Note from the authors: One of the important ministries of the faith community is to follow the words of the Bible and “visit those who are imprisoned.” Anderson County Sheriff’s Department chaplains Clyde Drummond and Jack Mansfield, who conduct a weekly Bible study in the local jail, have submitted the following testimony of one inmate who has turned his life toward faith. It has been edited for clarity.
I was raised a church kid, the oldest child of six children. We didn’t have a lot of material wealth, but my parents loved us and wanted to raise us right. I was the athletic type and sports seemed important, until one very important moment in my life. It was the moment I met the most beautiful woman I had ever seen—my future wife.
She and I dated off and on for seven years before we were finally married. I was 24 years old, and she was 22. I got a job at a local factory and we were faithful to church. We were ready for a child, and there she came. It seemed like we had the perfect life, but for some reason it wasn’t enough.
So I decided we would start our own business. I had done some roofing so it made the most sense to make my living that way. The business started really well, but there still was something not right.
Soon the bubble burst, and a lot of people went out of business including us. Eventually we ran out of money, and we wound up living with relatives. I decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. I called the local recruiter and told them I needed in the Army as soon as possible.
Two weeks later, I was in basic training. I was a good soldier, and I went into combat. Though I survived, I experienced about every human emotion possible during this time.
When I got back, I began to have problems. I began drinking myself to sleep every night. When that became too much for my family, I looked for something that might work better—I found pills. Pills allowed me to keep my addiction while ignoring reality around me. What I really needed was what I was running from the hardest—God!
Eventually, pills didn’t satisfy either. So I started shooting up. I was a junkie. The needle soon landed me in the hospital on my death bed. I had a bacterial staph infection in my blood stream, and it was attacking my heart.
After spending some time in the hospital and barely surviving, I made a profession of faith, or so I thought. What I really did was just realize that I had gone from bad to worse and that I needed to do better. I didn’t really surrender to God, still thinking I was going to be able to make it without God. It didn’t take but a couple of months and I was right back on the needle. In a desperate attempt to find a less noticeable drug, I went to meth.
Meth made me feel like superman. My wife and I by this time had another little girl, and our family was being destroyed by my addictions. We separated, and I went to live with my dope man.
Not long after that, he went to jail. His girlfriend invited me to stay with her. That was a horrible idea. It only took a couple of weeks before she taught me all I needed to know about cooking dope. I was making meth and loving it. We had also started a relationship.
This went on for six months and I did a good job of hiding from my wife what was really going on. She thought I was staying with a friend trying to get my life straightened out. She had absolutely no idea what was really going on.
One of my buddies came into the mix, pushing everything downhill even worse. He went on a bad trip and got arrested. I had a lot of confidence in this guy and thought he would never tell the truth, but he did.
The cops showed up. They really showed up too. There were cops everywhere. The whole road was full of cops. As soon as I saw them the first thought I had was that God had finally released His judgment on me.
Later, when I arrived at the jail, they walked me to my cell, and the first thing I noticed was an old worn-out piece of Bible staring straight at me. I was so afraid of what God had to say that I couldn’t even look at that Bible. I knew that God was finished with me. When they closed the door, my cell turned into what felt like a three-day long cage match with God.
On the third day, one of the detectives came and got me. I was relieved to get out of that cell away from that Bible. I was in utter torment over all I had done. The jail had even sent chaplains in to talk with me. Later, they told me I was as suicidal as anyone they had ever met. The only reason I decided not to end it was that I knew I deserved to pay for what I had done, and I didn’t want to get my guilty verdict from God.
Well, as the detective started questioning me, I stopped him and said: “Look, you’ve got me. I’m guilty.” I told him everything he needed to know. He was amazed at how easy it was. As soon as we were done, I asked to call my wife just to tell her what she would have to look forward to and to give her a chance to tell me off. He agreed.
I called and told her what the detective told me would happen to me. Then she asked me the hardest question that I’ve ever been asked in my life. She asked if I was in a relationship with the other woman. Without hesitation I said, “No.” Then I thought back to all the lies I’ve told this woman. I realized she deserved the truth at least once. So I took it back and said, “Yes, yes we were in a relationship.”
She was devastated. I held the phone as she cried asking why. I couldn’t even say I was sorry because I was so ashamed of myself.
Then there was silence on the phone. I waited for her to tell me never to contact her again or something even worse. Then she said something that I will never forget. She said: “You have hurt me worse than anyone ever has, and it will take a long time to ever trust you again. But I still love you.”
I was shocked. After all I had done to this woman, all the pain and hurt, she still loved me. “How can she?” I thought. I broke down right there.
We got off the phone, and they took me back to my cell. On the way back to my cell I thought to myself, “If she can still love me, maybe God can too. Maybe, just maybe, I’m not finished.”
When I got back in my cell, I all but dove on that Bible that I had hidden from. I held it and said: “OK, God. Is there still hope for me?” Then I opened the Bible and looked down at the page where I read these words: “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
I fell on my face right there and accepted Christ, realizing He still loved me just as my wife did. He didn’t want to condemn me; He wanted to save me! I couldn’t believe it. I was now suddenly the most loved person on earth, even after what I had done.
God is so very good! The same chaplains saw me about a week later, and I was so different that I had to tell them who I was. God had worked a miracle in my heart, and I’m eternally grateful. Now I have work to do, and that work is to tell others the good news of what Jesus Christ can do for them too. May God have His will and way in all our lives. Forgiveness is there. All we have to do is realize our need of it.