– by Jeff Watts –
What a sense of gratitude I feel when I hear the name, Gideon. It causes me to reflect on my past which led up to being incarcerated for cocaine sales some l4 years ago. Although it almost scared me to death, I’ll forever be blessed with the memory of it.
I was born again at the age of 12, but I didn’t grow in God’s word. Instead I was lured into a life of drinking and drugs, a progressive trap with incarceration and threat of death at the end. After spending time in city jails for drunk driving and petty theft, I was sent to a county prison facility where I learned the meaning of fear.
I was held in a dorm with around 80 inmates where I was one of only 4 “whites”, the others being blacks and Mexicans. There I made the mistake of buying some “weed” (marijuana) with $10.00 of the $15.00 my mother had brought to me. Soon a gangster-looking inmate came over as if to befriend me and ended up stealing what I had left. I remember the feeling I had as I hung my head down and choked back the tears. The man in the next bunk told me that if I didn’t get it back I would soon begin losing everything else I had. After two tries, I was promised that if I didn’t stop, I would be hurt by that man or one of his many friends.
Several inmates advised me to report this to the officers in charge – which I did. They even moved me to another dorm, but the word got around that I was a “snitch” and might be killed. I’d never been so scared in my life.
In much fear, I concocted a story about a fake medical problem and was moved to a medical dorm, but the stories followed me – along with the fear. By the grace of God, the man in the next bunk was reading a little brown Bible, a Gideon New Testament. When he went to take a break, I asked to borrow it. When I started reading it, I became very interested. I remember the comfort and rest I found in the long-missed words. I continued to borrow that book often. When I told its owner of my escapade in the other dorm and how very fearful I was, he suggested I read Psalms 91. I will never forget the awesome power and truth in that Psalm. Reading it over and over, I walked with that Bible in my top pocket during the day and slept with it tucked in my pants at night. I stood on God’s Word and found refuge there, and I went to every Bible study they offered in that jail. Soon the other inmates were calling me “Preacher”.
After fifty six days in jail I got out, only to make another big mistake. My old playgrounds, playmates, and playthings lured me back into three more years of drinking and smoking. Although I hungered for God’s rest, I was unable to stop.
One night in desperation, I cried out to God to help me out of this way of life. The help didn’t come quickly and there was another arrest for drunk driving with thirty days in jail, and then God led me to a Twelve Step Program. Sixty days later, although still clean and sober, God knew that I wasn’t ready yet, and I was sent before the judge again for probation violation. What followed was a year in jail for the D.U.I., but thanks to God and the Gideon ministry I was able to study the Word day and night.
Now I fear no man, and on January 29, 2002, I celebrated my twelfth “clean” birthday. For twelve years I have been serving my Lord and ten of those years I have been raising my daughter. Today I’m blessed and am able to play my trumpet on a Praise and Worship team at Community Christian Center, and once a month we minister in music to inmates at Chino Prison.
I praise God for the Gideons. Thank you! You have truly made a difference in our lives.