"My first brush with the law was when I was 8 years old for stealing from a Coca-Cola factory," Brandon says with a small chuckle. "It was just a thing that me … and the neighborhood kids did."
By the time Brandon was a teenager, he was on a first-name basis with most of the police force in his community. Eventually he was sent to jail on a runaway charge.
"[I got] used to the system," he says. "It was only a few months later that I stabbed somebody at a gas station and ended up in juvenile for a year."
Gangs. Drugs. Running away from home. Brandon was living "the wild life," and it was landing him behind bars.
SEARCHING FOR PEACE IN THE FIRE
"I was on fire for criminal activity," Brandon remembers. Instead of deterring him from crime, jail seemed to spur him on. He saw himself as a gangster and attempted to lead his gang in organized crime. But an armed robbery when he was 18 finally seemed to break through to the wild child.
In prison, it seemed at last that Brandon was going to calm down. He kept to himself and refused to join any of the prison gangs. Instead, he turned to education and religion.
"I studied Islam, I studied Buddhism, I studied mysticism—really just everything except Christianity," he says.
His grandparents had often tried to share their Christian faith with him, but Brandon didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Although Brandon had no interest in the Christian God, God was interested in Brandon.
SAVED BY FAITH, NOT BY KNOWLEDGE
A fellow prisoner noticed Brandon was searching for something greater, and the two began to talk once a week about faith and religion. Brandon challenged him on several points of Christian theology. But soon, Brandon’s barriers to Christ began to crumble. He asked his friend for Christian theology books and began to attend Bible studies and church services.
"I was learning intellectually about the faith, but I [still] hadn't submitted my life to Christ," he explains. Instead, he held onto other religions and the occult. One day at Bible study, another prisoner confronted him.
"I thought you were a Christian,” the other prisoner said. “You're coming to Bible study, you're going to church—you're reading Scripture and learning about all these things, and yet your life is not lining up."
It was in that moment that the Holy Spirit convicted Brandon. Instead of finding the answers his soul was searching for in textbooks and classes, Brandon found Christ through the words of a friend.
"The Spirit convicted me of everything I had been running from," Brandon says. "That day was when I submitted my life to Jesus Christ and came to faith."
A LIFE OF MINISTRY
That same day, God called Brandon to a life of ministry … to those behind bars.
Armed with a new identity and a sense of purpose, Brandon threw himself back into his studies, but this time it was for others' benefit and not his own. His grandmother, who had tried so hard to share Jesus with him, now sent him books and resources to help him learn more and more about this God he had chosen to follow.
"I looked around and realized that there were people [in prison] who had 30-, 40-, 50-year sentences who didn't have a grandmother like mine," Brandon says. "[No one was] able to provide them with those resources, so I knew that I wanted to be that resource."
THE PRISON TRANSLATOR
Not long after Brandon was released, he enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He told the dean that God wanted him to do prison ministry, even though the seminary did not offer specified courses in prison ministry.
Just a few short months later, the dean contacted Brandon about a new opportunity. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was to begin teaching classes to prisoners, and the dean wanted Brandon involved.
"I served as a sort of translator between prison culture—both security, offenders, chaplaincy—and our professors at the time," Brandon explains. He also had his own class to teach.
A CHILD OF GOD
"As a teenager, I had a fear of man," Brandon says. "I was in that bondage and enslaved like everyone else following after the ways of the world, but once God touched my life, I realized He was the only one that mattered, that He was the only one that I needed to submit my life to and the only one who deeply loved and cared for me. ...
"It was through that change that I became the man that I am today, a child of God working for the advancement of His kingdom in the prison system."
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