The Prisoner’s Journey®

RAYMOND AND MICHAEL | Northern Ireland

Raymond and Michael fought for years on opposite sides during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Different areas of the country were controlled by different paramilitary groups and if someone had the misfortune of wandering into the wrong area, they were often attacked, if not killed.

Raymond found himself so angry at the murder of some of his friends by the IRA that he joined the opposing group, the UVF. On the other hand, Michael joined the IRA, settling on a criminal lifestyle of armed robbery, drugs, kidnapping, bomb-making, shootings and murder attempts.

We just lived and robbed and ate and slept and went the prison. – Michael

Raymond faced a turning point when he was about to commit a crime one particular evening. He felt something telling him not to follow through with his intentions, so he said, “Well, God, if this was meant to happen, it’ll happen. And if not, then it won’t.” He was arrested before he even had the chance to carry it out and was taken to the police station where he was questioned for seven days. It was during that time that God began to speak to Raymond and confront him about his behavior.

God began to reveal to me that it wasn’t right and that what I was doing was sinful. It was an offense against Him. It was an offense against humanity. Ultimately, that would take me to a lost eternity, to hell. – Raymond

Raymond got on his hands and knees in his cell and asked God to come into his heart to forgive his sins and take over his life. Raymond felt the change instantaneously, immediately knowing God’s forgiveness. His past sins were washed and he felt immense. Raymond knew that God had forgiven and changed him.

Michael also became a Christian, his criminal past quickly losing any meaning to him.

The only thing I knew for sure was that God was in control and that He would have his way no matter what happened. – Michael

When Raymond and Michael became Christians, the cost of following Jesus quickly became clear.

Raymond felt God telling him that he needed to tell the police everything that he had been involved with – something he didn’t want to do as he’d been involved in so much criminal behavior that to confess would mean going to prison for a long time. He wrestled with the thought but God, through His Spirit, revealed in Raymond’s heart that this was something he had to clear up.

Raymond told the police everything he’d been involved with, from the smallest to the major things. Altogether, the sentences he got for the crimes he’d committed totaled 379 years. Michael also decided to give himself up and admit all his wrongdoings. He said, “It wasn’t an easy thing to do but I knew God was with me.”

Raymond and Michael’s problems didn’t go away when they followed Jesus. Inside prison, people believed Raymond and Michael had betrayed their respective military groups. As both men had told the police everything they had done, neither was very popular and were often labeled informers or traitors.

Walking into prison was a frightening experience for Raymond, but he was encouraged by Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” and knew he had to be faithful to God even under that pressure.

Having made the hard choice to obey God’s voice, Raymond and Michael found that they weren’t on their own – Jesus was with them.

Raymond and Michael began to meet other Christian men and realized that God was doing something within their prison. Through Christ and group meetings, the men found reconciliation, forgiveness, hope and unity.

When I saw prisoners [from opposite sides] praying together for peace, that made a big impression on me. It meant that God was at work. – Michael

If Raymond and Michael hadn’t been sent to prison and found God, they would probably still be committing crimes with their paramilitary groups.

I’d probably be dead but God changed my life, brought me hope and gave me a new beginning. – Raymond

Finding Christ has given the men their respect and another chance at life back. Raymond and Michael now know that when all else fails, they can fall on their knees and ask God for help.

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