Francisco likes to spend his free time writing music. Around him, the sounds of prison life pulse—the rattle of metal bars on metal tracks, the static of loudspeaker announcements, the long drones of alarms. Yet, in spite of the clamor, Francisco’s creativity is flourishing. To date, he has composed over fifty songs.
Like many other CBI students, Francisco’s time behind bars has catalyzed a new chapter in his life, a life set free from the shame and bitterness that have plagued him since childhood.
Born in Mexico, Francisco often felt ashamed that all of his eight siblings had different fathers. Cultural norms placed high value on family relationships, and the judgment Francisco felt from society left him embittered toward his mother. Her sudden death only compounded this resentment, as Francisco was left abandoned and homeless at eleven years old.
Although Francisco’s godmother eventually agreed to care for him, she favored her own children and neglected Francisco. “The only present I got every year was for my birthday: a pair of socks and a pair of underwear,” he remembers.*
Though Francisco was young, he already blamed God for what he saw as a lot of bad luck. Feeling trapped and hopeless, Francisco filled his life with temporary escapes, namely, alcohol and drugs. It was during this reckless time that he fell in love and got married. His new wife already had two children, and suddenly Francisco found himself trying to provide for a family of four.
Inevitably, such responsibilities weighed heavily on the newlyweds. They faced financial hardships and angry fights, but Francisco was determined to prevent history from repeating itself in his own family. Hoping for a fresh start, he and his wife moved to America, where Francisco tried to forget the anger and shame of his past.
However, life on American soil held its own set of challenges. Francisco and his wife worked hard to support their family and their newborn baby, Junior. But when Francisco lost his job, the new life they were building began to crumble. The day before the birth of their fourth child, Francisco remembers struggling not to weep as he watched Junior write a Christmas list. He recalls, “I wanted to cry, but I didn’t, because I didn’t want him to see me.”
After all this financial hardship, something shifted in Francisco. The anger and shame he had tried to leave behind in Mexico were resurfacing. And when his nephew—a high-earning drug dealer—called one night, Francisco found himself taking him up on an offer too tempting to refuse. Despite his wife’s pleading, he decided to join his nephew in the drug business.
The stint lasted only a month before Francisco was arrested. Though his nephew posted bond for him, Francisco was forced to work another four months to pay back the money. Francisco wanted to quit the drug trade and reunite with his family, but the law caught up with him first: he was arrested a second time and given a lengthy prison sentence.
Prison life might have emotionally destroyed Francisco, who was now separated from his family. After facing so much hardship, who would have blamed him for letting his anger settle into hardened hopelessness?
And yet, this was not Francisco’s story.
Now, even in the bleakest of situations, his life is more hopeful than it has ever been. After enrolling in CBI’s Spanish-language courses, he has forgiven his mother, overcome the shame of his past and surrendered his life to God. And Francisco is writing music, praising God with every note.
Francisco attributes his spiritual transformation to his lessons with Crossroad, which have allowed him to study the Bible in his native Spanish. He says, “I thank God for bringing me here, because I have been able to know Him and realize how big His love is.”
This statement is a radical one for a man who once hated and blamed God for the suffering he experienced. “Because of the CBI Spanish program, even more prisoners can learn the truth of God’s love for them,” says Sandra Chang Raak, CBI’s international coordinator.
Shored up by God’s great love for him, Francisco no longer runs from his past. Instead, he can at last say, “I have no more resentment, bitterness or shame.” And that is freedom indeed.
*All quotations have been translated from the original Spanish.