Raymond has been in prison since 1997. He will not be eligible for parole until 2037. He graduated in the very first class to graduate with the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies from Darrington — the Class of 2015.
Allow me to begin by first saying thank you for being an instrument of God’s mercy, grace, and love.
At the age of 17 or 18, God graciously invaded my life and began to deal with me about missionary work, but I was deceived to think that the world could fulfill my heart with happiness. So on a particular night, I turned my back on God, knowing I was called to missionary work. That one decision to turn away from God, the one person who loved me so much, led me to prison at the age of 19.
I arrived at prison HOPELESS, BROKEN, HURTING; I don’t know if you have ever felt that HOPELESSNESS I felt, but it’s a hopelessness that all one longs for is death. And so, I literally pursued death with all of my heart; but I was too much of a coward to take my own life that I sought the death penalty. I was told that if I would murder someone in prison that I would be sentenced to death.
So, I got involved in the gang life. I was always so willing to be the first one on the front line should we go to “war” with rival gang members or if someone needed to be “got”. By the grace and mercy of God I did not hurt any one, but I did manage to go to segregation due to my gang affiliation. While in seg., I heard of my need to have a personal relationship with God. I heard of my need through the radio. However, I thought there was no way for me to ever be forgiven for my walking away from God unto sin; so I continued in my hopelessness, but I still read my Bible for comfort and to keep from losing my mind in seg. I had to do something to keep my mind occupied.
Nevertheless, “coincidentally” or “accidentally” I read the story of David. I read of his adultery, and murder, and manipulation; and then I read how God in his love for David, and in his great mercy, he forgave David his sin. I remember thinking to myself if God can and is and was willing to forgive David, he could and would do the same for me. That day I asked God for forgiveness and received my forgiveness. The God I had walked away from and turned my back towards allowed me to be reconciled to himself. From that day forward I grew in my personal relationship with God. He forgave me, cleansed me, and blessed me with a love for people. All my hate, hurt, and anger was gone just like that.
By the grace and love of God, I managed to get out of seg after 7 or 8 years. Upon my release from seg., I immediately enrolled in school to get my GED. Within 6 months, I graduated valedictorian by the grace of God. This was a huge accomplishment for me seeing that I dropped out of school in the 6th grade. I graduated in 2009. I had to be brought on a bus from the Stringfellow Unit to Darrington for my graduation. My mother, my beautiful mother, sat there in the chapel as my name was called to receive my GED and my valedictorian certificate.
That day my teacher approached my mother and told her these words, I’ll never forget them: “Mrs. Macias, your son is a very bright and intelligent young man, (I had never heard that in my life). He is college material.” I felt so good. I was so proud of myself, but most importantly I know my mom was proud of me.
But I remember also my mother’s look and the feelings inside of me. Both her look and my feelings were due to our poverty. How could I ever go to college?
I gave my mom a hug after it was all over. I was returned to Stringfellow Unit. But my teacher’s words, “he’s college material,” would not leave my mind. As I thought on those words, as pleasant as they were, they made me feel so sad. How can I ever go to college? So for two years I would sit in my cubical wishing and praying day and night that somehow God would move in my life and provide me with a college education.
Then in 2011, God miraculously moved upon your heart to pursue and place a seminary in a prison. As though just for me, as though God heard my teacher’s words, “he’s college material,”and as though he too saw the look upon my mother’s face and saw what I was feeling.
In 2015 I graduated once again at the Darrington Unit with a college degree. And guess who was sitting once again in the chapel as I walked across the stage, my mom.
You see Mr. Grove, you will never know what you did for me. You impacted my life in such a way. You altered by the grace of God the course of my life and my story. I am and will forever be grateful for both you and Brenna. While altering and impacting my life, you have altered and impacted many lives.
By the grace of God, my missionary calling has been redeemed. I have been able to serve my fellow brothers in white on a grand scale. I have seen lives changed and families restore through the grace of God which flows so freely and abundantly toward all who will call upon his name in faith and repentance.
I cannot begin to count the lives I have seen touched. But I can tell you it is a beautiful, marvelous, amazing, wonderful thing to see when God personally invades another human life and transforms him from beast to king.
Indeed, how beautiful, and marvelous to see grace that saved a wretch like me at work in the life of others. Blessed be God forever and ever, Amen. Grove, its been 5 short years as a Field Minister we have just begun my brother. To the Work! God bless you always.
Field Minister Raymond speaks with a correctional officer while ministering in restricted housing.