Raymond is helping lead others out of the same darkness where he once was.
"I'm the niece of the woman you murdered."
It had been a long time since Raymond made the worst mistake of his life. So long, in fact, that it felt like another life. He'd been locked up for a cold-blooded crime that never should've happened. A gun had gone off, a robbery turned into murder, and suddenly there was blood on Raymond's hands.
Now he was being confronted by a relative of his victim.
THE JOURNEY TO PRISON
Raymond's journey to prison began very early in his childhood. His family was dysfunctional, and his parents were abusive. Then one day his mother was arrested for selling narcotics. Raymond was 12 years old.
He might have been a young boy, but he was filled with uncontrollable anger. He had learned early on not to trust others, not even his family, and now his mother was gone. "There was a rage in me because of that. I started gangbanging."
With his mom behind bars, Raymond turned to the brotherhood of the streets. He soon gained a reputation for being ruthless. And then there was the murder.
"I was in a car with three people who wanted to rob somebody," Raymond shares. "I took the gun from the person ... the car jerked, and the gun went off."
At 16, Raymond was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 40 years behind bars. "I was very scared," Raymond says. "I knew I was probably never going home again, but I had to survive."
For the next 12 years, Raymond was tormented by guilt and painfully alone. He mourned the death of his mom, who died while he was in prison. With nothing left, he begged God to reveal Himself, to show Raymond He was real.
God answered—and changed everything: "On May 2, 2004, I gave my life to Christ, and He changed my whole life in that one single moment. That was the best day."
A NEW MAN
While incarcerated, Raymond enrolled in the Carol S. Vance Unit Prison Fellowship Academy®, a program that helped him as he grew in his new life. "I realized something: Being incarcerated at 16 years old—I didn't know how to live as a man." The Academy staff and volunteers were able to show Raymond what being a man truly looked like.
After Raymond was released, God called him to reach those who are still behind bars. He became a reentry counselor for Prison Fellowship®, a position that allowed him to give back so that other prisoners could have the same chance that he did.
"I've become a beacon to other people—to ex-murderers, to ex-gang members—who are coming out of the darkness and into the light."
But as Raymond stood in church, confronted by the niece of the woman he killed, he wondered what he could possibly say or do for someone who only knew him at his worst.
Reflecting on the moment, Raymond recalls, "I feel like God brought us face to face to reconcile, to bridge the gap. ... The niece is in our church, so she's had a chance to see how God has changed my life, and how He’s using me to change others' lives."
Overwhelmed with emotion, Raymond immediately embraced the woman and told her his story. She listened and then said, "I know you've changed, and I can accept it now."
Raymond and his wife prayed with her, and God's restoration began.
Story Updated 11/20/2018
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