After Fighting for a Discarded Scrap of Bread, One Inmate Realizes It's Time to Make Some Changes
“There was something in me that wanted to sin. I couldn’t wait to smoke pot. I couldn’t wait to drink. I couldn’t wait to have sex. All those things, they were at the forefront of my mind,” said John Barrow.
John was raised by his teenage mother and his grandmother. He says he didn’t have a father to look up to and there was no structure at home. “I was lacking a lot in the area of having a balanced home and a balanced mother and father. There was probably a lot of insecurity there,” he explained.
Curiosity led him to experiment with sex, alcohol, and drugs. By 14, he was addicted to all three. “I just loved it.Drinking a beer… and next thing you know I drank a few and then a six-pack and I’m drunk and I’m feeling good too. I loved all that.”
Then he started getting into trouble with the law. He was in and out of juvenile detention for running away, selling drugs, and stealing. One night, a former gang member spoke with the youth at the detention center. He had overcome his addictions through Teen Challenge. “The thing I remember the most, I couldn’t wait for him to quit speaking because I wanted to go in my cell and just cry. Because this guy, what he was talking about, his exposure to Christ, his metamorphosis…I knew that I wanted that,” said John.
John convinced his probation officer to give him a chance at Teen Challenge. After only 6 months he left and went back to using and selling drugs. Still, he couldn’t escape what he learned about god while he was there.
“That was the hook. That exposed me to the real Christ. From that time forward, I knew who God was and so I was just running from Him.”
Over the next several years he was in and out of jail for various crimes. Every time John was locked up and released, he’d find more trouble. “I’d drink too much and go get some cocaine and when all that was gone I’d go rob somebody to steal to get more.”
Then at 24, John robbed a convenient store. He was charged with robbery by intimidation and given a two-and-a-half year sentence. One day he was caught selling marijuana to an inmate. That landed him in solitary confinement for 28 days.
John read the only book allowed in solitary confinement, the Bible. Thinking about his life, he was ashamed of the harm he caused himself and others.
“So I’m like, Well, if God can forgive David who is a man after his own heart, premeditated murder and adultery, who knew God, surely He can forgive me.”
John says he came to his senses, when a stale piece of bread fell off a serving cart. “It was laying there and all of a sudden the people, the guys to the left and right are throwing their blankets out there to grab that bread. I just had this visual and it was like, what have you fallen to? I had fallen as low as I could go.”
With nowhere to run this time, John talked to God. “Strengthen me. Help me. Forgive me. I can’t do this without you. In that prison cell I literally cried tears and I said, ‘Lord I don’t want to do this anymore’. And there was this refreshing feeling that came over me. There was this feeling of redemption. Up until that time I had kind of lived the modern Nike commercial. If it feels good, just do it. That had taken me to a place I didn’t like. When I broke free of that and cried out to the Lord, that freedom, it changed me,” said John.
For the remainder of his sentence, John began to memorize scripture and pray every day. “I thank God for the penitentiary. It saved me. And isolation, it helped me. Because it stopped me long enough to hear the voice of God and the Holy Spirit speak to me.”
For several years he worked to beat his addictions and now he has been alcohol and drug free for nearly 15 years. “Redemption for me was a better way. New places. New playgrounds. New playmates. Changing my environment.”
Today he is an author, minister, and family man. He’s running a successful business using masonry skills he learned in prison- - and he’s building for the Kingdom of God.
Through A Better Way Ministries he provides shelter and resources for men, as they overcome their own life challenges.
“Today my perspective on life has changed. Everything has brightened up. I believe that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Everything. Even the bad things we’ve been through. Our failures. Our mistakes. All I can do is praise God everyday for what He’s done.”