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Finding my voice through Christ

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“To the world, I’m a drug fiend with an incurable habit. To the world, I’m a felon. To the world, I am nothing. But through God, I am strong.” – Rachel

By Rachel – 

“You have the right to remain silent.”

This is perhaps the most recognized phrase in our criminal justice system. It comes from the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees “no person shall be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

“You have the right to remain silent.”

A policeman recited it to me as he arrested me. At that point, it was in my best interest to remain silent. I was charged with nine residential burglaries.

While incarcerated, I picked up a Bible for the first time and started to attend the Bible studies held in the prison. I prayed for the first time that it would be God’s will, not mine, and continued this prayer each day.

My court date arrived and my attorney came to me in tears. She said it was a miracle that the district attorney agreed to a one-year rehabilitation program. In the courtroom I again remained silent while the judge read to me all the rights I had lost along with the rules I had to follow for the next three years while on probation. The judge said I would be going to The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) for one year.

The district attorney interjected that the two charges to which I had pled guilty would each constitute a strike in the California penal system. One more charge and I would spend many years in a state prison. At the time, I was just happy to be going to a program instead of prison, and I was admitted to the ARC.

The first three months went well as I read my Bible, learned and grew stronger spiritually in my faith. Through Bible studies and Sunday services at the Pasadena Tabernacle Corps, I experienced hope. I began to relate my life to God’s word and fellowship.

The corps officers, Majors Darren and Mary Norton, showed me God’s forgiveness and grace, power and strength. It seemed that the stronger my faith grew, the more I was overwhelmed with guilt from my past. I started to feel that no matter how much progress I made, I would always be held back by two strikes and my past.

I have learned these thoughts are from the enemy of my soul. He knows that all he has are the thoughts that go through my mind, and he tries to play my past and all sinful things I’ve done like a broken record. But Acts 3:19 says: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…”

It is so important to keep your faith strong. If everyone could just understand how quickly your life can be taken over by drugs, they would change their actions. I am 22 years old and I have two strikes against me. To the world, I’m a drug fiend with an incurable habit. To the world, I’m a felon. To the world, I am nothing. But through God, I am strong. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds me: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.

Today, I do not have to remain silent, and God has put it on my heart to share my testimony with others.

God’s mercy and grace are the only reasons I am here today and not in a prison cell. It is so important to point people to God. I was never pointed to God; instead I was a slave to sin. I looked for things in this world to make me feel better. When anything bad happened, I sought street role models as my guide.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3 NLT).

My testimony has given me strength through God. It has opened my eyes and showed me I must share the news of Jesus Christ with others. He has saved me from wasting away my life for 14 years in prison, and he keeps me clean and sober every day.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you (2 Tim. 4:5).

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