"There was a lot of chaos and a lot of things I didn't understand about life," Ocean says in this week's Insider. "I was a fighter, and I just kept fighting. That was all I knew. Just keep fighting, keep fighting … It all caught up to me in the end."
AN ANGRY CHILD, A VIOLENT MAN
As a child in Nebraska, Ocean grew up in foster care. His mother was an alcoholic, and his father wasn't around. His lifestyle embittered him against his foster parents. During his incarceration, Ocean's anger only grew. He continued to lash out, and eventually was placed in restrictive housing, also known as "solitary confinement."
"Prison is a rough place, you know," Ocean muses. "It's not pleasant, and it ain't easy. You're only as good as the people you surround yourself with."
In Ocean, chaos ruled. Yet in the midst of his violence and anger, in walked mentors Jeff and Steve with Prison Fellowship®.
CALMING THE STORM
"The reason Steve and I got involved with the mentoring is that we felt like we wanted to see if we could invest ourselves in one thing, one person, and make a change over the course of a lifetime," Jeff Scheich explains. The two men knew each other from church and decided to mentor those incarcerated in "the hole," as prisoners refer to administrative segregation.
"That's a really good place where your mind can get messed up," Jeff says. But Jeff and Steve wouldn't give up on Ocean. Once a week, every week, they entered Ocean's world to bring him the Good News of Jesus Christ.
"I realized that Steve and Jeff were different just by the resilience of them," Ocean remembers. "I was a madman coming out of the hole. … And you know, just for them to be there during those times when I was in that crazy mindset—they set me straight."
After a year, Ocean took a leap of faith and put his trust in Jesus Christ.
"That very day, Steve and I noticed a huge difference in [Ocean's] demeanor," Jeff says.
The peace of Jesus Christ transformed Ocean from a man of anger to one of peace.
THE 'LOVABLE FUZZBALL'
Because of Jeff and Steve's example, Ocean gained a new perspective. As he grew in his faith, he started reaching out to help others.
"The things that used to make him angry now sometimes make him sad, and he wants to help other people," Jeff says.
Such a perspective runs counterintuitive to prison culture. "It takes courage to be a Christian," Ocean chuckles, "to do the right thing."
Today, Ocean is out of prison, but the mentoring he received inside continues to guide his life today.
"You know, if I have a problem every day, I can forgive myself before I go to bed," Ocean says. "I have those tools—Jeff and Steve helped me gain those tools."
When Jeff sees Ocean today, he no longer sees "Ocean the inmate."
"It's just Ocean," he says. "It's not like he's this big, scary monster person. He's just him. Melinda, my wife, calls him this 'loveable fuzzball.' "
At this, Ocean laughs, and it's hard to imagine the angry, hurting child he once was. And Ocean is excited about the future he has with God.
"There's still more tools out there, more lessons that I need to learn," he says. "But I'm only 27 years old, you know? There's a whole life ahead of me!"