Phillip DeWitt Burdick
One Man's Story
LOST IN SIN
"For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
San Quentin state prison is a terrible place to stay for a night, much less years. But, after five years in Soledad on a life sentence for murder, it was either there or Folsom. You see, I was one of those hardened criminals with a long, long record. The California Department of Corrections wanted to make sure I never escaped or hurt anyone again, other than, other psychopaths who just couldn't be trusted in society, who no one but their mother could love anyway!
I was just trying to survive one day at a time, because the convict code was "anything and everything goes." Men kill for less than the price of a pack of smokes ... reduced to no more than animals in a zoo. I was dead, though even that would have been comforting, relieving me from my real anguish within of constant fear twisted in hate, guilt and lies. Death was almost peaceful sounding!
STARING AT DEATH
It was April, after many days of shooting Methadrine (intravenously injecting), smoking pot and drinking pruno (prison made wine) that I found myself facing death many times in my life, but never knew, smelled, or felt death's eternal stench like this. Fear gripped my soul!
The knife at my throat was held by a man with two life sentences running wild, or in other words, he needed more than a miracle to ever see freedom again. He was a hardened, cold-blooded killer who made a reputation off of just that. His eyes bled with anger and his brow was wet with moisture as he tightened his grip to slit my juglar vein and watch me die. No! He taunted me first, knowing I was powerless and frightened. He was drunk, and crazed on drugs as well. We were alone in a cold, lonely, darkened cell. I accepted death at that moment, my life passing before my mind's eyes at the speed of light.
HEADIN' FOR TROUBLE
"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
At nine years of age, I was arrested for bullying a kid into stealing booze from his father. He told! I started a life of crime that really wasn't life at all.
I was born in 1951 and raised in Monterey, California with two sisters and an older brother who thought I was cool only when I'd get arrested and hold my mud (not tell anyone else!). I wanted so much to fit in with my older brother and friends. Fourteen trips to juvenile hall later, I found myself at a boy's ranch in Salinas, California for a year. I had already picked up street ways, bad habits and a dirty mouth; all of which were very cool I thought.
After a year in juvenile hall, I got out and "my cool" figured out that sex, drugs and rock 'n roll was the answer to life's big questions. With the help of my father, I had already been playing the drums for a few years. This to me was the plan -- to be a rock 'n roll star with all the drugs, sex and power that comes with it!
It wasn't long before the "drugs" part of my plan landed me in California Prison for Boys at Stockton for a two year stretch for assault with a deadly weapon!
A NEW START
More drugs and night clubs followed my release, and although when I got out I was married and had a daughter, nothing inside me changed. After another long stretch of shooting dope (any kind, by now I wasn't choosy), I left my wife and a job as a broiler man at a large casino in South Lake Tahoe. I sold my drums and went back home long enough to kiss my daughter and hit a pharmacy for $25,000 worth of drugs and was gone again.
ON THE RUN
I was already on the run for several crimes and just didn't care anymore. The man I killed was just someone who was in a bar that I happened to be at when my money and drugs ran out months later. I beat him to death with a hammer and left him in the woods for $75 and his car! No, I can honestly say I didn't take him out in the woods to kill him, but that does nothing for the responsibility I feel in killing him, nor does it matter that I was out of my mind on drugs. No one forced me to do anything, especially swing the hammer 23 times!
All this was coming to mind, all my sins, all the lies, all the perversion and sickness! But still, after I was convicted for murder and sent to prison for life, I did not repent and turn from my wicked ways. They only became confined to a smaller area with less freedom. Still, I managed to get enough drugs and make my own wine to kill the guilt and fear, or at least suppress it. I thought there was no hope in my future.
So here I was after 30 years of life, 15 of which were incarcerated in California institutions [off and on since nine years of age] ready for death. Suddenly, all the emotions of my life were compressed in fear of certain death and my soul cried to a God I had never known, a God I ran from, a God I had always refused to believe in. "The very God who loved me!"
"...I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live... " (Deuteronomy 30:19).
"Oh God!", I cried, "Don't let me die like this. I'm so afraid! Save me from the hand of my enemy!"
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knoweth not" (Jeremiah 33:3).
"In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears" (Psalms 18:6).
It was as if I left my body and my assassin was below me still with the knife held up against my throat, as I was watching myself talk very calmly to him. I watched as he took the knife from my throat and handed it to me as I heard myself calmly say, "Give it to me my son."
