From Prison to Praise

Former Gangster Introduces Ex-Con to the Light

By Mark Edwards, serving in Taiwan

I didn’t think it likely that Jonathan would ever follow Christ! Entrenched in a mixture of Buddhist and Taiwanese folk religion beliefs from an early age, the 30-something car mechanic was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him hospitalized in a coma—and also resulted in the death of the man he had hit.

The police deemed Jonathan to be at fault. Unable to pay the heavy fine to the victim’s family, he chose a six-month prison sentence instead. It was after Jonathan was released, in spring 2010, that Taiwan team leader Don Kramer introduced me to him.

The very next week, I arranged for Jonathan to meet Peter, an intern from the Taiwan Alliance Theological College who was working with us on weekends. Previously, Peter had been a gangster involved in drugs. He had served a short prison sentence prior to coming to know Christ through Operation Dawn, a gospel-based drug rehabilitation program. Partly because of their shared background, Peter and Jonathan got along well together. Peter visited Jonathan almost every weekend for a year; I also visited him, on weekends and during the week.

Before the motorcycle accident, Jonathan had been involved in a bad car accident when he was 19. As he lay there on the ground, he had what he could only describe later as an “out of body” experience, in which he was looking down at himself from above. Because of his car accidents and his time in prison, Jonathan was now more open than the average person in our community to talk with our team about issues of faith. Nonetheless, in every conversation the focus quickly moved off of Jesus and onto Jonathan’s own accomplishments, abilities, good deeds, qualifications, and wisdom. Much to his credit, Peter never gave up on Jonathan—visiting, calling on the phone, and encouraging him to come every Sunday morning to our informal meeting.

A String of “Coincidences”

During summer 2010, while Peter was away on a summer missions trip, I hosted a short-term team from an Alliance church in northern Taiwan. One day I brought the pastor’s wife over to visit Jonathan. She told him that he was a “child of God.” She also counseled him to watch the Christian TV cable station to learn more about Christianity.

Just as she said this, I made a passing reference that our Bible student intern was away on a short-term trip. At that exact moment, Jonathan flipped the TV channel over to the Christian station. The person who appeared on the screen was none other than Peter, our Bible school intern! The station had put together a short program that shared how he and another person had turned from drugs to follow Jesus Christ.

The following week I visited Jonathan again. We laughed about how the previous week Peter had suddenly appeared on the TV precisely when we had been talking about him. At that moment, Jonathan flipped the channel to the local cable channel (not the Christian station), only to see a “Say No to Drugs” documentary featuring—you guessed it—our intern! Jonathan had the same experience a total of three times during that one-week period. God’s timing was impeccable.

No Longer Omnipotent

Jonathan’s attendance at meetings became more regular as we slowly made our way through the Book of Mark. Along the way, however, there were some serious theological misunderstandings. While the concept of “sin” had slowly sunk in, for a few weeks Jonathan mistakenly took the earlier admonition from the pastor’s wife that he was a “child of God” to mean that he himself was omnipotent!

A few weeks later, the Lord set the record straight: Jonathan was involved in yet another accident. Swerving to miss an old man who had pulled his scooter out onto the road without looking, Jonathan intentionally drove his car into a field. The car, a Mercedes belonging to Jonathan’s brother, rolled over and over again as it crashed through the field. The car was totaled. A building in the farmer’s field was also badly damaged. However, Jonathan himself emerged with only a few minor cuts and bruises on his arms. Most importantly, he no longer thought of himself as being omnipotent!

There were other semi-miraculous happenings that occurred along the way, and Jonathan decided soon after that he wanted to follow Jesus. I spent eight weeks helping Jonathan prepare for baptism. We baptized him on September 4.

Over the year and a half that Jonathan has been coming to our small group, Jonathan’s wife, sister, her husband and their three children, mother-in-law, and, more recently, Jonathan’s father and another relation have come to the group once or twice to check us out. In spite of their curiosity, they have yet to be drawn by the Holy Spirit to know God personally. Jonathan’s father and family members continue to be involved in temple activities, parades in the community and elsewhere that honor other gods, and the I-Kuan Tao “Pervasive Truth” religion, which incorporates elements from Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

Please pray for the seed of the gospel to take root in the hearts of Jonathan’s father and other family members. Pray also that the Holy Spirit would empower Jonathan daily to continue following Jesus—and Jesus alone. Pray, too, that God will bless Jonathan’s business so that he will be able to support his family as a faithful follower of Christ.

What You Can Do

Give to the Great Commission Fund. In doing so, you partner with Alliance workers, like Mark Edwards, who are lighting the way for people trapped in spiritual darkness.

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