Raymond is helping lead others out of darkness, where he once was.
"I'm the niece of the woman you murdered."
Raymond stood stunned before the young lady confronting him.
It had been a long time since Raymond made the worst mistake of his life. So long, that it felt like another life. But he never shies away from his past.
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 a prison cell began the day his mom was locked up. He was a young boy, but he was filled with uncontrollable anger. With his mom behind bars, Raymond turned to the brotherhood of the streets.
"When I was 12 years old, my mother got locked up in California," Raymond says. "There was a rage in me because of that. I started gangbanging."
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 it 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 Prison Fellowship Academy™, a program that mentored him as he grew in his new life.
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 he 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 Raymond 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 compassion, Raymond immediately embraced the woman. He and his wife prayed with her, and God's restoration began.