After spending most of his 51 years in prison, Richard Stewart wasn’t sure how to live life on the outside. He credits God and a few good men from a Montana church with helping him figure it out.
Stewart has lived the past nine years in Bozeman, Montana, where he attends Gallatin Gateway Community Christian Reformed Church and makes his living as a fine artist.
Stewart was first incarcerated at age 11, and by the time he was convicted of homicide in 1976 he had spent most of his time in and out of prison.
While awaiting sentencing, he prayed for the first time in his life. During the 29 years he served for his crime, he spent a lot of time reading the Bible and asking questions. He was also partnered with Layne Klompien, a member of Gallatin Gateway, though a program called T.E.A.M. Mentoring (Teach Encourage Assist and Model a Christ-centered Life).
“Layne gave me more spiritual insight and lessons in the light and practical application in how to use the Word and how to change my life” stated Stewart.
In 2002, Steward received parole. When he walked out of prison that day, there were five men ready to help him reenter society, including Klompien.
“I didn’t know how to rent an apartment, get my electricity turned on, none of that stuff. I can say that without Layne and a couple other people in the church I never would have made it,” said Stewart. “Since then Layne has not only mentored me for the last nine years, but we’re best of friends.”
Stewart also began painting while he was in prison and since his parole has focused his time on developing his gift and using it for God’s glory. His artwork has been on display in a few local galleries and he makes his living selling it.
He says he’ll paint anything that shows the beauty of God and what God has given us.
Adamant that it is only by God’s grace that he has recovered, Stewart said, “If you want to help change a man’s life, you have to help change his heart, and the only one that can do that is Christ Jesus.”