Helping and Enriching Lives Through Prison Ministry

phone icon904.631.0351



It is easy in this work to become callous


Dear Supporters, Brethren and Friends,

It is easy in this work to become callous to the stories of many of these men. So much of the time I spend in teaching is reminding them that they must be responsible for their lives now and can no longer consider themselves victims. They can’t continue to blame current behavior on events of the past.

However, some men’s stories are so full of pain and heartache that they stand out. Pain that has been inflicted on them and pain they have caused others. This month I want to share one such story with you. I met this man a couple of years ago at Lawtey. He had already become a Christian and was trying to learn and grow. He had a history of drug and alcohol addiction and had been involved in several 12 Step Programs. In one such program he was encouraged to write a synopsis of his life by age. He asked me to read it to get to know him better. He didn’t want to hide anything from his past from me.

Frankly, I was floored when I read it, and more impressed than ever with the progress he had made. With his permission, I want to share the story of his life with you in his own words, but edited by me. It is a little long, but I think you will see why. I have withheld his name because of the personal nature of the material.

Present – I am now Thirty Four years old, a child of God and sharing his love with whoever will listen. I have been incarcerated at Lawtey Correctional for the last three and a half years. Although I am locked up, I feel freer than I have ever been. I wrote these things because a trusted friend suggested it. He said that dealing with these issues will get me a step closer to living for God and living sober. For me they both go hand in hand. I want them both as bad as I want air. The bitterness and hate that I have harbored in my heart no matter how I tried to justify it in the past has eaten me alive and caused me to hurt others, even ones I said I loved. I will be released in a little over a hundred days and I know that I have to be real careful or I will return to my sins of the past, but for the first time I want to change as much as everyone else wants me to. I know I have to remain humble. Here is my story…

Conception – I don’t think I was planned. I was told I was conceived in a field while my Dad was on the run after escaping from jail. There were plenty of drugs and alcohol involved.

Pre-Birth – Mom was using drugs and alcohol when she discovered she was pregnant. She was also working as a stripper. I was told my Dad and his family wanted my Mom to have an abortion. The first time she went to the doctor for the abortion she was high and the doctor refused. She tried again later, but was refused again because she was too far along. When my Mom would tell the story I would brush it off, but I bottled up the resentment it caused. At some point during the pregnancy my parents decided to get married, but my Dad never made it to the ceremony. He was driving drunk on his way to the wedding and was chased by the police after refusing to pull over. He hit a palm tree with his motorcycle doing 80. It took him some years to get over that. He had to relearn to walk and talk.

Birth – Mom said she was tripping on acid during my birth, but I came out healthy.

Birth to Three – I was told I was passed around the family a lot due to my Mom’s addictions and my Dad’s wreck. I was told I was an angry baby. I almost died in a fire at my Dad’s house. He was warming up a bottle for me when he fell asleep because he was drunk. The whole house burned down. My Mom and Dad stopped seeing each other during these years.

Three to Five – I remember finding my Mom in the bathroom at my Aunt’s with vomit and blood all over her. At some point, I got to see my Dad for a weekend. He and my Uncle mostly got drunk. I remember Dad stepping on a kitten and crushing its skull. I snuck out the next morning while they were passed out drunk and went to a 7-11. I was caught stealing candy. The police were called and I was taken back to my Dad’s.

Five to Eight – On my fifth birthday my Grandma and Aunt threw a party for me at McDonalds. The thing that sticks out is that my Mom didn’t make it. She passed out drunk while driving to the party and ran into a ditch. We had to stop the party and go to the hospital. My Mom had this boyfriend who whipped me with a belt one day. He beat me so hard it hurt to sit down. He used to flip through porn magazines with me, but never touched me sexually. There would be times I would have rage episodes. I got suspended from school for choking a girl who made fun of me. I smoked for the first time when I picked up a cigarette that someone threw down. I stole $20 from my Grandma and tried to give some of it away at school. They called and told my Grandma. I also started having crazy infatuation with girls during this time.

Eight to Ten – I stayed with my Grandma off and on while my mother was in a half way house. My Mom met a guy and they decided to marry. They decided to celebrate and my Mom started drinking again. I was angry that she started drinking and left for a while.

When I came back she was flipping out. She grabbed me by the throat and slammed me into the wall. She was pulled off of me by her boyfriend, but she then grabbed a knife and stabbed him in the hand. The two of us finally got control of her and tied her to her bed to let her calm down. It was a crazy sight. My Uncle took some interest in me. He took me to my first baseball game. He smoked a lot of pot, but was good to me. He would give me money to play at the arcade. I hadn’t seen my Dad for a while. He showed up one night near Christmas and brought me a video game I really wanted. I think he walked miles to bring me that game. I went to summer camp once in Georgia while staying with my other Grandma. I got to play with other kids.

