How David Found God in Prison
It seemed like David Koliba was doing all right for himself. A troubled childhood had turned into an impressive and talented life. But the foundation of his life soon began to crack.
"I was the king of my world," he says, but "once I felt my world was coming down around me, I needed to escape somewhere."
David began using drugs, and then everything came crashing down.
DAVID'S RISE AND FALL
David had a painful childhood. He was molested at the age of nine, which resulted in pain and anger he was unequipped to handle. David was arrested seven times and by 14, he was in juvenile detention.
"I straightened my life out with music," he explains. "That was my God-given talent, so I started playing music."
High school was a turning point for David. He earned good grades and stayed on the right side of the law. His record was later expunged, and he enlisted first in the Air Force and then in the National Guard.
Then came Desert Storm. When David returned from his time overseas, he found a job and attempted to rejoin civilian life. But Desert Storm left him sick, and for two years he struggled to overcome his health issues.
Next, cancer. Again, David struggled with his health, and again he beat the odds.
Then there were family issues.
"All of a sudden, I just felt like everything was piling on," David says. And because of his childhood, he still had poor coping mechanisms for stress and anger. So he turned to drugs.
When his money ran out, he turned to crime to support his addiction. David was caught robbing local businesses and was sentenced to one year in prison. He thought at best he'd be able to get clean and leave prison a better person. But two months after his release, David was back in prison for the exact same charges.
The structured and ordered life behind bars reminded David of his years in the military, but even so he says, "Prison life was not that great." The extreme lack of control and the loss of freedom very hard to adjust to. As he had in his childhood, he dealt with these issues through anger and violence.
"I got myself into situations and ran my mouth to the wrong people," David says. "I was jumped one day. Blindsided." Severely beaten by the other prisoners, David sustained a broken jaw and teeth, plus 26 staples in his head. "It was really, really rough for a while."
THE CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN
One day, a group of volunteers arrived at the prison. And while others seemed interested in what these Prison Fellowship® people had to say, David brushed them off.
"I watched from a distance," David remembers. He "wasn’t too sure about these people who were coming in with smiles and hugs." It didn't make sense to David—didn't these people understand where they were?
Trusting others was something that David could not do. After all, dependence on others had not helped him in the past, nor did it look like it was help him in prison. The only person he could depend on was himself.
But something about the Prison Fellowship volunteers stayed with David, and when he saw them next, he decided to join in.
"It was like the circus came into town," David says.
The Prison Fellowship event that day had singers, entertainers, and so much more. Volunteers walked around the yard smiling and talking to the prisoners.
"That's kind of how it all started," David says.
FINDING FAITH IN PRISON
As a child, David had attended church with his parents, but as they drifted away from God, so did he. Now incarcerated, David was intrigued by the Prison Fellowship volunteers and began taking as many classes and programs as he could.
"I realized that in order for me to go back out into the world and to have a productive life, and to do the things I wanted to do, my faith life had to be strong," David says. A change began in David's heart, and he continued to throw himself into as many programs as he could. The other prisoners around him noticed the change, too, yet instead of tearing down the new foundation in Christ that David was building, they encouraged him to move forward.
David's faith ultimately helped him get through his prison sentence, and later his reentry.
"It's hard to be incarcerated," David says. There are temptations everywhere in prison, but those temptations seem greater once a prisoner is released.
"There are more things to distract you [on the outside]," David explains. "Having a good foundation that was set in prison was very important when I came out."
It's been nine years since David's release. Today he's a husband and father, and he continues to pursue his passion in music.
After his release, David was determined that he would do two very important things with his freedom—maintain his sobriety and give back to others. During his incarceration, David had participated in Angel Tree, sending Christmas presents to his family. Today, he continues to participate in Angel Tree, only this time he's the one delivering presents to the families of those incarcerated.
When he thinks back on his life, he wishes his younger self could have realized how hurtful his actions were to those around him. David used to think, "Okay, I'm an addict. I'm only hurting myself. I'm not hurting anyone else," but now he sees how his choices hurt his parents, his family, and his friends.
He also has wise words for those returning from prison to the outside: get involved in a church right away.
"You will find someone in the Christian community that will be able to provide you or show you the way to people who will be able to provide you everything you need to continue in your walk and to live a good productive life," David promises.