let it stop me. I would come home in the fall and fulfill the promise made to my grandmother to finish school, leaving again in the spring.
I loved being on the road and riding bareback -- horses, and bulls. The road became my escape. I had no idea how to find what I was looking for at that time in my life, so what I found was meth. I was fifteen years old, angry, bitter, and feeling rejected. The only thing that I found to kill my pain was drugs.
I continued on this path of destruction for the next few years, and then after some surgeries became addicted to Demerol and Morphine. I spiraled out of control for the next few years, chasing my dream of being a champion. I would do speed to wake me up so I could ride, then take pain killers to kill the pain. And of course, like my mother and grandfather, alcohol became a factor also.
I ended up being just like them. I was a mean drunk, full of hate, and I had no problem showing it. The void in my life was never going to be filled with drugs or alcohol.
I knew nothing of God or Jesus, other than cowboys praying before they would ride. These same cowboys would be in the bar chasing tail after the rodeo. In my eyes, they were a joke. I persecuted and made fun of them and their God.
I believe it was 1981, and I was twenty-one years old. I had been competing on the circuit riding bucking horses and bulls that year. I was riding with a lot of injuries that season, so I decided to enter a rodeo at Davey, Florida. Win, lose, or draw, I was going to take some time off to heal up.
I remember her well. After being thrown off, stomped, and dragged around, I found her standing in the crowd staring at me with her big blue eyes and blond hair. Her name was Jennifer, but I called her Jen. She was a dancer and loved cocaine. To be honest, I would snort, smoke, or ingest anything that would kill my pain and make me forget the past. She had unlimited access to this drug and turned me on to free-basing.
About one year later and fifty pounds lighter, I was forced to leave my source to this drug that I loved so much. I couldn't work and had no money to support my drug habits. After trying my hand at a few robberies and other stupid things, there I lay under a pier in DT's (withdrawls) with the homeless.
This was the last thing I remember until being kicked in the side and awakened. As I began to move, I realized that I couldn't open my eyes. I felt something moving in my nose and mouth. Flies had begun to work on me, and I had maggots in my mouth and nose. The man who kicked me was a long haired fellow, and he explained to me that he checked for bodies under the piers and tried to help the homeless. He cleaned me up and bought me breakfast. His advice to me was to go back up north where people cared about me.
This made sense to me, so off I went hitchhiking to Indiana. I was jonesing for some cocaine, in DT's and withdrawal from the morphine. I found myself under another bridge on the interstate close to Lakeland, Florida. The only thing left of my past was my rodeo gear bag, a cowboy hat, and of course the pain.
I remember being afraid to fall asleep because I might die. Then I heard brakes squealing. A young kid with a cowboy hat backed up to me. He asked if I was a cowboy and needed help.
I answered, 'Not much of a cowboy; I need a fix.'
He took me to his step-dad's church. His name was Mikey, and his step-dad's name was Paul. Paul asked me a very important question that day. He asked if I believed that God could heal me and make me whole again.
As I studied the question, it came to me that if God could create the heavens and the earth, He could surely fix me. I spoke those words and was instantly healed. He led me through the sinner's prayer, and I accepted Jesus into my heart that day. Hallelujah!
Ain't it funny how God's blessings are there for the taking? Without someone being obedient to God's word and showing compassion to others, I might have died under a bridge that year. Instead, He met me just as I was and sent me three angels.
Over the next year, my faith grew. I began to learn that God loved me and that there was wonder-working power in the blood of Jesus.
While I lived in Lakeland and was surrounded by a group of believers, I was just fine. However, when I returned to Indiana I fell under condemnation and persecution. Even though I fully intended to do the will of God, Satan had too much fuel. The pain returned in my life, and I began self-medicating again. This time it was marijuana, speed, and pain pills. I stayed high and began drinking again. My life seemed to be like a movie that never ended -- no beginning and no end.
I had spurts of happiness over the next several years, moving from church to church and even from state to state ' trying to forget my childhood and find peace. I still competed on the rodeo circuit and worked on ranches and farms throughout the years, but something was missing.
I began to believe that I needed to get married and settle down. I had two failed marriages and wasn't much of a dad either. I wanted to do the right thing but couldn't seem to love them properly. I had a mean streak, just like my grandfather, and couldn't show anyone love or trust in their love for me.
