He was the last man you would ever expect to turn around; Julio rode with a notorious South Texas motorcycle gang. He was their “enforcer,” feared by friends and enemies alike — until Prison Fellowship introduced him to Jesus.
Julio’s story spills out in bits and pieces. He is a soft-spoken man, a stark contrast to the angry young thug he is describing. He had it all, Julio says: a Lexus, a top-of-the-line Harley-Davidson, and a beautiful home in South Texas. But it came at a price. And the currency he paid with was crime.
“Ain’t nothing free. Everything comes with strings,” Julio explains.
Armed robbery, extortion — he did whatever he had to in order to satisfy his obligation to the “family.” It was an aggravated assault that finally landed him in prison. There, for the first time, he had to face what he had become.
Courage in Christ
In prison, at a Prison Fellowship Kairos Weekend, Julio found the way to freedom in Christ.
“I saw Julio the following Tuesday,” recalls Prison Fellowship Texas Field Director Lisa Queen. “Through tears, he told me that everything had changed. He had gotten right with God, and he was going to walk away from his old life.”
She was thrilled but also stunned, because she knew what that would mean.
Within days the gang exacted their revenge. They beat Julio savagely, sparing only his face so the correctional officers would not be able to see the marks. They left him alone in his cell, barely able to move, nursing broken ribs and begging God for strength. For the next several weeks, he shuffled to his classes as best he could, but sometimes the pain was too much.
His body healed, but as his release date neared, the gang came to visit again. This time they offered a return to the good life — agree to their help and Julio would leave prison in style. The alternative was a halfway house. It had a reputation as one of the worst.
Twice Julio told his Prison Fellowship mentor that he didn’t have a choice. He had to go back to the gang, but his own words, “Ain’t nothin’ free,” were ringing in his ears. In the end, by God’s grace, that was enough. Julio chose the halfway house, even though he knew that serving God there would be the hardest thing he’d ever done.
That he made it at all is a testimony to how completely Christ’s resurrection power transforms a prisoner. Living at the halfway house was even worse than he imagined it would be, but this time, when Julio wanted to run back to his old life, he ran to Prison Fellowship instead. He still can’t get over what happened next; Friends of Prison Fellowship from across Texas reached into their own pockets to send him to a Christian reentry program. He had never experienced such love. He is thriving in his new environment, and his future looks bright.
There’s no more talk of going back to the gang, no more fear that he will end up spending the rest of his life in prison. The best of it all is that Julio has his family back: a family to love him, and a family he can love.
Julio’s 15-year-old daughter has her daddy again — a man she can look to for wise counsel, who speaks and lives with integrity, and knows the power of forgiveness.
Edited by Don Rossi