Few of us will ever know what it’s like to spend fifteen years in prison. Melissa does, however, and here’s her story of redemption.    mls
My name is Melissa, and I am originally from Austin Texas.

I am the youngest of four children.  I grew up in a great home with great parents, but I rebelled at an early age. My rebellion resulted from sexual abuse I experienced from a sixth-grade teacher. I was never the same after that.

By the age of 21 I had three children, and my husband was convicted of drug trafficking. He recevied a life sentence leaving me and the kids alone. I had do something, so I also started trafficking drugs with a cartel in Texas. I have been shot in the head and been stabbed yet continued to deal drugs.

My life of crime to a screeching halt one day as I passed through Tennessee. I was running drugs. I was arrested, tried, convicted, and did years in the federal and state penitentiary systems.

While incarcerated, I went through physical abuse so severe that the correctional officers were themselves sent to jail. That facility was closed because of the widespread abuse doing on there. I became an angry person. I did not want what happened to control me, yet it did. I just could not forgive the men who abused me.

I enrolled in college during my incarceration. I attended Lipscomb University and received  degrees in computer science and theology. I loved the Lord with everything…or so I thought.

Once I was released on August 23rd, 2019 I fell back into various sins of the flesh. I turned away from GOD.

One day, due to fault not my own, I had to turn myself back in due to an error in the correctional system’s records. I willingly handed my ID over knowing I was going back but didn’t know why. I guessed GOD sat me back down because I was again living in the flesh.  Although the Tennessee Department of Corrections eventually discovered the error, I spent several months in the Rutherford County Correctional Work waiting.  While there, I met a representative from “New Beginning Alliance.” I attended her life skills class and bible studies. That experience got me headed in the right direction again.

My journey back into society has been rough. After spending so many years behind the walls I became “institutionalized.”  This means I had developed a “prison mentality.”  For example, I still jump when I hear keys rattle. I need to sleep in a closed room in order to fall asleep. After sleeping on a thin mat for years in prison, I had to sleep on the floor for a while after I got out. Thick mattresses felt too soft. I still have anxiety being out in large groups.  I also have trouble trusting anyone.

I felt so alone, but then I realized that God never left me; I left him! I knew deep down I needed God! I couldn’t do it on my own.

Through a connection between New Beginning Alliance and The Timothy Network, I met Mike Stroud about two months ago. Mike asked if I’d be interested in discipleship meetings. I knew this is what I needed. So, every Thursday night, I’ve attended a Bible study lead by Karen Stroud and Tracey Patterson.  At 8:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings, I’ve also been attending Timothy Network’s “Genesis Fellowship,” an outreach to men and women coming out of addiction and incarceration.  It’s a place where we’re able to share freely about who we are without fear of being “judged.”

These studies have given me a chance to concentrate on my relationship with Christ. Being discipled also led to my recent decision to make a firm commitment to God. I knew that I needed to remove the hate and unforgiveness I still harbored.

I continued to pray. Then one day I just knew it was time so I asked if I could be baptized.  I met with Mike to further study baptism and was baptized later that day.

I feel like this is when I let God know that I am making a full commitment to Him. In a way, it’s like taking vows to love honor cherish and obey him; to know that Jesus died for my sins and through His blood I am saved to live life in his light.

I still struggle daily to stand steady on my feet, yet his grace always is there when I sway.  I know life won’t always be easy as a child of God, but what I do know is he will carry me through those times!

Love, Melissa C.

P.S. I hope you’ll read the short poem below. I recently wrote it to show my love for Jesus.

For me,
You paid for my sins at a
hefty price.
Oh, you were bound to that cross, for me
Lord Savior Jesus Christ.
Thorns crown your head,
great drops of blood began to drip.
For me, you took every lashing from the whips.
Is it possible this cup be taken from Me, 
you cried.
But then said if it was your fathers will
You would abide.
7-inch nails were maliciously driven into your Hands.
You suffered so much,
this is hard for me to understand.
For me you gave the ultimate sacrifice
“Your Death”
So, I can be washed of my sin and serve you My Lord,
till my last breath