It’s been over 40 years since Stratford chapter member, Art, has used drugs or indulged in alcohol. And for four years, Art has been using the lessons he learned during that period of his life to witness to inmates at the Stratford prison.
“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14
To explain this story, we need to back up several months ago.
Early one morning, Art arrived at his nephew’s house to pick up a key from a friend who had stayed overnight. Michael was a generous young man; it wasn’t unusual for him to let a non-family member crash at his home.
As Art opened the front door, he heard hushed voices. That’s odd, he thought. I thought Michael said there was only one guest here last night, and he would have left already.
Upstairs in the bedroom, Art found a group of unfamiliar people sitting uncomfortably on the bed. One of the men spoke up. “Michael allowed me to stay here last night.” Art took a step back, alarmed, and hurried out of the house to call his nephew.
As Art suspected, Michael had no idea who the other people were. He immediately called the police and spent the rest of the day trying to sort out the break-in. But time passed, and the stress of the event faded from Art’s memory.
Weeks later, on what felt like a typical Sunday evening, Art gathered a stack of Redemption magazines and New Testaments into a box and began his usual route to the Stratford men’s jail. Each visit, he saw God use his personal redemption story to plant a seed of faith within the heart of another inmate, and he was confident Christ would reveal Himself again.
As usual, Art walked into the prison and placed the box of Scriptures beside an empty table. He scanned the room and silently prayed that God would create an opportunity for a faith conversation.
His eyes rested on a group of seven young men standing together. One man, noticing Art, seemed startled and shifted his eyes to the ground.
Art felt his feet step closer to the group. The man hesitantly approached as well, mirroring Art’s shuffling steps.
“Hey,” the man’s voice began, loud but shaky. “You’re Michael's dad.”
Something clicked. This was the man who led the break-in at Michael’s house!
“Actually, I’m his uncle.”
The other six eavesdropping inmates approached to watch the awkward exchange.
Baffled, Art was at a loss for words, unsure how to move past the uncomfortable irony of the situation.
“You were there… that morning.”
Art took a deep breath. “You’re right, it was I who came to retrieve the key on that awful morning. But now I’m here to bring good news. Would you like to listen?”
It may have been the shock of the unexpected reunion that piqued the interest of the group, or maybe it was the intrigue of the uncomfortable atmosphere—but whatever it was, the men leaned in to hear what Art had to say.
“40 years ago, God changed my life,” Art began. “Drugs, crime, and alcohol were my escape.” It was as if all seven men were hanging on to every sentence of his testimony. As Art neared the end of his faith story, he felt prompted to invite the men to join the family of Christ.
“This God—the God who redeemed my sinful life—also longs to redeem yours. I now have an unexplainable peace I had never known before. Is this something you want?”
Six of the seven men nodded their heads.
And by God’s providential power, one of the men who accepted Christ that day was the same man who had broken into Michael’s home weeks prior. That man was the first to embrace his new friend with full confidence that he wanted Jesus to mend his broken life.
Never doubt the Lord’s power to intervene when you allow yourself to be used for Kingdom purposes. God will move in surprising ways, constantly making bad situations work for His good. In periods when He may seem distant, trust the Lord’s mighty hand is always at work.