Interview with an Ex-Con (True Story)

The story of a 50 year old inmate who finds color in a black and white life.

Question: Since our purpose is to share you unique story, let’s get right to it. You were incarcerated at one point in your life, correct?

Answer: Yes                                

Q: For how long?

A: 23 months.

Q: How old were you?

A: 50.

Q: How did going to prison affect your family?

A: It devastated them.

Q: How did you feel when you first entered prison?

A: Scared.        

Q: Did you try to convince everyone that you were innocent like so many people do?

A: Yes.

Q: What was your behavior like when you were in prison?

A: Well, I was scared. I didn’t pal around with anybody. I shunned everybody. I stayed to myself.

Q: Did you struggle with guilt?

A: Yes.

Q: Had you ever been a religious person?

A: No.

Q: What do you believe was the condition of your heart at that time?

A: Hard.

Q: Did your heart stay that way?

A: No.

Q: What happened to change your heart?  

A: I was invited to a Bible study by one of my cell mates.                                                       

Q: What were your first reactions?

A: The first time I went, it made no sense.                                                                                 

Q: How did the Lord work in your heart?

A: I was invited a second time. When I went the second time, my whole life changed. The Lord just hit me with a 2X4 and woke me up.                                                                                                                        

Q: Anything in particular that God used?

A: No, just the message that the preacher was giving. He was talking to me directly.                                  

Q: A special person or situation that made you change your mind about salvation?

A: Just the preacher that was doing the message that evening. He just searched me out, my heart, left a message, and the Lord just came in.                                     

Q: Anything else you wish to include?

A: Well, I never really knew anything about sin at that time until I heard the message. He talked to us about sin and the way we lived our lives in sin; which I never knew anything about, being raised Catholic. We weren’t taught that. We were taught good works.  At the end, when he had an altar call, the second time I was there, the Lord tugged at my heart to go up and accept Jesus, not knowing what would happen. When I went back to my cell, it was like a tremendous burden was lifted off my shoulders. My whole life changed from that point on. I accepted prison life. I excelled at everything I did in there. Time flew by. I had no problems with anybody. I got along with everybody at that time. I was not shunned – I mean I didn’t hold back. I wasn’t avoiding anybody at that point. Life just was wholly different. It became colorful, instead of just black and white.  

Q: How long after you had been in prison did this happen?

A:  I went in July of ’94 and it happened in January of ’95. The exact day I don’t know. Our message was on every Tuesday night, so it had to be on one of those Tuesday nights.

Q: Were those two consecutive Tuesday nights?

A: No. I went the first time and then the second time. I went one Tuesday night.  I skipped one, and then I went back two weeks later.

Q: How long did you have before you got out?

A: I got out in June of ’96.

Q:  That was about a year and a half. Did anything change after that, while you were still in prison?

A: Oh, yeah!

Q: When you got out what did you do? How did you re-establish yourself in the community? Socially?

A: While I was in prison I learned to ask the Holy Spirit to lead me in everything, so when I came out I prayed. He opened doors. He gave me a place to stay because at the time my house had been sold. I was separated. I stayed with a cousin of mine. I lived with him about 6 months. Then I lived with my sister about 3 months. Then a place had opened up. I went and got my own place; I rented. That’s when I met a close family friend, and from that time on everything just went right along.

When I got out, my first job that was offered to me was from a church member. The job was a parts delivery person for an auto parts house. So I drove a pick–up truck to deliver parts. No problem. Then another person at church (because I joined the church after about 3 weeks out), offered me another job in a machine shop, shipping and receiving, which was a very good job. My background began to hinder me. They found out at the machine shop what I was in for, and you know, people were talking, so I backed out of the job. At that point, I decided to go on my own and into business for myself. The Lord provided me everything I needed.

Q: Did you follow through with the new faith you had found in prison?

A: Most certainly!

Q: How long has that been?

A: 13 years.

Q: Did people react to you as an ex-con?

A: No, because people don’t know that I am. They don’t know that unless I tell them. If somebody asks me my background, I’m not ashamed of it, so I tell them. I don’t give them the gory details, but I tell them I was in prison. I tell my customers that. You know, we’ll get into conversations about the Lord, my testimony, my life, how He changed me, where it was; but I don’t tell them what I was in for. They don’t need to know that.

Q: Have you ever had times of doubt or falling back into old thinking since you got out?

A: That’s a struggle. Constantly.

Q: Have you had any problems because of what you did in the past – jobs, housing, social acceptance, etc.?

A: Yes. I can’t get a contractor’s license in 2 states because they won’t allow it.

Q: How did you handle them spiritually?

A: Oh, spiritually, I just put it in the hands of the Lord. I let Him deal with it. He knows best for me, so if He doesn’t want me to have a license – fine. Then I’ll do whatever. At this point in my life now, I know that I can’t get a license. I can’t do the work I’m doing. Now I’ve got to change careers. Now I’m praying to Him to give me insight into what career that He wants me to go into.

Q: Will that be a struggle at your age?

A: No, it’s not. He will provide me with everything. I know that.

Q: What has helped the most to keep you straight?

A: Consequences. Since Pastor taught us about consequences, it has stuck in my head like glue. Everything that I do wrong, I know I have to pay a consequence.

Q: Do you have any doubts or regrets about your new way of life?

A: No.

Q: Did you struggle with guilt after you were saved? Does Satan try to bring back the old things to accuse you?

A: On occasion. On occasion Satan gets in and raises doubts in my mind. I have to rebuke him constantly. Not constantly, but often enough. Yeah, oh yeah. Even while I’m praying now I have to rebuke him and get him out of me, because he just disturbs me while I’m trying to pray. My devotion time – he tears it up.

Q: How do you handle it when Satan starts coming back at you?

A: I rebuke him in the name of Jesus. I tell him to get out. “Get thee behind me, Satan,” (Matthew 16:23).

Q: What would you recommend for someone in your former situation?

A: Whenever the Holy Spirit leads, pay attention, and do. We have a tendency to do what we want to do, what we think is best, and it’s not always that. I’ve learned that in my time.

Q: Proverbs 16:25 says’ “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.  Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

A: My life now is a consequence of what I did. The Lord’s forgiven me but He can’t take it away. It’s there, and it will affect me on everything I do.

Interviewer:  Thank you so much for being so open, I’m sure you story will be an encouragement to others who are currently in prison, have been in the past, or simply know they have done something wrong.

 

To our readers: I have personally known this person for 13 years. He/she has maintained a terrific testimony, and has been an example of new life in our church. He/she has served the Lord enthusiastically and boldly speaks of the One who has changed his/her life.

" Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." II Corinthians 5:17

... Phillip ...

Set Free

                                           Old stone prison

Lonely walls, my company.

This heart once black with sin

One day will enter glory,

Because Jesus took me in.

                                          Hands sticking out of jail cell

Prison bars? No welcome here;

My tears? Sad cry for shame;

A worthless soul now set free;

For my freedom, Jesus came.

                                           Prison doors

Steel doors mock, no warm embrace;

Empty arms on trial here,

‘Til I reached out to Jesus,

And He broke the chain of fear.

                                          Sorrowing man 

Locked away in sorrow’s bed,

Strapped with guilt for sin now past,

I would not have been forgiven,

Had I not believed at last!

                                          Sunset 

His peace shall be my sentence,

For this soul is bound by grace

That gently whispers to me,

All my sin has been erased!

                                                    Handcuffs being unlocked

Now secure with full pardon,

Yes, the Lord has heard my plea;

And by His mercy gave the verdict –

Wretched soul, you are set free!

©1996 Jo Ann Hollway

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