#100 Merciful and Gracious


 Artwork by Lily Murphy

My grandparents raised me until I was six years old. They were very godly people. We went to church regularly and they taught me great values. When I was six years old my mom got married and I went to live with her and my stepdad, who adopted me. My stepdad and I fought a lot, mostly because I was disrespectful. When I was 16 we got into a fight and he threw me out of the house. I ran the streets and began using drugs. 

By age 17, I was trafficking drugs and had my first felony by age 18. I went to jail but my parents bonded me out in two days. In the next couple of years, I started cocaine. By age 20, I had six counts of felony receiving stolen property. I went to prison and started reading the Bible. I was interested but not committed. After I got out of prison, I violated my parole with alcohol and cocaine and spent six more months in prison. This happened four times with the same result…each time I went back to prison. So between 2000–2004, my life was spent in and out of prison. While I was out of prison, I went to college and completed courses. Finally, I successfully completed parole and graduated college with a degree in social work and a 3.36 GPA. 

Instead of using my social work degree, I bought three nightclubs with the money I inherited when my mom died. One was a rave club. The clubs produced a massive amount of money. I went into drug dealing, selling Ecstasy in the rave club. I was flying in and out of Miami and Vegas to get drugs. I bought restaurants and opened a real estate company. But then things started crashing down around me. My best friend overdosed. My business partner committed suicide. Then a soldier got a drug in one of my nightclubs that killed him, and girl at one of my clubs got a drug that caused her to go into a coma. The police arrested a dealer in Miami and eventually that led the police to me. I was sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison. But even when I went to federal prison, I was still thinking about how I could develop my drug business to be even bigger and better when I got out.

While in prison, I got into an argument with a guard, which got me thrown into the “hole”—basically prison within prison. There on my bunk was a small Gideon New Testament Bible. I started reading it, and by Matthew 16 I started crying. I said, “I am checking out of this. If you’re real, God, show me.” Now the hole is very loud, with prisoners making all kinds noise, but within minutes after saying this, everything went quiet. Everything stood still. A warm sensation wrapped me up and held me. It literally felt like someone holding me. In my head I heard, “You’re forgiven.” 

 Then I said, “Yes Lord, but what about this…?”

“You are forgiven.”

And again I asked, “But what about this…?”

“You are forgiven.”

Back and forth this went on until I finally believed I was forgiven. Then I sat and cried. I still felt that warmth, like I was being held. Then from my toes to the top of my head, the presence just swept through my body. It was like I had just taken my first breath. The hair on my arms stood up. Everything in the prison cell was beautiful. Even the stainless-steel toilet was gleaming. I felt such joy. From that moment on everything in my life changed. I started reading my Bible again and soon a young man was brought to share the hole with me. We became great friends; we prayed together and became brothers in Christ. Later, when we were both out of the hole, he invited me to a Bible study and I started to go. I told the prison chaplain about my story and my experience with God, and he began discipling me into the faith.

I prayed, “Lord, I want to know the truth. Show me what is true and what is not.” The Lord sent people and books to show me the truth. God sent me books on theology and apologetics, defense of the Christian faith. And God opened my eyes to truth through the scriptures. I hungered so much for God’s Word and spent six hours each day studying the Bible and memorizing verses.

I began to see how God was blessing me after I got out of the hole. Usually when you go to the hole, all your personal possessions are destroyed or thrown away. When I got out of the hole, all of my possessions were returned to me in perfect shape. Everything was stacked neatly in a bag. Even my underwear was folded. One of the prison officers said to me later, “How did you like that bag? Be blessed!” This just does NOT HAPPEN IN PRISON! Then I had a court date about the altercation with the guard that landed me in the hole and they forgave it and cleaned it off my record. I got the best job you could get in prison. I started serving in the prison church, ushering and preaching from time to time. I was moved to a prison in Virginia, then to Kentucky, my home state. Here I was discipled by a wonderful prison chaplain, a committed, godly man.

At the end of my prison sentence, the prison chaplain told me he felt God calling him to help me. Three days before I was released from prison, the chaplain told me to call a men’s ministry and recovery program. I interviewed there and connected with the director. I spent the next six years working there, preaching, teaching, cooking, counseling, volunteer coordinating, and renovating their building. Because I had a social work degree, I was eligible to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor. A counselor I had met when I was released was the counselor for the resident drug abuse program and agreed to be my supervisor for this certification process. After I became a certified counselor, I created my own ministry for outpatient substance abuse treatment. This ministry has expanded and I now have my own building. In 2016, I went back to graduate school to become a licensed professional clinical counselor in mental health. I will graduate in July 2018 with a Masters in Counseling and Human Development after which I will be able to expand my ministry into mental health counseling as well as substance abuse counseling. I am also now working for Job Corp, an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture. In this role I work with 16-24 year olds to provide counseling and substance abuse prevention and intervention. 

My life bears witness to a God that is MERCIFUL and GRACIOUS. He gave me life. He gave me a chance to turn it all around. I should have been in prison for life. I damaged and destroyed thousands of lives. It still amazes me…moves me to tears. I am FORGIVEN. Because of God’s love that is beyond all comprehension and Christ’s sacrifice, I am FORGIVEN. Pure. Blameless. My slate is clean. 

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.”

Matthew 18:12–13

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

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