God never left me and through all this, He healed me of a broken back. It was a miracle in my life that I will never forget. I will always give Him praise. He's an awesome God.
I returned to my old lifestyle once again, and this time it was worse than ever. I not only began to use meth again, but this time I began to manufacture the drug.
In 2003, after violating probation and being on the run, I was involved in a chase which ended with me running into a house to hide. When forced with the situation of going to prison, I drew a gun and decided to let the police shoot me. They fired fourteen shots at me. I was only hit by a ricocheting bullet, which did not harm me.
I was found guilty of twelve felonies. This included two attempted murders, even though I never shot at anyone. I was suicidal, not homicidal. I was sentenced to one-hundred three years in prison.
I became very bitter and mad at God and myself. It seemed to me that I had failed at everything, even my suicide. I wanted nothing to do with God at the time. I turned my back on Him but never forgot what I had experienced and the love I felt in Christ Jesus.
The next two years were terrible. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer but never had a biopsy. I believed the report and accepted this curse. I lost about fifty pounds and was weakening.
I received a visit from my aunt and daughters one day and was reminded by them of all that God had done for me. Out of the mouth of babes came wisdom and strength.
When I returned to my cell, I cried out to God, repented for my disobedience, and rededicated my life to Christ. From that day, I found the will to live and began to thank God for my healing. I spoke healing and broke the curse of cancer in my life. Victory was mine, and I took it.
Over the next few years, I began to submit to God and resisted the devil. He began a great work in me in all areas of my life.
I went to a Christian retreat in 2008 and did something that changed my life. I forgave my mom, my grandfather, and everyone who had hurt me. I asked God to forgive me for my unforgivingness, and He healed my heart.
A load was lifted off me, and I began to feel love for everyone. I started a greeting ministry at my church to share God's love with everyone else. This year, God blessed me with the opportunity to be in leadership and to share His Word, Love, and testimonies with the men in this prison.
God uses the most unlikely of men. He took a broken, hurt, and angry man, and is now using him for His glory. He can use you too. Hallelujah!
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Important Staff Note: This testimony is one of 30 testimonies taken from a recently published book titled: Inmate-To-Inmate. In the publisher's own words, he makes this offer (until further notice):
The Inmate-To-Inmate Christian Testimony Book features the God Glorifying testimonies of 30 inmates that have been saved by the grace of God and now are willing to use their stories to bring a message of hope to other inmates .
If you would like to use this book in a prison or jail in your area we will donate 2 cases; 120 books to you to be used in your area!
All you have to do is send a love offering of $32 to cover the shipping cost to get the books delivered to you.
You can make a donation at this link: http://www.theshofarman.com/cartdonation.htm
Or if sending a donation by check you can make it out to: Step by Step Ministries - and send it to the following address:
Jim and Carla Barbarossa
Jim Barbarossa 815 S Babcock Rd
Porter, In 46304
You can learn more about our ministry by clicking on: http://www.step-by-step.org
If you know anyone involved in prison or jail ministry, please forward this resource on to them or print a copy and hand it to them. Once a book like this one gets inside prison walls, it is usually there to stay ... getting passed from one prisoner to another to another ...
You could even post this offer on your Facebook page; text it to someone or tweet it .
Please help us get the word out to inmates!
(Though the testimonies offer
incredible hope and encouragement to inmates, the Gospel message is
also included in this book, challenging each reader to reach out and
accept God's free gift of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.
Thus it is an incredible evangelistic tool the Lord will use to
bring lost souls back to Himself, but it FIRST has
to get inside prison walls, so please diligently pray about God
using YOU to help that to happen).
(Though the testimonies offer incredible hope and encouragement to inmates, the Gospel message is also included in this book, challenging each reader to reach out and accept God's free gift of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Thus it is an incredible evangelistic tool the Lord will use to bring lost souls back to Himself, but it FIRST has to get inside prison walls, so please diligently pray about God using YOU to help that to happen).
If you would like to read the book at no cost and pray over the Inmate-To-Inmate book, you can request a free electronic copy by sending us an email with " Free Inmate Book " in the subject line. Send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org