Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography
To some, Louisville, Kentucky, is a thriving hub of commerce and enterprise. But to me, I knew a different side of my city. I didn’t see anything but poverty. I didn’t see anything but crime. My father’s mental disorders created chaos in our home. He was in and out of psychiatric institutions all of my life. With both parents emotionally unavailable, I never knew stability or what a real “functional” home looked like.
Our utilities were often cut off. I, along with my four siblings, were often yanked from our sleep, to flee our home from my father’s violence when he derailed. We were thrown from home to home all of our lives, and we were rarely ever welcomed into the homes of relatives.
Being molested three times before age 12 sent me spiraling into an emotional whirlwind. Early drug use seemed to numb me just well enough to stop feeling the pain and trauma. Little did I know that the same drugs that numbed me also removed me from reality, from feeling love, peace or a sense of connection. Early formative years left me feeling like I had no value, worth or reason to be. Rejection and abandonment affected my desire to connect intimately and kept me living in a world of fear — living disconnected from others.
By the time I was a teenager, my parents divorced. In the court’s eyes, I was old enough to choose who I was going to stay with, and I did that. I stayed with my father, which was not, in any way, a benefit.
My father began prostituting women out of our home. When I turned 16, my father threw me out on the street. I packed the few things I owned, got in my car and found shelter in a parking garage in downtown Louisville. I didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night, other than the car. It was both the winter of my soul and a cold winter’s night as well. That car ended up being my home for the next two months.
I remember opening a bag of chips, eating some of them and thinking, “I hope these last for a day or two.” I remember the hurt and the fears. I wasn’t sure where I was going to turn. I wandered the streets, eventually landing a job as a dishwasher. My wages were just enough to pay for a little food and my drug habit. I was beginning to use drugs more and more and didn’t know where I would acquire the next drugs to keep me one step beyond my pain.
I later married and started a moving company. After eight years of marriage and operating a business as a functioning addict, I received an indictment on drug charges. Realizing a mutual acquaintance had turned me in, I armed myself with a knife and went to this apartment. He was staying in a small room in the back of a friend’s barbershop. I remember walking in the door and confronting him. In a very short time, the heat of the argument escalated. He grabbed a knife and within a few seconds, we were in a fight. During the fight, we both busted through the glass door of the business and landed outside on the concrete.
I seemed to blackout. I had no idea how many times I had stabbed him. I knew when I stabbed him the last time that he was soon to be dead. He put his hand over his mouth and whispered, “Oh, God.” Those words continued to echo in my mind as I left.
I was later arrested and charged with murder. After I was released on bond, I went home and started getting high. But this time, it was different.
I was sitting in a recliner, listening to music, with a joint going. I remember the presence of God settling in around me. This feeling was something very foreign to me. Being unchurched and lost, I didn’t know exactly what was going on. All I knew was that — for the first time in what seemed like forever — I was able to feel.
Remorse, leading to repentance began to work in my heart. I began to really contemplate what I had done. I thought about the crime and the crime scene, and all the horror that had taken place. I remembered every detail for the first time. I got on my face. My weeping turned into a compulsive crying, and my high was gone.
That night, I asked Christ into my heart.
Two years later, I went to trial and was given a 35-year sentence for wanton murder. Throughout those years, I grew in my faith, taught many classes, discipled men, set up accountability groups in each prison and educated myself and others. I took every opportunity to share Christ with fellow inmates. While I was in prison, I earned an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree in theology, a master’s in divinity, and five two-year vocational degrees.
Despite model behavior, I was denied parole twice, once after 12 years and the second time after 18 years. I was finally released in 2012, after serving 22 years. I served out my 35-year sentence and moved back to Louisville.
Today I lead The Prisoners Hope, a very successful holistic ministry that meets prisoners with the redeeming love and grace of the gospel right where they are — before incarceration, during incarceration and post-incarceration. The Prisoners Hope also ministers to the children and families of incarcerated individuals to meet practical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.