Mike looked religious, but outside the church doors he lived for himself.
Growing up as an altar boy in church didn’t mean Mike was sincere in spiritual devotion. He attended Mass and confession every week, but all he heard about was God and Mary. He didn’t know who Jesus was.
Outside of church, Mike had no desire to pray or read God’s Word. He put up a front on the outside, but on the inside his heart was far from God. He lived a rebellious lifestyle that caught up with him at the age of 17, when he landed in jail. As Mike sat behind bars, the idols, Mary, and the priest were of no help to him.
He began to read the Bible and agreed to a Bible study, even praying the sinner’s prayer. However, he wasn’t sincere. He continued to live for himself. In 1989, after 18 months in jail, Mike was transferred to a state hospital and then to a treatment center. Finally, he began serving the sentence for his crime and spent nearly 10 years in prison. Mike wanted no part of God, but God was not through with him.
By 2005, Mike was released from a halfway house. Again, God mercifully pursued him. While walking to work, Mike would hear a voice call to him, “Michael, come back to me.” He stubbornly ignored that voice.
Two years later, when he violated parole, Mike finally surrendered to the Lord. He prayed, “LORD, I need to change. Please help me. Save me.” A few days later while in the prison yard, he ran into Gary, whom he had known before as a very angry man. Gary told Mike how he now was saved and that he had the peace and joy that comes from really knowing Christ as Savior.
In December of that year, Mike was transferred to the prison in Gunnison, Utah, where he started attending Jay Swanson’s Baptist services. Jay talked about things Mike had never heard before, things such as God’s grace and the permanence of salvation. Mike checked it out in the Bible and found these things were true. Since that time, Mike has grown in the Lord and wants to keep doing so. He recently presented to the inmates a well-done Bible study on the characteristics of a true Christian, and he is preparing to give another Bible study. Please pray that God will help Mike to stay strong, grow in the image of Christ, and be a witness to others.
This story is adapted from a tract written by Jay Swanson. Before retiring, Jay and his wife, Diane, served as church-planting missionaries reaching Mormons and non-Mormons in Utah. Jay now serves the Lord in prison ministry.