A version of the following story will be featured in an upcoming Inside Journal, Prison Fellowship’s quarterly newspaper for prisoners. If you would like to view past issues of Inside Journal, or would like to contribute to providing this resource for men and women behind bars, click here.
Jorge Garcia was just 13 years old his first time in a juvenile detention facility. For him, it was a badge of honor.
“It made me think I was cool,” says Jorge. “But I was only a kid. I didn’t know where all this was going to take me.”
Jorge was born in Mexico but immigrated to San Diego with his family when he was 11. “I found out that it was a different language, a different culture,” he remembers.
A Life of Crime Begins
In middle school, Jorge began stealing candy, bicycles, and clothing with his “kids’ gang,” and sniffing gasoline, paint, and glue. By 13, he was smoking marijuana. In high school, he began selling marijuana and pills, which made him very popular.
“I grew up with seven kids, so it was hard for me to get attention,” he says. “I looked for that attention outside of my family.”
Jorge’s uncle opened the door to a life of crime when he convinced Jorge to become a drug trafficker. At 16, Jorge often made $7,000 a day “working” for his uncle.
When he was 19, Jorge married his first wife, who didn’t know about his criminal lifestyle.
“I knew I had to hide myself,” he says. They had four kids and remained married for 18 years. Jorge spent much of that time in and out of prison, and he got tired of his life of crime.
“Deeply, I was not happy,” he says.
Becoming a Child of God
In 1978, Jorge was invited to go to church.
“Before I went in [to church], I put my gun … and my bag of cocaine under the dashboard,” he says. The church was different than what Jorge had experienced before.
“People at this church were singing and clapping,” he remembers. “The church where I used to go, everybody was quiet.”
During a worship song, Jorge began to cry, and, for a brief moment, a hardened criminal was transformed into an innocent child again.
“It made an impact,” he recalls. “I never cried like that day … [but] I went back into my car and put my gun under my belt.”
Jorge continued his criminal lifestyle, spending more than two decades in and out of prisons in Mexico and America. In 1990, everything fell apart when his wife asked for a divorce. He tried to repair the damage, even seeking help from a woman who practiced witchcraft. While his family crumbled, the rest of his life began to crumble, too.
“I started losing everything one by one,” says Jorge. With no house and no car, Jorge lived in his brother’s garage and rode the public bus.
“I didn’t even have $5 to buy a hamburger,” he says.
Jorge soon decided his life wasn’t worth living. While lying on the couch he used for a bed, he attempted to kill himself by overdosing on drugs, but his friends found him and brought him back to life. All he said to them was, “Why did you bring me back? I wanted to die.”
His second attempt to overdose was also unsuccessful; a police officer found him in a park and took him to the hospital. Feeling like a failure, Jorge thought, I’m not even good enough to kill myself.
That’s when he prayed: “O.K., God, I want to go Your way.”
Jorge remembered the church from 12 years earlier and decided to go back again.
“That church had something special that I never felt before,” he says.
When he returned, he found lasting peace for the first time since he started using and selling drugs as a kid.
“I was tired, and that’s what made a criminal become a child of God.” That day, Jorge gave his life to Christ.
A Life Redeemed
After he became a Christian, Jorge left California and spent five years on a farm in Mexico.
“It was like therapy. God changed me little by little,” he says. “He had a mission for me.”
When Jorge returned in 1996, he began working in Los Angeles and volunteering with Prison Fellowship. In 2003 he became Prison Fellowship’s Hispanic ministry coordinator.
Through his new position and faith in Jesus Christ, Jorge discovered his God-given gifts and talents.
“I thought that [selling drugs] was the only thing I knew how to do,” he says. “But I discovered I know how to love my people behind bars … I discovered that I have a lot of talents that I never knew I had.”
Jorge remarried and now has another child and a grandchild. He directs Prison Fellowship’s work in Latin America and Mexico, and also produces “Libres en Cristo,” a Spanish-language radio program that airs regularly on Radio Nueva Vida.
His life story is a message of God’s transformative power. “If I had known what I know now when I was a kid, I would have chosen God when I was a kid,” he says. “But God gave me the opportunity … to show what God has done in me.”