Waking Up

The Other 6
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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!

About the Author

Anthony Kozlowski is a prisoner at Susanville (Calif.) State Prison.

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Comments

I am the daughter of Alice Koolstra. The article written by A.K. was so timely...published on December 2, 2011. Mom Alice went to her heavenly home on the evening of December 3, 2011. Mom did not know about the article. Mom was a Crossroads volunteer...she loved doing the lessons each week. Mom often shared with me about the letters she exchanged with A.K. Mom had received her last letter while she was in a rehab center recovering from a stroke...she reminded me that she needed to write A.K. When Mom had recovered enough to move to a care home, I brought her some writing supplies so she could begin her letter writing again. One of the first ones she wrote was to A.K. The day after Thanksgiving Mom was diagnosed with late stage congestive heart failure.
Mom Alice requested that she live out her last days in her own home. All of her family was able to spend time with her....We are all thankful for the wonderful faithful mother we had....she truly was a servant of the Lord.

Dear Anthony,
Thank you for writing the letter about your life and how my mother, Alice Koolstra, helped you to come to know our dear Lord and Savior. She was a very loving Christian woman and she talked about you to her children. She always was so hopeful that others would come to know Him and took many opportunites to touch others for Christ. Our last days with her were very memorable and she was so ready to go home to Jesus. I pray that you can continue to grow in faith and hope in the days and years ahead.
Gert Swiers

Dear Anthony,

Thank you for "waking me up" with your article. It was a powerful reminder of how God works in places and people that I tend to forget. Praise the Lord for people like you and Alice who open our eyes to the movement of the Spirit! Although you write about your spiritual growth in the article, know that your article helped me grow a little too when I read it and many others as well.

I hope that you are able to receive the messages on this board somehow or that someone can send them to you so you know how God has worked through you.

What a joy to read the article, "Waking Up" and to see again how God works in people's lives.
We pray for all the "Anthonys" out there that they too will come to hear the message of salvation.
Prison life is not easy, but having Jesus with you makes all the difference. God bless!

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