Ten to Thirteen – Moms’ husband died in a fishing accident one weekend. I was mean to him even though he treated me pretty good. Mom would blame me for his death when she got drunk. She said I gave him a heart attack because of the way I acted. It didn’t really bother me because I just thought about how much I hated her and how I wanted his remote control car. I stayed with my Grandma until my Mom got an apartment. She started drinking again and getting high. She would often bring guys back home with her from the bars. I started being really bad in school. I started hanging out with older people. I got high and drunk for the first time. I stole my Mom’s car a couple of times and started stealing cigarettes and weed. She called the cops and I got arrested. I was sent to Juvenile Detention for the first time. I started running away from home or any place they would put me. I started calling 900 lines and smoking a lot of weed. I didn’t really drink that much early on because I didn’t want to be like my Mom and Dad. Mom tried to kill herself again. I woke up one morning and heard the car running inside the garage. She had a hose running from the exhaust to inside the car. I opened the door and started pulling her out. She started crying and slapping me. She said “Let me die I hate you. It is your fault.” I felt like I had a hate disease. A few weeks later her boyfriend tried the same thing.

Thirteen to Fifteen – I started having sex with girls. All of them were older. I got very involved with a married 24 year old with a kid. I had affairs with two other of my Mom’s friends who were both in their twenties. I caught my Mom sleeping with a man that had AIDS. I ended up taking her to the clinic to be tested. She never tested positive.

Fifteen to Eighteen – I moved to Georgia to live with my Grandma. My Dad had moved in with her. He stayed drunk most of the time. I didn’t take advantage of a fresh start in GA. My Grandma would get me a car and I would trash it. I stole from her, borrowed money and never paid it back, got high a lot and continued to sleep around and call 900 lines. I began selling dope and was arrested. Jail actually gave me a chance to reevaluate some things. I knew I was really messing things up, but I still didn’t change. After jail, I went back to selling dope. I got kicked out of school, but ended up getting my GED. I worked a few odd jobs, but kept doing crimes like robbing and stealing.

Eighteen to Twenty One – I ripped off too many people to remember them all – whatever it took to continue to party. My life was turning more and more violent. I came close to killing a guy when I broke into his house to get his drugs and money. I smoked crack for the first time. I was like a stain, my “friends,” family and even the thugs I ran with were scared of me. They knew I would do anything. My Uncle finally convinced me to go to rehab. It lasted for a few months then I was back getting high.

I broke into a pawn shop and was sent to prison boot camp for 90 days. I got kicked out of there for smoking and went to big boy prison. I got out, but nothing changed.

Twenty Two to Twenty Nine – I ended up back in prison for an assault charge for choking and almost killing a girlfriend. I was sent to prison from January 2000 to October of 2005. The next several years were filled with false attempts to change my life. I kept partying, selling drugs, sleeping around, etc. I went to several rehabs and at times things got better, but it never stuck with me. Finally, in 2008 I robbed a bank in Florida

and was on the run in Georgia. I went to my Dad’s place and ended up in a fight with him. His girl friend called the cops and turned me in. I was sentenced to six years.

Twenty Nine to Thirty Four – I went to Taylor Correctional when I first arrived in prison. I was soon transferred to Lawtey, but continued to gamble, smoke and get high occasionally. I put on a front to everyone in the dorm that I was ok, but inside as I lay on my bunk at night I would relive the times I got high on the street and the crimes I would commit. I was in prison thinking of things that would bring me back to prison. What David wrote in Psalm 36:1-4 was me except I didn’t flatter myself. I hated who I was.

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. 2For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.3The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good.4He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.

One night I went to an AA meeting and spoke up about my crazy thoughts. The volunteer suggested that I start praying to God. I dismissed his advice because I didn’t have faith in God. One night though I was so desperate that I cried out to God for mercy. I kept going to the AA meetings and kept praying. I started attending various services in the prison because I figured if God is real then I better search him out. I found a group that claimed they knew the real name of God, so I figured I better try them. After studying some I was taught I needed to be baptized to be saved so I did. After a while though, I became unsettled with them because of their traditions. My behavior was improving, but I knew there had to be more to God than this. I was dedicated to reading my Bible and praying. One Sunday I visited the church of Christ service. I heard Daryl preach about the exodus of Israel from Egypt. He showed from the scriptures their desire to return to bondage even after being freed by God. It reminded me of all those nights fantasizing about my old life. I thought – that is me! I went to more of their services, but I had a real hard time with the singing. I didn’t get why they sang. I stopped going because they wouldn’t stop singing. I finally put in for a one on one session with Daryl. Through our time together he encouraged me to have the same obsession for God that I had for my past life. We studied about singing. He showed me from the scriptures why they sang and worshipped the way they did. He didn’t pressure me, but I knew I was left with two options – follow God’s word or follow what I want. My life has never been the same since. Through continued study with Daryl, John Witt and other volunteers from the church I have come to grow in my love for God. That same man who was skeptical of the Bible tells others of its harmony. That same man who couldn’t stand the singing has stood up and led the church here in songs of praise to God!

This brother will be coming to the transition house soon. I hope some of you will get to meet him and love him as I do. He serves God despite the hurts he suffered. He serves God despite the sins he has committed. He is cleansed by the blood of Christ! Amen

Daryl Townsend