Friday, October 28, 2016

A Little Hope Goes a Long Way in Prison

          (This is the continuation of Brian’s story. To start reading from the beginning,  click here.)

         After two years in prison, he was sent to a seven-month Federal Boot Camp Program. It was designed to break 18-year-old out of control punks. Brian was 39 years old. It was every bit as grueling physically and mentally as the 10-week military boot camps, only it lasted twice as long. But God was with Brian, and gave him strength and stamina to endure everything they put him through.

         When he completed the boot camp program, he was released to a halfway house in southern New Mexico. Finally, he made it back to Albuquerque, where his wife and daughter were waiting for him. They faithfully attended the church where they were baptized. They grew in their love for the Lord and their knowledge of the Bible.

         Singing praise songs to God had always been a meaningful part of Brian’s Christian walk. He began volunteering with the worship team on Sunday mornings. The church offered him a job doing janitorial and maintenance work. He worked in that position for seven years, and continued to volunteer singing with the worship band.

         Everyone who met Brian, could tell there was something special about him. He had a humbleness and peace that showed he walked closely with the Lord. He was an encourager and genuinely cared about people. When he sang worship songs you could see his deep love for the Lord. He is a picture of Luke 7:47, where Jesus said the sinful woman loved much, because she had been forgiven much.

         After seven years working at the church, one of the Pastors asked Brian if he would put together a band for the new mid-week service they would be starting called Living Free. It would be geared toward people with hurts, hang-ups and habits who wanted to break free and live their life for the Lord. Brian jumped at the opportunity. He put together a band, with and for people who worshiped the Lord desperately and authentically. This was real worship with people who held nothing back, but were grateful to be forgiven and praised God for giving them a second chance and a new life in Christ. Brian loved leading worship and being part of the praise team.

Brian singing.

         As the church grew, they opened a campus in Brian’s old neighborhood, where he used to deal drugs years ago. They asked him if he would lead worship for that campus on Sunday mornings, as well as continuing to lead worship on Wednesday nights at Living Free. As time when on, it became clear to everyone, that Brian was called by God to shepherd and Pastor the people in his old neighborhood. He is now the Campus Pastor of the Sagebrush Highland Church.

         It was hard for him to give up leading worship because praising the Lord through music had always been deeply meaningful to him. God brought him full circle. In a neighborhood that he used to destroy with drugs, he now brings hope and healing through Jesus. It has been a wild ride for him. God doesn’t waste any of our experiences and He has a plan for redeeming everyone. Brian sees the irony in the fact that he can stand outside the church and see the patch of land where he used to deal drugs.

         It can be overwhelming and depressing at times. This neighborhood has the highest percentage of people being released from jail. Drugs and crime are prevalent. People are desperate, sometimes just looking for their next meal for themselves or their children. The church is there to help, both practically and spiritually. They have a food pantry with free clothes, household items and food for families in need. A medical team provides free medical and dental care. There are vans to pick people up who don’t have transportation to the church. They started a Living Free ministry at that location to bring help and healing from addictions and other challenges.

         Brian says people ring the doorbell to his office all day long. They come in one by one and, as Brian shares with them, they give their life to the Lord. It amazes him. Life has been hard, but God has been good. Brian and his wife have been together for 29 years, which is unheard of with most addictions and incarcerations.

         A Bible verse that is meaningful to him is Psalm 139:9-10:

“If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest ocean,
even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”

Click here to listen to Brian sing Worn, by Tenth Avenue North.

Has God redeemed your life from where you used to be?
What has been the biggest change He has made in your life?

This is part of a series called 31 Days of Change. To read others in this series, click the links below. 
Click here to read about Hearing God.

Day 1:   He Did What?!
Day 9:   Depression to Joy
Day 12:  Holding His Hand
Day 13:  Changed
Day 17:  Never the Same
Day 18:  The C Word
Day 19:  Punk to Pastor
Day 23:
Day 24:  All Fired Up
Day 28:  A Little Hope Goes a Long Way in Prison
Day 30:
Day 31:


  1. Robyn, You are such an amazing writer. Thank you for telling Brian's story so eloquently. I met him a few times at Riverside when we first moved here when he was still a janitor. I remember vividly his passionate love and humbleness that was so evident just visiting with him. I was so sorry to hear of his passing. Praying for his family and church family.

    1. Thanks Kristy! We just attended Brian's memorial service, he was such an amazing man. His love for Jesus is inspirational.