A Convicted Felon Finds Jesus

by Bill Darnall

As a volunteer chaplain I have been in a dozen Texas prisons, and I have seen many things and have talked to every type of inmate you can imagine.

The stories of God's salvation are endless as are the many heartbreaking stories of inmate childhoods, and their lives inside and outside of the prison.

One of the many privileges I have as chaplain is to give inmates a chance to make a private phone call to their family - some occur upon the death of a family member, some are a simple "hello," and others, like the one I am about to describe, take place after decades of no contact.

Recently an inmate asked to make a call from my office. He was incarcerated for the murder of his daughter's husband -- his singular, yet tragic, offense. After the arrest, and for the entire length of his trial and incarceration, he never received a letter, a visit, or a phone call.

As you can imagine, the inmate assumed his daughter hated him and would never forgive him for what he had done. However, he was up for parole with the strong possibility of release, and he felt it was his very last chance to reach out.

It is reasonable to understand his extreme anxiety in regards to making this contact. The day of his arrest he had gone to visit his daughter. He knocked, she didn't answer, and because her door was unlocked, he walked inside to find her beaten beyond recognition. Unable to contain his anger, he killed her husband who was sitting on the couch. When the police arrived he went peacefully, admitting his crime.

Fast forward many, many years, and this inmate came to me to make the call. Lots of trepidation and lots of questions: Was this a valid phone number? Would his daughter answer? Would she want to talk with him? We did not know, but I asked for an outside line and made the call.

Miraculously, the daughter answered, I introduced myself and verified who she was, and then asked if she would like to speak to her father on the speaker phone. There was a pause and then she started crying. After a bit she said "Yes, I very much would like to talk with him".

In all of my life I have never heard a conversation so full of love, grace, and forgiveness. You see, over all of these years the inmate had found Jesus inside the prison, and his daughter had found Jesus on the outside. He described to her how God freed him from anger; she told her father how much she'd missed him, loved him, and forgave him.

In the end, she offered her home to her father should God grant his parole.

The beauty of God's work in peoples' lives is breathtaking. Never stop showing love, and never stop telling people how good God is -- no matter what they have done, God loves us all and is an all-powerful Redeemer. What a privilege it is to bear the name of the Lord and experience His power in seemingly impossible circumstances.