Ten-year-old Oscar was eating a slice of pizza when the police kicked down the door and arrested his mother's boyfriend.
"They snatched me up," Oscar recalls. "[The police took] me outside, they lay everybody down. Everybody in zip ties, handcuffs."
Oscar watched as the police led his mother's boyfriend away from the auto mechanic shop where the young boy spent his time after school. "I never saw him again after that."
Although it was a terrifying experience, Oscar had seen worse. Just the year before he had witnessed a man at a house party get shot in the hand.
Oscar's mother sold drugs for a living, and she gave her son a lot of freedom. When most elementary-aged kids were being taught the dangers of drugs, Oscar was being taught that drugs led to having cool stuff. With the money she made from dealing, Oscar's mother bought him Nike Jordan shoes. And what 10-year-old boy doesn't want a pair of Jordans?
"Any kind of positive influence in my life as a kid would have helped me, but I didn't have any—not one," Oscar explains. "My mother was lost."
Eventually, Oscar joined a gang, and he began selling drugs, too.
'Any kind of positive influence in my life as a kid would have helped me, but I didn't have any—not one.'
GIVING BACK AFTER PRISON
WATCH: Through Oscar's experience in the Prison Fellowship Academy and the connection with his daughter that Angel Tree helped foster, Oscar's life was transformed. Now, he gives back as a volunteer for Angel Tree Camping.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
At first, Oscar could buy whatever he wanted. Over time, however, drugs and gang life led to trouble with the law. Eventually, Oscar was sentenced to three years in prison for aggravated robbery. Three years might seem like a long time to such a young man, but unfortunately for Oscar, time in prison didn't mean transformation.
While in prison, he still managed to get access to drugs. He kept the same unhealthy habits he had before his arrest. "I was young and just wild," Oscar says. "Those three years flew by for me. It wasn't fun, but I was doing the same stuff—I was in there gang-banging, and I was in there selling dope."
Once he was released, the bad habits continued. More selling drugs, more gang-banging, more trouble, and eventually, more prison. This time, though, it wasn't just the sentence—six years—that was different.
This time, Oscar was about to enter prison while leaving behind something more valuable than a pair of Jordans—his daughter.
"The biggest thing that cut me was my daughter saying, 'Daddy, are you coming home tomorrow?' every time she'd come [visit] … [I thought], this baby doesn't deserve this," says Oscar. "So, I don't care if I don't do it for me ... I'm going to do it for her," he says, referring to his decision to finally turn his life around once and for all.
'I don't care if I don't do it for me ... I'm going to do it for her.'
MAKING AN IMPACT
There was something else different this time as well. Oscar became part of the Prison Fellowship Academy®, an intensive, biblically based program. Through the Academy, God continued the work he had started in Oscar's heart, changing him from the inside out.
"This older guy gave me an easy-to-read Bible. Every day he would read to me, and then I'd read some. And so, I decided to give my life to Christ." After that, "[the Academy] was definitely a blessing in my life because, as I started getting deeper into the things of God at the Academy, I started to let down a lot of guards, a lot of old beliefs," says Oscar.
In addition to the impact the Academy was making, Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree® program was also making an difference—for both him and his daughter. The program allowed him to provide Christmas gifts and a personalized message to his daughter through volunteers on the outside.
Oscar has come a long way from the young boy with a new pair of Jordans and a future full of trouble. Today, he volunteers at a Frontier Camp, a Christ-centered camp for children of incarcerated parents, where he leads worship with his Gospel rap music.
He had been out for less than a year when his pastor challenged him to make his faith real by sharing it with kids at camp through worship. Even though Oscar doesn't play an instrument or sing, he takes popular songs that the kids know, changes the words to glorify God, and then leads the kids in worship.
"Every year, I just take a new song that I know that they're going to love, and I throw it in there. And it's just a blast," Oscar says about his experience over the last three years. "They love it and I love them. Man, I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to come here and volunteer."
Oscar uses the word grateful to describe a lot of his life today. "I'm grateful for the opportunity," he says. "I'm grateful for what Angel Tree did for me, and I'm just grateful for what they're allowing me to do [at Frontier Camp] by volunteering my time."
Over all, Oscar is grateful for a future that looks better than it would have, had things not changed that second time in prison. He’s grateful for the chance to help other young men chase after something bigger and better than a pair of Jordans.
'I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to come here and volunteer.'
DID YOU ENJOY THIS ARTICLE?
Make sure you don' t miss out on any of our helpful articles and incredible transformation stories! Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter, and you' ll get great content delivered directly to your inbox.
Your privacy is safe with us. We will never sell, trade, or share your personal information.