Darnell RayDarnell grew up attending church and participating in Sunday school weekly.

But after his father was sent to prison for armed robbery when Darnell was eleven, he chose a similar path of crime and drugs. By age eighteen, Darnell was in an Oklahoma prison on an armed robbery conviction, like his father.

“For the majority of my sentence, I was running around with all of the so-called convicts to feel safe and accepted. We were getting high and doing all kinds of illegal activities to support our habit,” Darnell said.

Darnell was in and out of trouble as a young adult until he was sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder at age twenty-eight. He lost everything, including the support of his family. He reached a point where he questioned whether he could ever find forgiveness or redemption.

“Feeling alone and worthless eats on a person’s heart and soul,” Darnell said. “When all of your mistakes or bad decisions is all you have left, it tears you apart.”

But things began to change in 2007 after he went on a four-day retreat with a prison ministry.

“I became so overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions that I could not understand. Before the four-day was over, I figured out that the Holy Spirit was reaching out to my heart,” Darnell said. “And even though I was baptized as a child, I turned my life over to God for a second time.”

It turned out to be the second chance Darnell was unsure he deserved. He began living differently and treating his fellow prisoners differently. He started taking computer and vocational classes and tutoring other students.

A few years later, still wrestling with his past, Darnell discovered Crossroad Bible Institute. He was given Bible lessons, personal letters of encouragement from Instructors and a copy of the book An Anchor for the Soul.

“God showed me that I could be forgiven and could have a life even in prison that I could be proud of,” he said.

The CBI lessons and correspondence with Instructors have helped him through difficult times and have been “an escape from this concrete and steel box,” Darnell said. Now, Darnell said he desires to be an example to other prisoners of the freedom found in Christ.

Even with his newfound hope and purpose, Darnell still struggles with moving on from his past, but he says he is confident God is with him. “I have good days and bad days. The only thing that stays consistent with me is my faith that God loves me and is real,” he said.

Darnell is currently enrolled in Survey of the Bible and continues to receive support from CBI Instructors. You can help men and women in prison, like Darnell, in need of encouragement and guidance by becoming a CBI Instructor or making a donation to CBI.