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Waking Up

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For some people, waking up is simply something they do every morning. I want to share with you what “waking up” means to me.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area without the help of a mother and father—just my sister and brother. We were very poor, and we struggled to survive. With no spiritual guidance, we ran wild and got into the wrong crowd, which led to making many wrong decisions. I became a thief, a drug dealer, and a drug user.

I now realize that God had his hand on me. As I look back on those traumatic years, I see signs that God was with me and that his arms were open wide.

For example, I once noticed a guy passing out gospel tracts on the street. Another time I saw people entering a church on Sunday. Though I had no clue what they would be doing in the church (my spiritual eyes were closed), I knew there was a God.

I continued living the only life I knew until I was placed in detention, then in foster homes, and finally in a state prison. Under the “three-strike law” I am serving a 36-year-to-life sentence. I am 34 years old and without hope of living life outside prison walls.

Life in prison is hard, with much fighting for territory and status. Life-threatening dangers lurk everywhere. One day my cellmate, who has a praying family, said to me, “A.K., God is watching over us. Just think about the times we have not been hurt when there was no way we could get out of a terrible situation.” I could not get his comment out of my mind.

About this time I received a letter from Alice Koolstra, a 92-year-old member of San Jose (Calif.) Christian Reformed Church, inviting me to enroll in Crossroad Ministry, a Bible-study program. I leaped at the opportunity.

I will forever be grateful to Alice for reaching out to me.

I will forever be grateful to Alice for reaching out to me. The study and her letters have brought me to a wonderful relationship with God and with her.

One day, while reading a lesson, I experienced a feeling of warmth from my head to the tips of my toes. It brought me to my knees, and I had tears running down my face. I felt at peace with the Lord and those around me. I now realize that God was showing his approval of me, giving me assurance that I belong to him.

Later, in another lesson, I learned the need to confess my sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. I did this and now know that I am a member of God’s family. I believe this is what woke me up! I now see all the blessings God provides me despite my past.

Prison life continues to be grim. When I became a Christian and began attending the church service and reading and studying my Bible, I experienced some bad remarks, but I figured out that God will take care of me.

It’s not always easy following Jesus because of all the spiritual warfare we go through when we walk with Christ, but I now have an inner peace and a purpose for living. I have a deep desire to share the message of salvation with other prisoners and have been making progress with getting others to enroll in the Crossroad Bible study.

Every morning I start my day off right. I read the Word so I can build on my personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that when we choose to live as Christ’s disciples, we find life as God meant it to be. When we stop trying to seek our way and instead seek God’s way, he gives us what we wanted all along—he wakes us up!

Again, my thanks to Alice and the CRC for sponsoring the Crossroad ministry. It has been a lifesaver for me!

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