My name is Joe. I’m 55 years old. I grew up with a single mother. My father was in prison all the years I was growing up. I didn’t really get to know him until I, myself, was coming to prison. I’ve been in prison 36 years now, since I was 19 years old. I have a 50-year sentence for murder. My whole life I was a hardcore gang member. I grew up in street gangs, sold drugs and did all kinds of drugs. I was a heroin addict. I was involved in all kinds of illegal activities, like gun running, prostitution, extortion. You name it; I’ve done it. I came to prison for killing a man in a gang fight. Once in prison, I went back to what I knew, “gangs.” I was a member and a recruiter of a Texas prison gang. I did 15 years in Administrative Segregation (solitary confinement).
All my life I’ve had this underlying belief that in order to receive love and acceptance I had to be a part of a gang with other people just like me, alone, broken and abandoned by everyone we let get close to us. Gang life was my security blanket to be loved and accepted. But it came with a big price. I lived in the dark world of Satan, who had me enslaved and doing his dirty work to steal, rob, kill and destroy everything in my path. My mother often talked to me about Jesus Christ and never stopped praying for me. Once when I was in a mental ward for setting one of my cell partners on fire and for cutting myself, my mother came to see me. For three weekends in a row the prison officials told her she couldn’t see me because I was a danger to myself and to others. Well, Mom wasn’t leaving until she saw me. They suited up a 10-man team and chained me up and put me in a protective metal cage. When my mother saw me she said, “Oh, my God, who are you? You don’t even look like my son; where is my son?” I was full of demons. She put her hands on the cage and started to pray. No one understood her, but the demons knew every word she was saying. I had 14 seizures back to back and woke-up in a free-world hospital. I didn’t know what had happened to me. Let me tell you, God answers prayers! He answered my mother’s prayer and freed me of all those demons. I was dead in sin; I was like the man who hung around the tombs always hurting myself. I felt unworthy, unlovable, with no purpose, no hope and no direction until one day I broke down and cried out to Jesus. I said, “Lord, am I so messed up that you don’t want me? Am I so messed up that you can’t do anything with me? Am I so messed up that you won’t take me back? As I saw there in that dirty cell, crying on the floor, crying like I’ve never cried before; the Lord answered me. He said, “I never left you! You left me! I love you, son, and I’ve been waiting for you to come back home.” Accepting Jesus is my biggest accomplishment in life! Jesus has transformed my life and I have an awesome relationship with him. Now I am able to love others and love myself.
I’m still in the recruiting business, but now I recruit people for God’s kingdom. Today I have a vision that Jesus has given me. I want to reach out to people who are sick, broken, oppressed and struggling with addiction. I want to go to college to become a chemical co-dependency counselor. I am helped and strengthened by the volunteers and ministries who have poured into me. I am encouraged by all of you and want to be a part of this family to help the lost and destroy the works of the devil. You may ask, “Does God still do miracles?” You bet! Today you are looking at one!