I first met Damien King in prison. (See his story on page 26.) My church’s secretary had roped me into volunteering. I can’t say I was too excited about going into a prison, but I was willing to do it for her.
Damien was an inmate, assigned to assist new volunteers like me. We quickly developed a genuine friendship. Each week, I looked forward to seeing him and the other men who attended the class I taught. God filled my heart with love for these men. He filled their hearts with love for me too.
God had been faithful to me, and I had a story to prove it. But I had never before considered how that testimony could impact others.
I lost my first wife to a drunk driver in 1986. We’d been married 20 years. I was far from God at that time. I wasn’t going to church or seeking Him; I was just going through life, trying to keep our family together in my own strength. Her death was a major wakeup call for me. Being a single parent of teenage boys who’d just lost their mother wasn’t easy. We were all hurting.
In my loneliness, I remarried quickly. That relationship lasted nine months and brought pain to my boys. It would be many years and several other poor relational decisions before I’d finally realize I needed to find my security and support in Jesus Christ, not a woman. Once I began to rebuild my life on God’s love and sought His companionship above any other, He blessed me with a healthy, godly relationship. Donna and I have been married now for 14 years.
When I lost my first wife, I was very angry with both the driver and the justice system. Her killer got only 90 days behind bars due to the great lawyering skills of his attorney and his connections in high places. It wasn’t fair. I let that anger drive my emotions and actions for a long time. Only after Donna and I started dating did I choose to be thankful for God’s blessings and appreciate the time I’d had with my first wife. My grateful heart made way for God’s love to help me forgive the one responsible for my loss. And that forgiveness set me free to truly learn to live.
One day, after I shared how I’d forgiven my offender, an inmate approached me and asked, “Roger, how can you love someone like me? I’m in prison because I drove drunk and killed a lady.” He couldn’t understand how anyone, much less God, could forgive him for his actions. He was so steeped in guilt and pain. This opened the door for me to explain the unconditional love of God. I consider it a privilege to help men like him understand how valuable they are in God’s eyes.
I’m getting to be an old man, but with God’s help, I plan to keep going behind bars for a long time yet. I just can’t see settling for the rocking chair when there is so much adventure to be had with God.
Today, I have the privilege of spending time with Damien in free society. He’s like a son to me. In fact, he lives right in my backyard! I’m grateful to be a small part of his success story and am so proud of him. Every day, we marvel at the goodness of God.