God Always Makes a Way
The Story of Nate Carrera
Fatherless children make up a lot of the prison population. I know because I was one of them. I take full responsibility for my choices in life, but I must admit that my childhood was a crucial factor in why my life turned out the way it did.
Growing up without a dad was a recipe for dysfunction and disaster in my young heart and mind. I never knew my father, and since no man ever stepped up to fill that role, my childhood was void of any positive male role models.
My mom did her best to raise my brother and me, but then she got sick. Incapacitated by the treatments, she could not work or care for her family. Conditions were terrible in our home. There were no rules or boundaries, and we had complete freedom to run the streets.
Drugs owned me right off the bat. My life became one long blur of chemicals and crime, and I began racking up felonies left and right. My foolish ways led me to reap a fool’s reward (Galatians 6:7). I would face many consequences.
Life got crazy, and I longed to be free of the chaos. There had to be more to life than what I was experiencing. Part of me wanted to be the person God had created me to be. But how? All I knew to do was pray. I was twenty-nine years old when I cried out to God and said, “Lord, forcefully put me in Your will.” It didn’t take Him long to answer.
A couple of days later, I was taken by force back to the county jail. The baffling thing was that I was innocent of the arresting charges. That was a first! And then, my wife left me after the pastor who married us advised her to divorce me.
I was confused and deeply offended by the pastor’s advice. I had expected him to encourage her to stand by her commitment as my wife. Anger ate at me for a long time until I came to the end of myself.
In that place of complete brokenness, I finally recognized my need for God. I had nothing left when God knocked on the door of my heart. You can believe I was ready to open it and receive everything He had to offer.
My brother and I had been taken to jail together but were housed in separate units. We hatched a plan to meet up one day at the church service. I just wanted to spend some time with my brother, but God had other plans.
There was something very different about that service. The message was on the person and power of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit uniquely touched me. I didn’t go forward to the altar that day, but I did place my faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16).
Some people tell of miraculous encounters with God, and their stories are so powerful, they can make other people question their own salvation experience. My story isn’t dramatic, but I know a miracle occurred in my heart.
God poured out His grace on me that day. Me—a sinner! His forgiveness washed away the shame, guilt, and condemnation I carried. Suddenly, I had a new sense of purpose, drive, and peace. I was a lost son who had found his way back to the loving Father he had always wanted but had never known existed. And God welcomed me home with open arms.
From that day forward, I began to walk in freedom from addiction. I left behind the destructive path I had known since childhood. My entire life changed when I placed my faith in Christ. That, to me, is the greatest miracle of all.
While I had genuinely surrendered my life to God, I still owed a debt to society. I remained incarcerated with the Florida Department of Corrections for four more years. Instead of letting the time do me, however, I decided that for this go-around, I would make good use of it. I committed myself to becoming the man God had designed me to be.
I learned all I could about Jesus, and I took every class the DOC offered to better myself. One day, my bunkmate told me about a former inmate named Kory Gordon, who had been featured in Victorious Living magazine.
I read his testimony, and in my heart, I knew that I would be doing ministry alongside him one day. I began writing ideas and goals in my journal, but I had no idea how quickly some of them would become a reality.
I attended the weekly chapel service in my unit for the next two years. One day, prison ministry volunteers told us their church had just hired a new pastor who had been an inmate at Franklin Correctional. I immediately knew they were talking about Kory and felt led to reach out to him.
With favor from the Lord, I obtained the address of the church where he was pastoring. I contacted him, and he quickly responded. There was an instant godly connection, and we forged a friendship. My “knowing” that we were going to be working together intensified.
I had spent two years before I met Kory preparing myself for release from prison. When I finished my sentence, I went to a transitional program in Panama City, FL. I refused to return home to Tampa Bay. There was too much old temptation there.
I was determined to stay on the path God had for me to follow and made choices accordingly. The stakes were high—I had a young son who desperately needed me, and I longed to get custody of him and get him out of the foster care system. I wanted to be a godly father to him, something I had never had myself.
The obstacles to parenthood seemed impossible. I was a four-time return offender to the DOC. My criminal history could fill an entire book. I was single and broke with no transportation or home. I had never been a parent before, and nothing showed that I could be one. I was up against a stacked deck. I am grateful that no deck is too stacked for God.
The courts would not even consider reunifying my son and me until I completed a list of classes and obtained specific certificates. I was also required to take random drug screens.
Considering my circumstances, these were not easy or cheap tasks. I had only a bike for transportation and had to ride far distances to complete those requirements. By the grace of God, I fulfilled every one of the court’s demands. Now, it was in His hands, and I prayerfully awaited the court’s decision.
Around this time, Kory and his wife, Kasey, had me over for the weekend. Not long after, I decided to step out in faith and move closer to them. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to be a part of their lives and ministry.
The move was a tough decision. If things went wrong, the courts could deem me an unstable father. With that, they could refuse to return my son to me. As difficult and risky as this decision was, I felt God’s peace about it, and at their invitation, I made the move to the Gordons’ couch.
My faith was stretched and tested, but God’s hand was always in my situation. Not one detail escaped His notice. His goodness went before me and made a way.
The Lord began opening doors for me. In no time flat, I had my own place to live. The job and transportation I needed came quickly too. God put amazing people in my life who embraced me in genuine love.
I joined a church and began serving in the food ministry. Even my employers turned out to be a blessing in my life. We are all like family. The grace of God met every obstacle I encountered.
When I was in prison, I put so much thought into how I would get back on my feet. I knew I’d be starting over with nothing, and my list of needs was overwhelming. But there was never a reason to worry or stress. God is a God of providence. He supplied everything, just as He said He would (Philippians 4:19).
After months of earnest prayer, jumping through hoops, multiple home checks, and regular drug screens, I was finally awarded custody of my son. We were reunified a year ago. He is excelling in school and seems to be happy. We have formed a solid bond while navigating through this transition together.
He doesn’t know it, but we are growing up together. I am learning this fatherhood stuff one day at a time. It’s not always easy, but I know being a father is what God has called me to do.
God has carried me through many difficulties, and He has never failed me. When the going gets tough, I remind myself of His faithfulness and continue to lean on Him. He truly is a miracle worker. I regret not giving my life to Him much sooner.
I hope my story will convince you of the goodness of God. He is and will always be a good Father to anyone who desires a relationship with Him (Matthew 7:11).
Don’t wait to accept His love. Come to know the Lord today; He will never fail you. As His child, you’ll find the acceptance and love you’ve always desired.
NATE CARRERA was once owned by drugs and crime, but he has been set free by Christ. As the Director of Development for Damascus Road, he uses his testimony and passion for Jesus to bring hope to the incarcerated.