Suddenly, I was back in my body and all fear was gone. I gave him the knife back and walked past him into the night. Confused and not really knowing exactly what had happened, I went to my cell and slept. A life changing miracle had happened!
"And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).
A NEW DAY
The next morning was a new day in my life. Though I tried to get high and carry on in sin as before, nothing would work like before to kill the pain of my troubled soul.
Soon, I was transferred to California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, and my new life had begun as I became more and more aware of a loving Savior and the calling on my life.
It wasn't long before I gave my life to Jesus Christ and was baptized at the Dynamic Prison Church by brother Charles, the minister. "I was a new creation in Christ - a brand new man!"
"Oh God!" I cried. "Save me?"
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
"Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God: Which executeth judgment for the oppressed... The Lord looseth the prisoner" (Psalm 146:5,7).
"I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house" (Isaiah 42:6,7).
GOD CALLS THE FOOLISH THINGS
As I sit in my cell right now, I can't believe life is so good, so fulfilling with Christ in my heart. It hasn't been all rosy and joyful the last many years because of a lot of tearing down of old beliefs and building on God's Word has had to take place.
Although, I still play drums only now for God's glory in praise and worship services at the prison chapel. My Heavenly Father delivered me from drugs, cigarettes and sins of all kinds. Though I'm still in prison and doing a life sentence with no date for release after two decades for the murder I committed, I am freer than I've every been in my life. I'm no longer in bondage of any kind! Praise God, I'm falling more in love with our Lord everyday.
"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free--- If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:32,36).
I'm truly blessed with a calling and the gifts of the Spirit. I've been a deacon in the prison chapel, the director of the outreach department, taught and witnessed in this capacity, counseled men as a moderator of our Yokefellow program [Christian group counseling, Matthew 11:28-33, Philippians 4:3], as well as ministering in many other capacities over the years. I'm growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, I have many brothers and sisters who care and show me so much love. It's a large family! Many of my brothers, with life sentences as well, have gone off to other prison mission fields, others have been released. Through prayer and reading God's Word daily, I have a prosperous and successful life.
"For this book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shall meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1:8).
I've found that "by grace through faith we are saved" as we trust in Jesus and the sound guidance of the Holy Spirit.
"For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).
In all this there is a peace and the blessed assurance of an eternity with our Lord in Heaven. Only God can change a heart as hard and a mind as scrambled as mine was. If it was left up to me, I would be dead, but God is faithful to save the sinner who cries out to Him!
"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him..." (John 6:44).
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13).
"For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17).
IS GOD CALLING YOU?
Jesus is the Son of God and He took our place. He died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins so that we can have abundant life in Him and eternal life as well. God loves us and wants us to live with Him forever! Jesus promises us in John 6:37, "...and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
If you would like to receive Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, pray this prayer now. But remember, it's not the prayer that saves you, but the work of Christ at Calvary's cross.
"Jesus, I believe that you are God's Son and that you died on the cross for my sins, and were raised from the dead so that I can have eternal life. Come into my heart and forgive my sins; I receive you right now as my Lord and Savior. I give my life completely to you.
Heavenly Father, lead and guide me in your perfect will and plan for my life. Thank you for saving me and making me your child and for giving me eternal life through your Son. I am now saved and belong to you. In Jesus' Name, Amen."
Thank God every day for saving you and making you His very own child. Don't go by your "feelings", go by what His Word says!
TO GROW AS A CHRISTIAN
1. Read your Bible every day to get to know Jesus better. He speaks to our heart through His Word. His Word is His Will for our life; He has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His Word. Begin reading with the Gospel of John.
2. Talk with the Lord in prayer every day. Close fellowship with Him is so important. Pray to the Father in Jesus' Name, John 16:23. Simply be open and honest with Him as you would to your best friend -- that's exactly who He is! He loves you and understands you and is interested and concerned about every area of your life.
3. Tell others about Jesus -- witness! Share with them what He's done for you and how they can also have eternal life by accepting Jesus as their Savior. You'll grow stronger as you do! Proverbs 11:30, "...he that winneth souls is wise. "
4. Be baptized; worship, fellowship and serve with other Christians in a church where Christ is preached.
5. Write and let me know so I can rejoice with you!
You may write to Phil at this address:
PHIL BURDICK B-82439
P.O. Box 8103 Rm. #8288
San Luis Obispo, CA 93409-8103