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Lat Blaylock, Editor, RE Today
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Conversion Experience: A Changed Life
From criminal to Christian
Brian is a Christian. Read his story about his experiences of crime, punishment, and redemption.
"I have experienced both sides of this topic, as a criminal and more recently working for an organisation within the criminal justice system. Since leaving my former life behind I have learned many things about why a person commits crime.
"I was involved in criminal activity for 15 years, ranging from theft and burglary up to serious gang-related crime. I have been in prison on two occasions first as a teenager in a detention centre in the seventies and lastly in prison during the eighties.
"My last time in prison was after I had tried to murder a man for threatening my world. This man continued to make me look weak and so I sentenced him to death. Fortunately, he survived my attempts, and myself and gang members were sent to prison. However, we were only convicted for relatively minor offences due to lack of evidence, and deals done behind the scenes.
"While I was in prison, I continued to plan a new execution for my rival and waited until I was free to carry it out. As my release date approached, I became ill and started to think I might not get out of prison alive. A chaplain came and prayed with me. That night in my cell, whether in a dream or not, I had an encounter with Jesus Christ. I experienced him reaching out to me. The next day I was well and for the rest of my sentence I was careful not to behave badly. However, when I left prison I immediately forgot my experience and continued on my own path of recklessness.
"About a year later, after many disasters had struck me, including losing a child, I went to my brother's baptism. While I was there a man gave me a business card which said 'If you meet me and forget me you have lost nothing but if you meet Jesus Christ and forget him you have lost everything.'
"I left the service an angry man, shouting at God and blaming him for everything, the loss of my child, the physical, mental and sexual abuse I was subjected to throughout my childhood. 'What had God ever done for me?' was my claim. 'Nothing,' was my answer, only pain.
"That night in a dream I saw myself back in prison and recalled how Jesus Christ had reached out to me and healed my illness. Then a voice said 'I tried to save you but you rejected me, but those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
"The next day I remembered my dream and realised that the events of the last year had only happened because of my selfishness and my reluctance to change. For the first time in my life, I felt guilty, and once again I cried out to Jesus Christ, but this time it was for forgiveness. After praying I felt no different, but I tried to believe and hope that Jesus had forgiven me.
"I started to go to church with my brother, but found it difficult to communicate with anyone. A few weeks later I was heading there for an evening meeting when I came across the man who I had tried to murder. Despite having asked for forgiveness, I still hated him and wanted him dead. As I got closer I felt the rage and desire to kill rise up inside me. He turned and saw it was me and appeared to freeze. He looked around for help but we were in an isolated area where no one ventured after dark. 'Now is your chance to kill him,' a voice in my head said.
"But another voice said 'I have pardoned you, now you must pardon him.' There was a tremendous conflict within me, like a mighty war. In spite of this I took a step back, and gesturing with my hands I told him I was not going to hurt him. As soon as I had made that step, the hatred was driven out of me. I was overcome with love and compassion and I found myself feeling sorry for all the things I had done to my enemy. I then took him to the pub and bought him a drink. That night I made a declaration that he was free and that no one was allowed to harm him. Everyone was completely gobsmacked as they knew I wanted him dead.
"Later I made a statement in the press saying I was now a Christian - that I had turned my back on all the gang culture and was now a man of peace. Unknown to me at the time was that, by pardoning my enemy and making the statement, I was signing my own death warrant.
"Not long after, and for the next couple of years I was subject to death threats, attacks, and attempts against my life. However, in spite of this God looked after me, and began to teach me through persecution, his way.
"Today, looking back, although it was hard I count myself fortunate to have been taught like a 1st Century Christian."