Fred Mendrin went to prison in the early 1970s. The violent prison culture he encountered led him to joining one of the most notorious prison gangs in America. At the urging of his gang, Fred committed murder. The one-time drug addict became a hardened criminal facing years in prison.
In this second part of Fred's story, he shares about the restoration Jesus Christ has brought to his life.
LEAVING THE GANG
There I was, six years later, at the same institution, the very same building where I killed a guy—took his life—and all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit regenerated my dead spirit and made me alive.
I was sitting in my cell on my bunk, seeing the hopelessness around me, desiring a change. I didn't see lights or hear music, but all of a sudden, it was just like, Wow, I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I had a peace of mind that I never experienced before. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to leave the gang. I knew that could mean my death. My pride wouldn't let me go to protective custody; thankfully, God protected me.
I waited for the gang to come for me—but they never did. The correctional officers didn't believe that I had dropped out. They kept questioning me, asking, "Why aren't you dead? Why hasn't the gang tried something?"
And I said, "I don't know. I told them that I became a Christian. Maybe God is protecting me."
Two gang members that had dropped out of the gang later told me that they were each approached about killing me but refused to do so. I know that my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus didn't allow it to happen!
I was transferred to another facility where I was placed in the general population, and I ended up working with a Christian prison ministry.
'Why aren't you dead?'
A DANGEROUS SITUATION
Pastors and volunteers would come into my new facility seven days a week to lead evening Bible studies with the prisoners. We had an office right along the main prison block corridor where we met. The room didn't have a door—it was just open all the time. During the day, a few Christian brothers and myself would counsel guys who wanted to talk one on one.
One day—I remember it was summertime—I was in the fellowship office by myself studying. All of a sudden, this man walked in through the open doorway, and he said, "I'm looking for some Bible studies."
I showed him where we had the studies along the wall and told him he could take any one he wanted. "No, I have a copy of all of those," he said.
I thought, That's a lie. We had over 75 studies—there was no way he could possibly already have a copy of each one. Then he started asking me about the ministry office and how we run things there. I told him about the counseling we offered, in addition to the meetings we had in the evenings. After a while, he left.
The whole interaction was suspicious. I thought I was being set-up to be killed.
GOD PROVIDES A WAY OUT
I moved to the furthest area from the doorway and sat down. I had my Bible, and I opened it to 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
I think I memorized that verse right there—I just kept going over it. I didn't know what else to do.
A few minutes later, a different man arrived. He had on a big, thick winter jacket, gloves, and a ski hat. It was a hot summer day, so there wasn't any need for heavy winter clothes … unless they were meant to be discarded after an assault to hide any evidence.
The man walked up to the doorway, stopped, and looked at me. I didn't do anything. I didn't say anything. The guy just stood there. Then he looked over towards his left. There was another doorway that led to a kitchen. He looked back at me, and he walked away without saying a word.
He did that three times. He would come to the doorway, stop, and look toward the other door, but he never came into the room. It was as if he was afraid to come inside. It was as if something or Someone was keeping him from entering.
After the third time, the first guy who had asked about the Bible studies walked by. He saw me sitting there. I held his gaze, and he kept walking.
I later heard that two prisoners had been sent to the Hole (solitary confinement) for possession of a weapon. I have no idea whether they were the two guys in our office that day, but if they were, they were probably sent to retaliate against me for my attack on the two gang members back in 1976.
Was there an angel in the room with me that day? I don't know, but our God knows, and He protected me.
PRISONER B28545 NO MORE
I ended up getting out of prison in 1985. I continued working in prison ministry, and I helped run a house for returned citizens who needed help after prison. I got connected with Prison Fellowship® several years ago. I began as a volunteer, leading a Prison Fellowship Academy® class and then joined their staff as a field director six years ago. I now have the position of Prison Fellowship Ambassador.
People behind bars need hope. When Prison Fellowship volunteers go into prisons, it gives prisoners hope. Whenever I have the opportunity to share my story with our students, I take advantage of it. I tell them, "If I can do it, you can do it. I'm no spiritual giant. I am just a sinner saved by the grace of God and that I made up my mind to obey God and the authorities."
One Easter a couple of years ago, Prison Fellowship held a Hope Event™ at Folsom Prison. I was asked to speak and share my story with the prisoners on the yard. I was able to encourage the men—to give them hope that they, too, could live lives that they enjoy and that are honoring to God and to their families.
Afterwards, I asked if I could be escorted to my old cell where I had once spent 18 months. I took my wife with me, and there it was: the very first cell on the block. Nobody was in it—in fact, the prison was using it for storage! Being there brought back a lot of memories. It was wonderful to be able to walk out of that facility and go home at the end of the day.
Without God, where would I be? Knowing where I've been and where I am now, all I can say is, "Praise God."
I’m no spiritual giant. I am just a sinner saved by the grace of God.
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