The Shadow With A Voice (NIV)
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- Format: Folded Tract
- Paper: Gloss Text
- Size: 3.5 inches x 5.5 inches
- Pages: 8
- Version: NIV
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My name is Brian. Today I celebrate another birthday in prison. You might recognize my story to some extent. Not because I have raised national media attention, or otherwise have become known, but because my story may be similar to your own. I was born in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the youngest of three boys. I had gotten myself into mischief at a very young age having already spent two years on probation by the time I was 10 for the crime of vandalism. This led me to being placed into different institutions, foster homes, shelters, group homes, detention centers, psych wards, rehab, boot camp, and so on (one almost right after the other).
Taking a look back when I was about 5 years old we had a neighbor lady by the name of Tootie. For the small price of hearing her read Bible stories from her book, she would give me and my brothers sweets and bags of food to take home. Tootie began taking us to church and continued to do so even when we moved to the next county. This wonderful woman of God is still a part of my life today, praying for me for over 25 years, and still does. She would read her stories, and then have us try to read the stories back to her as she then explained things to us.
My life had taken many twists and turns since my early teen years. Family became distant—actually, I had no family to help me. And when I did get opportunities to see any family it felt more as though I was a “close friend” than a relative (and it still does). I remember one uncle used to tell people “This kid has a head on his shoulder.” My father had nothing to do with me, ever, and my mother hardly knew I existed as alcohol ruled her life. I had no direction: I was left to make my own decisions and many of those decisions seemed to always get me into trouble with the wrong crowd.
I do remember that during the various “placements” that I had, I would grab books and take them to my room, cubicle, cell, or whatever designated place they had chosen for me to sleep, and I would read and learn. One book most common in those places … you guessed it … the Holy Bible!
When I was about 13 years old I was still reading the Bible and not really “getting it.” Another placement, another Bible. Now, you must know, I wasn’t reading the Bible straight through. I would usually stop in the Old Testament on what caught my eye, read a few lines, and move on, jump to the New Testament, read some “red words” then do the old “eyes closed, stop on a page”, and wherever my finger was, see the sentence and determine if it told me something (Psalms and Proverbs were always good for that). I still didn’t understand, so I stopped reading the Bible.
A lot of times when I would get moved to another place, it was because I had run from the last one. I was a rabbit for sure. The first time I went to jail was for escape, and the first time I went to prison was for escape. I would say that certifies me. During one of my stints in jail I picked up the Bible again. I flipped through it and got to the Index and noticed the word “Fool – folly … begins with the denial of God (check); Does not trust in God (check); Trusts in self (check); Has no desire to get wisdom, spurns discipline (double check); Finds pleasure in evil (check); Engages in senseless merriment (check); and the last one made me pause—it said “Comes to ruin!” I re-read through that list again and it was right there in order; the outcome was ruin. Then came the day when everything changed for me.
I heard his voice; I could hear him moving around, but I couldn’t see him. I had been temporarily transported from my State Correction Institution (SCI) to a holding cell at another SCI. I was scheduled for a hearing in my home county and had to spend an overnight in the holding cell.
The man in the adjacent cell was outgoing and friendly. His chatter caught my attention and I found myself in a conversation with him as though we had been friends a long time. Through the vents I heard, “Where are you from?”, “Do you have family?”, “How long are you here for?” On and on we talked as hours seemed like minutes.
He explained to me that he had been brought up in a devout Christian home, but had been rebellious and strong-willed, turning against the Christian faith and his family. He told me that in rejecting God he had put his life on a journey toward the failures that Satan wanted for anyone who rejected God. He said that he remembered his father’s advice and heard his parents prayers, but walked away from it all. He didn’t get into why he was in “the hole,” but said it wasn’t until he landed in solitary and the Holy Spirit started to deal with his heart that all the prayers, Christian examples, and love his parents had shown him came flooding back. His heart was opened; his mind was renewed as he got down on his knees, in his cell, and accepted Jesus as his Savior.
