Russell Brown: From Darkness Into Light
My name is Russell. I started using drugs at a very early age. Actually, I was paid $5 to take my first hit off a joint. Then, I lost the money, because I was to high to know what I did with it.
MY EARLY YEARS…
I was the youngest of four children. My father was an alcoholic. My parent’s marriage was over before I was born, but they stayed together so I could grow up with two parents. Today, I admire mom and pop for doing that, but at the time, I had no clue. I saw them only arguing and felt the resentment towards me and others for making them stay together until I was old enough to understand.
I have had no true role models to look up to growing up. I did look up my older brother Ray, but he was a thug — the white pride biker type outlaw. He use to fight a lot and was very good at it. In time, he rubbed off on me.
But I went to church, being raised a Catholic, going to Catechism and made my holy communion at an early age. I believe I knew who Jesus was intellectually, but I didn't know Him as my personal Savior and Lord, which came later. Even before Christ, I knew He was watching over me, and saved me from some very tricky situations. I didn't realize this until later in life when I looked back and saw the truth.
I became addicted to drugs and the entire drug-driven life style. I wanted to be at the top of the world. I've been through just about every level of drug use. It didn't matter how I did it. What mattered was getting high, no matter where and with who. At the same time, I was a dog, wanting to be respected and have money, Drugs and the women. I chased it in all manners and fashions. I robbed, sold drugs, made drugs and even killed for them.
The crazy thing is that I always knew it was wrong, and I could do better. I believe I had morals and values, but when I got hooked, I wanted nothing more. I recall a low point in my life when I hit bottom. In a canyon next to a stream. I put a two-shot Derringer pistol to my head and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. I checked the around, aimed at the sky and pulled the trigger — pop! I flipped the barrel, put it to my head, pulled the trigger — nothing! I rechecked the round, aimed at the sky, pulled the trigger — pop! Now I had no more rounds. I knew that was God, and he didn't want me to die.
GOD’S HAND ON ME
God kept showing me that He was present, and He was real. I just couldn't see it in the darkness. Every time I was arrested, I’d go to church and read the Bible, but I’d get out and return to the same addictive behavior. The Apostle Peter wrote: “They make these proverbs come true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and “A washed pig returns to the mud.”” (2 Peter 2:22, NLT).
Once I was on a stolen motorcycle on the freeway heading out of town to deliver drugs. I had a gun, and I was loaded out of my mind. In the fast lane, the cycle started dying out. I pulled over to the inside shoulder, furtherest from the exits. I was stuck, out of gas, with drugs and a gun, plus a no licence-stolen motorcycle. I was what we would call felony stupid. I cried out to God saying, “Please help me!” As David wrote: “When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them.” (Psalms 91:15, NLT). This fella that pulled over to help not only had a long bed truck, but a motorcycle ramp and ties. I thanked God right there. He took me to the gas station five miles up the road.
I wouldn’t have gotten off that freeway without God's help. That was a turning point for me. I mention the story only to show that even though I was in darkness, God loved me and listened to me. It took many more years and many more tears for me and my family, just like the Israelites roaming the desert in the rebellion. I finally gave my life fully to God, but He is still chipping away lots of stuff. In His grace, He showed me mercy!
I’ve been in and out of institutions since I was thirteen: juvenile halls, camps, drug programs, the Army and two prison terms. I was arrested for first degree murder on September 19, 1997. Ten days earlier, I shot and killed a man over some stolen drugs that I didn’t know for sure he stole. I was on my way that night to shoot another man for money when I seen my victim. I took it upon myself to play judge, jury and executioner believing that I was doing the right thing. “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” (Proverbs 14:12, NLT).
When I was arrested, they tried to put me in a cell with somebody a white boy don’t cell up with. It wasn’t the first time, and I wasn’t having it. I was put in an administrative segregation after fighting with a very large officer trying to deal with the situation. At that moment, when the door clang shut, I hit my knees and asked Jesus into my heart. I felt the the Holy Spirit come into me. That was finally my bottom, and I hit it hard! I was now saved!
Like I said earlier, I’m still having things chipped away, but I know for sure that God loves me. But, it’s moments like just recently, when I lost balance. I got into a altercation with another brother, which I deeply regret for the sake of the testimony of Christ. Though I have been restored, it still hurts. It showed a total lack of maturity.
REFLECTIONS OF LIFE…
See, when I finally got to prison in 1999, I was still active in prison politics, plus I had issues to still be worked out. I went to church and studied the Word, but God showed me things in my heart that needed work, such things as drugs. The Apostle Paul wrote: “So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery…” (Galatians 5:1, NLT).
I needed to stop living in the flesh, that is, just relying on Him and not anyone else. As Solomon wrote: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6, NLT).
The Lord showed me, and still today, that I have let pride and anger rule in my life. I’m putting my foot down, like Paul wrote: “And “don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:26, 27, NLT). I am still a work in progress, relying completely on God, my Father.
Today, I am guided by the Holy Spirit. Allow me to share with you a section from the New Testament by the Apostle Paul called “Living By The Spirit’s Power.” He said it better than I can.
“So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another.” (Galatians 5:16-26, NLT).
Just when I thought I was strong, I slipped. “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.” (1 Corinthians 10:12, NLT). I will never give up my hope and faith in God. He has a plan for my life. He reveals what I need to keep going no matter what. I press towards the goal.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Philippians 3:12-14, NLT).
SOME LAST WORDS…
Brothers and sisters, I don’t have a license to sin, but I have a Savior for when I do. Your struggle is my struggle and my struggle is yours, and in Christ there is victory. Together, we overcome because of His grace and mercy, which is sufficient. I know that for a fact. I am 100% certain that I know Jesus personally today.
I have literally felt His hand upon my heart, when He held it until I got to the hospital in March 2014. I was having some strange chest pains. After several tests, I found out I had coronary heart disease, but I didn’t know how bad. A friend and brother of mine (Pappy) was there to help me in time of need. We went to the throne of grace in prayer as tears streamed down our faces. I felt God grab my heart that very moment and He held it. It actually scared me. I had this palpitation and then this pressure that can only be described as a heart being held. This lasted for seven days. Then, I was loaded into an ambulance and went code 2 for two hours from Coalinga to Bakersfield. I had a 100% clogged artery. The doctor said I didn't have another day and that I wouldn't have recovered if I had arrested. Literally God held my heart in His hand and got me to the hospital. Oh, how He loved me and you!
I have been locked up for 18 years. I've had lots of years to reflect on the pain and the damage that drugs and the criminal lifestyle has caused. I destroyed family relationships, some God has restored, but it has taken many years. I can’t make direct amends with all those I have harmed, but God…I have made amends with many. I do know He has forgiven me.
Lastly, God has made many changes in my life, but there are more to come. I am making amends for the path of destruction I left behind through drug use and the criminal lifestyle by bettering myself for the glory of God. I am closer than ever with my mother and siblings because God has answered prayer for restoration of relationships. My father (Pops) passed away in 1995, not having to experience the pain I've brought to my family because of my present incarceration. My brother, Ray, who was a thug is now a clean and sober Christian, driving a big rig across this great country of ours. When you trust God in recovery, lives get rebuilt. Some take a while, but waiting on God is a lot better than being at odds with Him. It took us many years to distract our lives, so let’s be patient while God reconstructs or rebuilds our lives. He loves you and me. He wants only the best for us, so we can be the best for Him and the ones He places in our paths for ministry.
Russell S. Brown P-50847
PO Box 409040 B10-132U
Ione, CA 95640-9040