Phil Bratcher Descended Into Darkness, but Jesus Brought Him Into the Light
Phil Bratcher is a craftsman. As a master electrician and carpenter, he's skilled at solving complex problems and using his hands to shape raw materials. Which made him a great crystal meth cook.
Phil had a steady upbringing in Prosser, Washington, a small town about three hours southeast of Seattle. His parents were good people, he says, though they weren't spiritual.
He was close with his high school friends and did anything they were doing—including drugs. They smoked pot, drank alcohol, and tried anything they could get their hands on. After completing high school in 1978, Phil graduated to crank, a powdered form of crystal meth.
Jobs were hard to come by in Prosser those days. Phil found work as a carpenter for nine years, but eventually work dried up. The 27-year-old headed to Arizona where he entered an electrical school and apprenticeship. His new friends introduced him to a purer version of the crank he used back home.
It wasn't long before Phil started using and found himself in and out of county jail on drug-related misdemeanors. When his company started random drug screenings, Phil managed to stay clean for about a year, but then, in 1992, Phil found out his dad had pancreatic cancer. He moved back home and started caring for his dad, but his father was gone within months.
His father's death sent Phil into a tailspin for the next 20 years. He relapsed and fell in with his buddies that used, cooked, and sold crystal meth. He thought he had his addiction under control. He kept working for many of those years, even managing teams of people and millions of dollars in projects.
By his late 40s, Phil had descended into darkness. He stopped working and started cooking meth. He became a shut-in and would only associate with users and dealers. Phil justified his actions by telling himself he was more than just a drug dealer—he was a craftsman again. And like before, he was making good money for his considerable skills—until he got busted for distribution of methamphetamines.
Phil was sentenced to 40 months in prison. He started serving time in December 2012 at the age of 52. "It was an eye-opener for me to be punished. I never expected to pay for my decisions," he says.
After suffering through withdrawals and shivering through nights, Phil was bitter over his arrest and imprisonment. He decided that once he got out of prison he was never going back. That's when he met some Christian guys in a Celebrate Recovery group, a Christ-centered 12-step program. They gave him hope and shared the Gospel with him.
A LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS
In the darkest time of Phil's life, the light of Christ found him. "Without prison, I never would have found the Lord," Phil says. Phil became a believer in Jesus Christ and was baptized about a year into his sentence.
Later that same year, Phil heard about the Prison Fellowship Academy™ from his friends. The Academy takes incarcerated men and women through a holistic life transformation process spanning weeks or months so they are equipped to be leaders and positive influences in their communities inside and outside of prison.
Phil came to faith with no background in Christianity, so the program gave him focus and direction. Through the Academy, he learned how to live in community and socialize again. He learned why the patterns of thinking that led to his incarceration were damaging. Through the Academy's partnership with Celebrate Recovery, he learned how Christ can help anyone with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. He even learned how to budget.
He struck up a friendship with one of the Prison Fellowship® volunteer instructors named Ron Boom. "Phil had the mindset that he was going to succeed, and he didn't deviate from that. He was inspired by the classes," Ron says.
WALKING AWAY FROM THE PAST
With his new foundation in Christ, Phil was prepared for whatever was waiting for him outside his prison walls.
Phil was released on February 11, 2016. He arrived in Yakima, Washington, with $12.53 in his pocket and moved into a faith-based clean and sober house. Because of his background in electrical and carpentry, the landlord started paying him to take care of the place.
One of the conditions of living at the sober house was that Phil would continue attending Celebrate Recovery, which he did happily, knowing how much he needed the accountability. Several other Celebrate Recovery groups in the area asked him to come and share his testimony. After sharing his story one night, a man walked up to him and said he was the facility manager at a substance abuse treatment facility. The man said he could use someone with Phil's handyman skill set on the maintenance staff.
Phil accepted the job at Sundown M Ranch in Yakima, where he works today. Every day he goes to work and sees people detoxing, and he's reminded of the life he left behind. "You have to walk away from the past and walk into the future," he says.
For Phil, walking into the future includes loving others, prayer, and forgiveness. "I take people as they are," he says. "I try to build people up the best I can."
One way Phil builds people up is by sending a daily devotional to more than 200 friends and family members. One of those friends is Ron Boom, who says of his friend, "He has a strong faith in the Lord, and that’s carried through to the outside. He's a true man of God."
He's still a craftsman, but now he uses his skills to shape his life and others into the image of Christ.
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