As I listened to his story I was realizing that I had never heard anything like the “Jesus” he spoke about. Oh, I had heard of God, and I knew about the Christmas story, but giving one’s heart to Jesus – what was that all about? He must have sensed that I was stunned by his story. He couldn’t see my face, but I must have had my eyes glistening and my mouth wide open as I soaked in his account of what happened to him, and how this was affecting me.
He seemed to be a really strong young man who deeply believed his Christian faith. I not only believed him, but he was so convincing and sincere, it was as though I had known him for years instead of just a few hours. Here I was, in a cell for one night, just traveling through, and now I find myself in a deep back and forth faith conversation with another inmate I may never see again.
We talked late into the evening as I asked questions and he would read brief verses from his Bible. My interest peaked as I couldn’t let this thing go, whatever it was. As he continued to explain to me that we were all born into a world of sin, as sinners, and need to repent from our sins, ask forgiveness for our sinful heart, thank Jesus for dying on a cross for those sins, and ask Him to come into my heart, “giving my heart” to Him, I knew that’s what I wanted and needed.
There I was, on my knees I a holding cell in an unfamiliar prison with a person I had just met that day, praying the prayer that would change my life forever. Immediately I felt the joy. A peace came over me. I had never felt that way before. “Thank you,” I whispered to my new Christian brother. “You don’t thank me, thank Jesus,” he whispered back. “He’s the One who saved you by His grace.
As I was taken back to my “home” facility the next day it dawned on me that if they had put me in a different cell in a different area, I may have never had that encounter with the shadow and the voice. I may have never met that man. What a message that sent to me. In the providence of God, many things came together to ensure my salvation that could have changed just with a few ticks of the clock, a few seconds here and few minutes there.
I have never seen him or spoken to him again, but the impact his story made on me and the Christ-like influence shown through the phantom voice directed me to the Lord I serve and obey to this day. Through this experience, God gave me a burden for inmates in my SCI, and I faithfully share Jesus day by day. I understand the rejections, but despite their choice to reject the Gospel, a seed that is planted that may someday yield fruit. But this one thing I know: because one Christian inmate reached out to me with the plan of salvation (the Gospel), I was not only changed forever, but God has given me the opportunity to lead many to Christ right where I am, in a State Correctional Institution. Praise God!
I remember the first time I became aware of Romans 7:14-25, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin…. I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out…. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me…. Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This is how I felt for the longest time. Torn!
Old habits die hard and I am tempted to stray, believe me. I’ve caused my share of trouble. I stole what was not mine, had sex outside of marriage, fought with the police (and I’m not just talking about resisting arrest), struck out in anger, served up some cold dishes, smoked, snorted and shot most of the drugs out there. I’ve been separated from family, lost loved ones to suicide and relatives to overdoses, so as you read this know that I understand the clutches of sin and addiction, the despair of loneliness, the want and almost need to give up, being homeless, hungry, trying to stay one step ahead of the law, loss of childhood, losing a child, no support system … on and on I could go.
I don’t know if I ever hit my “rock bottom” or if I was just in a bad place for so long that I got used to it. I do know, though, since confessing with my mouth and believing Jesus Christ in my heart, I feel the difference in my life. I’m understanding and I am studying. I worry less, smile more, and have more peace. I feel comforted, protected, and watched over. Psalm 139:1-4 says, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” I don’t escape anymore, I’m done running and trying to hide from God. Now I run to Him. Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this tract of my testimony. Thanks, too, to Purpose Ministry who has taken the time over several years during my incarceration to encourage me, mentor me, explain my questions with Scriptural answers, and always are there for me during some stressful times. I leave you with one more Scripture reference, Acts 26:28-29: “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.’”
If you know that this is the time when you should ask Jesus into your heart, pray a prayer like this to Him: “JESUS, I repent of my sins. I ask You to forgive my sins and make me part of Your family. Thank you for saving me and giving me eternal life, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.”
If you have turned to God in repentance and put your trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, welcome to the family of God. Please take a moment to write to Purpose Ministry and let us know this wonderful commitment you have made. NOTE: Read your Bible every day, study your Bible, talk (pray) to Jesus every day for spiritual growth and guidance, and be sure to tell someone that you have accepted Christ and are now a Christian.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).