Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (NLT). I discovered this promise when I was in the county jail. People often visited us inmates to share how Christ had transformed their lives. I listened quietly, tucking away their stories in my heart. Through them, God was sending me nuggets of hope that my life could be different too.

One Thursday night, a man called Elder John shared enthusiastically about the Lord and His transforming power. He told us that as we grow in a relationship with Jesus, people would begin to see us in a new light. God’s light.

The idea of an incredible transformation caught my attention. “Wow,” I thought. “I could be a new person and have a better life!” I desperately wanted to be a different man than the one sitting in that jail cell. I had made many wrong choices along my road of destruction.

As a preteen, I and two of my siblings were sent to live with a family member while our parents and older brother served our country abroad. While there, I was physically and emotionally abused.

I told my parents about the abuse, but then the accused family member gave their spin on the story and painted me as a rebellious teen. In the end, my living arrangements stayed the same.

It seemed that my entire family was against me. I felt betrayed and abandoned, and I grew depressed and angry. I decided it was time to care for myself. I reasoned that, if any change was going to happen, I’d have to do it for myself. So I took to the streets and vowed never to look back.

I surrounded myself with people I thought would understand how I felt and who’d have my back. The guys on the streets quickly became my heroes. To my young, deceived eyes, they were turning things around for themselves. Of course, I didn’t consider their methods of robbing and killing. All that mattered was that I had found a new family that accepted me.

Being accepted and feeling needed were big issues for me. I needed to have a sense of belonging. On the streets, I felt needed. The guys offered me jobs—although illegal—that made me feel important. I didn’t have many friends, so I did anything they asked to keep the ones I thought I had.

When I was 16, my parents intervened and sent me to Job Corps, but when I got out, I was sent back to the same family member’s home. The abuse continued. I stayed there a year before I returned to the streets. This time, I started using drugs.

I set out down that road of destruction, mindlessly committing crimes all for the sake of acceptance. I came perilously close to death several times. Only the hand of God kept me alive. By the time I was 20, I had over 35 misdemeanors. My life was completely out of control.

So many people were after me that I decided to go live with my brother at Fort Rucker army base in Alabama. While there, I met a young lady. We spent a lot of time together in Panama City, Florida, visiting her cousin who lived near the beach. Through him, I’d get drugs for personal use. One day he said, “Hey, man, you want to get some weed and make some money?” It seemed like a good deal, so I began trafficking drugs for him over state lines.

It wasn’t long before I was caught transporting 140 kilos of cocaine from Florida into Alabama, a federal offense carrying a 100-year sentence. I was arrested and put in jail.

And that was my situation when I met Elder John.

My sin of pride and rebellion had led me to what seemed a final destination of hopelessness. But in that dead-end situation, God finally got my attention. He used Elder John to show me that there was hope for a better life in Jesus Christ.

I took a life-changing step of faith toward Jesus and surrendered my life to Him. I asked Him to forgive me of my sin and to make me a new man, like Elder John said He could.

When the time for my sentencing came, I didn’t know a lot about Jesus, but I had faith, and the Bible says that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). I trusted that my life was in God’s hands and that He would open the judge’s eyes to see the new man I was in Christ and judge me accordingly.

My faith remained, even after I heard the judge announce that he was giving me 99 years for my crime. Something rose up in me, and I replied, “I cannot accept that sentence, Your Honor. It isn’t what I prayed for.” In the depths of my heart, I knew that God had a different plan.

Stunned, the judge called me, my lawyer, and the prosecutor into his chambers. There, he asked me questions to ascertain my cognitive state and asked about my comment. I told him that I felt God had a plan for my life, and it didn’t include 99 years in prison.

We went back out in the courtroom and the scene repeated itself. Once again, I refused to accept the charge of 99 years. The prosecutor went nuts and accused me of making a joke of the judicial system. But then something amazing happened.

The judge started tapping himself on the head and said, “I don’t know what is going on with me, but I am going to step away from the federal mandate and show you favor. Mr. Daymon, you are hereby sentenced to 10 years mandatory in federal prison.” The prosecutor strenuously objected, to no avail.

I decided right then that my time behind bars would be well served and I would live the rest of my life honoring God for His kindness toward me. Only He could have brought this about.

For the next 10 years behind bars, I studied the Word of God. I was determined to lay a foundation on which I could build a new life and equip myself to share the Word of God effectively.

Prison came with many challenges, especially during the first eight months when I was confined in a state prison until a bed became available at Coleman Federal. In that violent environment, I quickly found that even the most committed Christian could make fear-based decisions. I was no exception. Regretfully, I took my eyes off the bigness of God and His ability to deliver me from certain situations. I focused instead on the threats of man. As a result, I did things to ensure my safety that I wouldn’t have normally done.

I reasoned that God knew my heart. Surely, He could see that I didn’t have a choice but to do those things to survive. Besides, I’d be out in ten years. I reminded God these weren’t forever choices.

But God wasn’t buying what I was selling, and His Holy Spirit started dealing with me, reminding me that my mindset was not based on God’s truth.

No matter the cost, I needed to choose God’s way. First Corinthians 10:13 promises: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I claimed this scripture, and true to His Word, God always provided a way out when I committed myself to follow and trust Him.

Satan used fear, threats, manipulation, and control to try to make me doubt God’s faithfulness. He  wanted me to look at the situations and take my eyes off the Lord. It took moment-by-moment determination to stay focused on God, His truth, and His promises so I would not succumb to Satan’s lies, but God always honored my decisions to follow Him.

I got out of prison in 1997. Within a year, I was back, but not for the reason you might expect. This time, I went in as a volunteer to share the truth and love of Jesus Christ. Like Elder John, I wanted those searching for a new life and a better way to know Jesus, the only One who could transform their lives.

Since then, I’ve continued sharing this good news behind bars. It hasn’t always been easy. Like anyone, I still face challenges. Satan continually tries through painful events to make me question God’s faithfulness. Thankfully, I’ve chosen to submit to God’s truth and resist the enemy’s lies, and I continue to win those battles (James 4:7).

Three years ago, I lost my son to gun violence. It broke my heart, but God gave me the strength to go behind bars the very next day to share with men that God is good, no matter how difficult life is. When I told them that I’d asked the Lord to let me be the one who leads the man who killed my son to Jesus, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. But my heart isn’t for this man to rot in prison or to die himself; it is for him to find the better way—God’s way—like I have. Only God can turn this man’s life around and make it fruitful.

God is the only One who can turn your life around and make it fruitful too. Please, take that first step of faith and surrender to Him. He’ll accept you just as you are, and He’ll transform you into a new creation. I’m living proof that the Lord can transform any life.