David Hamm sadly reflects, “The invention of the TV dinner tray for eating in front of the television instead of at the dinner table began a downfall for my family.”
When David was 12, he stopped attending Sunday school, church, and vacation Bible school, which he had previously loved.
“My dad worked 36 years for the post office and retired as postmaster. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and my brother, a year older, was already getting into alcohol and drugs,” he recalls. “My younger sister and I would soon follow.”
David was stealing beer at age 13 and consuming a six-pack every evening. Bragging about it at school was a bad idea, and the police arrested him on a misdemeanor charge of theft. David didn’t get the message and was soon smoking marijuana and moving into more serious drug use.
“If I could get high on it, I was taking it or smoking it,” he remembers.
One step ahead of the law after a botched armed robbery, David thought he could straighten himself out in the military, so he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.
But nothing went as David planned. He became a serious alcoholic and continued his use of drugs. The military, however, never caught on to his substance abuse, and he completed his four-year hitch with an honorable discharge and a Good Conduct Medal.
Two years later, the roof caved in when David’s brother, his role model, committed suicide. Unable to deal with his brother’s death, David launched himself into even deeper use of drugs, living in a fog for months.
Finding Christ Through Meadowlark
Everything would change for David on Christmas Eve, 1984. By chance, he tuned his TV to a religious channel hosted by Harlem Globetrotter basketball star Meadowlark Lemon.
David notes, “On that program, I saw such joy on everyone’s face. I called in and accepted Jesus over the phone while talking with a prayer partner.”
David’s life began to change through the power of Jesus Christ. Gone were the drugs and alcohol. David returned to church and went “full-speed ahead” with Jesus. He started a Bible fellowship in his home. Next, he began street witnessing and ministry to prisoners. He became a missionary, traveling through the United States, Mexico, and Chile.
“We did child evangelism, dramas, street ministry, door-to-door evangelism, as well as visiting with prisoners,” he says.
After several years as a street missionary, David decided he needed more education. He began attending classes while holding down a job to pay his tuition and living costs.
The stress was too much, and David tried some meth to keep up the pace. But David’s drug addiction had been one step behind him, and now it came roaring back. Soon, he was shooting heroin.
Still, David stuck to his classes and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems. That led to a job with a major company, and the money rolled in. But so did the cops, eventually, nabbing David on possession of speed. He was sentenced to five years of supervised probation.
While on probation, David gained a master’s degree in information systems management. But then he violated his probation and was sentenced to two years of prison time.
For the first time in his life, David found himself behind some serious prison bars, at the Estes Unit in Venus, Texas.
A Second Chance
David had finally hit rock bottom, going from underage drinking to serving prison time.
But God hadn’t given up on him.
David enrolled in the faith based unit at Estes. There, he was surrounded by eager, enthusiastic inmates living out Christian lives behind bars while they prepared themselves for a productive future back in society.
“I was into Christ 24/7,” says David. “I attended church services, Bible studies, classes, and seminars offered by various ministries.”
Paroled in 2011, David began an outside mentoring relationship with Dave Baer, Prison Fellowship’s Dallas director. David now has a job and works with several prison ministries in Texas, including Prison Fellowship.
“I am nine years clean and sober,” he says. “I can attribute it to attending church, Bible study, and most definitely to accountability and mentorship … I am also giving back through my work in prison ministry … God is what my life is all about today. I am so thankful.”
Edited by Rebekah L. Stratton