. . . I became so helpless and hopeless that I was lost in despair.
I was born in 1979 in Indianapolis, Indiana. From the time I was born to age 6, I witnessed my father abuse my mother. It was bad enough at times that they both would have to go to the hospital. One evening during that time, my father was drunk'again. He hit my mother'.again. Finally, she had enough. After he passed out on the couch in the living room, she took charcoal lighter fluid and set my father on fire.
You may be going through something similar as I have experienced in life. There are people who have been there, (and may be there right now outside of prison reading this) and we who now see and understand more clearly spiritually are called to help our fellow man to not remain mad at God ... but to help them come to peace with God and point them toward the only truly reliable source God has given humanity (The Holy Bible) to understand God and receive from Him what no one else nor anything else can give us. We tend to blame all our difficult life problems on God (which the devil DELIGHTS in our doing!) ... yet remain blinded to the fact that we live in a world that is battling for the souls of mankind. This war is a battle between good and evil -- between God and Satan and all the fallen angels that serve Satan. If we read the last book of the Bible, we learn this battle will one day end, and Jesus Christ will become the victor ... having fulfilled completely our heavenly Father's will in dealing with Satan. Until then ... the battle rages, expressed through people Satan uses [NOT God!] to inflict as much pain in the lives of people as possible.
My father survived. After their divorce, my father drifted in and out of my life. He spent most of his time drunk or in jail for drinking. My mother went on a downward spiral, and she began using drugs. This was a terrible time for me and my sister, who was two years older. My mother's goal in life was to forget her pain by getting high. She did whatever it took to get high. She even prostituted herself for drugs.
My sister and I spent the next few years in an environment where we were filthy, hardly fed, and abused. There was a male 'babysitter' who used to hit me, lock me in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and put me in an ice cold bath. He would choke me until I almost passed out and then let me go. He laughed hysterically as I gasped for air. Luckily, my sister was mostly unharmed during this time.
We witnessed constant drug abuse as well as sexual situations that children at 8 and 10 years old shouldn't see. Finally, a neighbor called the police about the situation my sister and I were in. They came and removed us from the house when my mother wasn't home. No one knew where she was. She had been arrested for prostitution.
We were placed in a foster home where we were loved and cared for. This was the best time of our lives. After about eight months, the court determined that we should be returned to our mother after she was released from jail. She had cleaned the house and bought a hot plate to cook on.
During her incarceration, my mother met a man whom she had known in her youth. He had family in California, and they decided it would be best for us all to move out there for a fresh start. This new man was a stable influence on my mother. She gave up all the harder drugs but continued to drink and smoke marijuana.
After almost two years in California, we all moved back to Indiana. My mother got married to this man. He was a good provider who met our physical needs. During this time, we were only abused emotionally and mentally. We were constantly called worthless and 'no good' by our mother and stepfather.
We lived a few blocks from my grandparents. My Mom's Dad was a Christian man. He convinced me to go to church with him. I began spending more time with him and learning about God. We enjoyed our time together. My grandparents ended up moving, and we stopped going to church together and drifted apart.
About this time, I began trying different drugs. I was getting high every day. I didn't care about anything anymore. I was angry and frustrated. It seemed to me that anytime I was in a good place, like foster care or with my grandfather, something happened to take it all away. I began to blame God.
While I was being fueled by drugs and the need to get more, I began stealing and robbing people. I wanted money and to experience the emotional high I wasn't getting at home. I didn't want to be there anymore. I became all about myself in everything I did. No one mattered but me.
When I was 14 years old, I went to live with my father. He had remarried and given up drinking. He was a totally different person now that he wasn't drinking. We got along well, and my stepmother was a blessing. She was encouraging. I hadn't experienced this before.
I continued to get high and get into trouble. I got arrested twice for stealing cars and finally got arrested for armed robbery when I was 15 years old. I went to a juvenile correctional facility for two years. While I was inside, I attended school. When I was released at 17, I returned to school and graduated from high school.
I was now living back with my mother and stepfather. I was working two jobs and trying to make a way for myself, but I couldn't agree with my parents. My stepfather and I argued so much that at one point he told my mother that either I had to leave or he would leave. So, when I was still 17 years old, my mother kicked me out. I bounced from place to place and stayed with an uncle or a friend. I continued to use drugs, steal, and rob.
A few weeks before I turned 19, I robbed the convenience store where I worked and murdered a co-worker. I am now 32 years old. I am serving life without parole, and I have been incarcerated since 1998.
Since I have been here, I have earned two college degrees. I have an Associate's in Arts and a Bachelor's in General Studies with concentrations in History and Computers. I have held different jobs here at the prison since I graduated. I recently took a job in the prison furniture factory. It is one of the best places to be in this prison. I am currently working on an apprenticeship for Office Management in collusion with my job. It is a wonderful program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.
In April of 2005, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. My first 6-7 years in prison were punctuated by drugs, gangs, and violence. I was mad at myself, at the world, and at God. In 2005, I became so helpless and hopeless that I was in despair. I began reading the old tattered Bible my mom sent me when I got arrested in 1998. I knew a lot of the Word but had neglected it. After weeks of reading it, I was so convicted within myself. I knelt before the Lord in my cell and begged Him for forgiveness. My burden was lifted. I felt amazingly free and light-hearted.
Since that time I have continued to pursue my life in Christ. I study Scripture every day and open my heart to the Lord in prayer. I spend time fellowshipping with my Christian brothers here at the prison. I spend a great deal of time at the Religious Services Center. I attend a non-denominational service. I serve as a lay leader for this service, which simply means I direct the service. I am one of five chosen to do so out of 100 congregation members. We keep the service on track and make sure it runs smoothly, introducing each individual as his time comes up. I feel really blessed to be able to serve my Christian community in here. I also attend a Bible study as well.
One of my favorite things is the Kairos service I attend weekly. It is a prayer and share meeting for all of the Kairos graduates to get together and fellowship. Kairos is a powerful and fruitful prison ministry that holds weekend events at different prisons. Offenders are selected to attend for the entire weekend. Volunteers come in and feed you, minister to you, and generally just show the love of Jesus Christ.
My time began with hatred toward others, toward myself, and toward God. I was filled with hopelessness and despair. It became too much to bear. Christ accepted me and forgave me. I am free of my burden. Jesus saved me. He has the power to save every one of us, including those in prison. My purpose now is to tell everyone how God has taken away my pain, bitterness, and stress. It is my purpose to tell every man and woman in prison that Jesus Christ died for all of our sins. I gave Him a chance. Please do the same. God bless you all.
(Please paste one of the above links onto your Facebook page - website - blog - video; etc.)
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 46383
215 Saulk Trail
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