For over six decades, Nathen wanted nothing to do with God.

“[My parents] went to church three to four times a year—holidays. I slept through it,” he said. “I was a criminal since five years old.”

As a young adult, Nathen had a successful business career, got married, and had two sons. But selfishness and greed eventually led to a tragic crime. He was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder.

Once the doors slammed shut behind him, he made no effort to remain connected to his family but instead immersed himself in prison culture. “[I] lived the life of a heathen,” he said.

One day, nearly twenty years into his sentence, he suddenly collapsed, falling face down on the concrete floor. Unconscious and unresponsive, he was thought to be dead until he abruptly sat up, prompting staff to call an ambulance to take him to a nearby hospital.

The surgeon told him it was a miracle he was alive and informed him he would need double bypass surgery. “I said not-good words to her,” he remembered, “and then this [chaplain] wants to pray over me. I told him where he could go.”

A week after the surgery, Nathen was cleared to return to the prison. Instead of praising God for healing and saving him, as some might be inspired to do, he took pride in his own strength.

Not long after he returned, a riot placed the entire facility on lockdown for six months. Two months in, a correctional officer came to Nathen’s cell with a book that had arrived for him. Though he told her he hadn’t ordered anything, she insisted he take it.

The book was a daily devotional. Bored from the extended isolation and with nothing else to read, Nathen decided to give it a chance. He ended up reading the whole thing in just a few days.

“Then the Holy Spirit tells me He wants me to get a Bible to prove the [book] right,” Nathen said. “Immediately, I said, ‘Absolutely not. I’m not getting a Bible. I got an image to live up to.’”

After struggling to get any sleep for a week, he knew he had to do something about the Holy Spirit’s prompting. A friend gave him his extra Bible, and Nathen started reading it regularly. Once the lockdown was over, he began attending church at his facility—first hiding in the corner with the Bible concealed in his jacket, and later, upon request of the chaplain, arriving early to shake hands with everyone who entered the chapel.

Eventually, Nathen could no longer deny the transformation in his heart. He decided to give his life to Christ. “A calmness came over me, and I just knelt down and said, ‘God, I worked for the devil for sixty-three years. I’d like to work with You,’” he said.

In his quest to continue learning about God, he signed up for Crossroads upon recommendation from another correspondence study he’d completed.

“I greatly thank God for putting you in my path,” he said. “[I learned] that God is a loving, caring God. I enjoy the mentors’ letters. I [recommend Crossroads] all the time. I usually carry an application with me to give to whoever I see.”

Looking back over his life, Nathen feels immense gratitude for God’s persistent love and forgiveness despite all his years of denying and rejecting Him.

“Before coming to prison, I had everything, but I was stone dead in the heart,” he said. “God replaced that heart.”

Living without God, he said, “was suffering [and] emptiness. But God has [shown] me joy, peace, love, faith, and healing.”

As Nathen discovered, God can transform even the most stubborn and lifeless of hearts. Will you walk alongside men and women in prison as they learn about God’s amazing love that can soften hearts of stone for His glory? Learn more about serving as a Crossroads mentor.