A Place to Pray, Part 1
Overly eager church members drive an alcoholic away—but God still finds him, even in jail.
My parents didn’t worship God. In fact, I grew up helping them brew liquor. Even though our poverty forced me to quit school after eighth grade, I believed drinking gave us a good life.
I worked as a farmer, and married in my 20s. That’s when I started to see the ugly side of my drinking. Alcohol kept my family poor and caused my wife and me to quarrel. Often, my wife had to seek help from her parents.
In search of change, I started attending church. It really did make a difference for me—until I was instructed to get baptized. I can’t do that! I thought. What if I can’t keep sober? If I get baptized and then backslide, I might go insane! Afraid of failure, I shied away from church—and without church, I returned to alcohol.
This has to stop! I reprimanded myself. I tried attending a different denomination, but this time, someone told me to be baptized the first day I visited. That does it, I told myself. I am not going back to any church. Instead, I went back to my old friends and plunged into wickedness. Every time I got drunk, passion drove me to commit adultery with females of all ages. My wife left, vowing never to return.
“You have to stop womanizing!” my parents and friends chided me, but I didn’t listen. Through drunkenness, the devil kept me in his clutch.
One day, intoxicated, I tried to rape a 15-year-old student. Passersby mobbed me and beat me until the police took me to jail. “Don’t accept the charges at court,” my jail mates advised. “You could get a life sentence.”
When I pled “not guilty,” the judge sent me back to prison, setting an impossibly high bail. It would be six months before my trial. I had never had such a difficult punishment: life without freedom, under the constant control of armed wardens.
Three months after my imprisonment, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor visited me. “You seem sad and troubled,” he observed. “Why are you not cheerful like your cell mates?”
“I am thinking of my children,” I confessed. “They depend on me for their daily bread. I worry that they will not have enough.”
The pastor opened his Bible to 1 Timothy 6:6, 7. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” he read. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” He set his Bible down. “You can be happy, even in jail. All that we own, even our children, are gifts from God. He brought us into the world with nothing, and He can sustain us until He takes us home.”
Somehow, his words brought comfort, and I accepted his invitation to attend Sabbath services in the prison. The messages became a healing medicine to my heart. Eager for more, I joined the midweek Bible study group. As I learned more from God’s Word, I realized that even among His people there were murderers, thieves and adulterers whose sins God had washed away. From that moment, I repented of my sins and asked for forgiveness. Yes, I was a sinner, but by God’s grace I could change.
As my final court date approached, I asked my church friends to pray for me. On the day of my trial, I woke up early and knelt. “God, if I am Your child, please answer my prayer. Help me to be released or given a short sentence, and I will praise Your name forever.” The prison had become my place of prayer!
(To be continued.)
Joel Kipkemoi Chepkwony is a new believer from the village of Tuiyopei in Kericho County.
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