Editor’s note: Casey Diaz was a violent gangbanger whose crimes had caught up to him landing not only in jail but in solitary confinement. Today, Casey can’t stop sharing his story of how God saw him, knew him, and never forgot him… even in a lonely prison cell. Today’s excerpt is from his book, The Shot Caller, in which he tells the shocking story of his violent youth and the miraculous moment he decided to give His life to God and become a new man. Casey’s story showcases the love of God and that no one — no one — is too far gone for the saving grace of Jesus!
The chaplain took his time explaining to me the concept of salvation, which is that Christ’s death on the Cross and subsequent resurrection saved me from God’s judgment of sin — sin that had separated me from God. Instead of experiencing the consequence of sin, which was death, I had the assurance of knowing that when I died I would have eternal life with Christ.
The chaplain seemed very excited about me. He gave me a Gideon Bible, with the King James translation. This particular Bible consisted of the New Testament and the book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs from the Old Testament.
When I returned to my cell, I read that Bible inside and out. If I was awake, I was reading one of the Gospels or one of the Epistles. I went to sleep reading my Bible and when I’d wake up, I’d discover that I’d slept right on top of it.
Every hour I was awake, I was reading that Bible. I’d spend five, six hours reading, then fall asleep, wake up, do some push-ups and calisthenics, and get back to reading from where I left off. I didn’t understand half of what I was reading, but that didn’t even bother me. Neither did the thees and thous that sounded so foreign to me. Even though I didn’t quite understand the message, I knew that whatever I was reading made me feel good.
Several weeks after I received the Gideon Bible, I stopped reading. I looked around my bare cell, thinking. Then I heard God’s voice speak to me. He said, When you get out of here, you’re going to gather your homies together and tell them that you want nothing to do with the gang life anymore because you’re a Christian.
“Okay,” I replied. “I will do that.”
I took God’s direction to mean that I would say that to gang leaders after I got paroled, but that was a long way off because I still had more than seven years left on my sentence.
A few days later, I was in my cell, reading my Bible. Nothing out of the ordinary. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, my gate opened, which had never happened before in that manner.
You have to understand that in the world of incarceration, there is no such protocol. The system is the system. They never break the system. They never open a prisoner’s gate until they’ve come to the wicket and told you to step all the way to the back of the cell, get on your knees, cross your legs, put your hands behind your head, and interlace your fingers. That’s how it was done every single time my cell was about to be opened.
For my gate to suddenly open like that didn’t totally freak me out, but it was weird. I looked up from my chair and saw the warden and the CO gang coordinator who greeted me when I arrived from Delano, the same two who told me they were going to make sure that I served the rest of my time in the SHU, in solitary.
The warden spoke first. “I don’t know why we’re doing this, but we’re going to put you in mainline,” he said.
Mainline. That meant I would leave solitary confinement and be transferred to the main prison population to serve the rest of my sentence with other prisoners.
I didn’t say anything. I was too stunned to react because this wasn’t supposed to happen. I had been thrown in “the hole” and was supposed to stay in solitary for at least seven more years to finish my twelve-year, eight-month sentence.
“When am I going to mainline?” I asked, afraid to get my hopes too high.
There was nothing to pack. I had the clothes on my back, the shortest toothbrush in the world, and my precious Bible. A few minutes later, one of the guards delivered a fresh set of state blue jeans, a white T-shirt, a pair of socks, and sneakers. I changed into the new garb, grabbed my Bible, but left my toothbrush behind.
Within twenty minutes, I was processed into the B yard and a Level IV unit with two dozen men. Two COs escorted me to my new cell, which was empty.
For a moment, I would have a cell to myself.
I looked around at my new home and thought about how much my life had changed in the last half hour. Then I remembered what God had told me: When you get out of here, you’re going to gather your guys together and tell them that you want nothing to do with the gang life anymore because you’re a Christian.
My heart was ready. I knew that declaring I no longer wanted to be a gang member meant that I was forfeiting my life. I was aware of that, but I was ready to do whatever He wanted me to do.
Even if my actions got me killed.
Excerpted with permission from The Shot Caller by Casey Diaz, copyright Casey Diaz.
Hear Casey’s incredible testimony
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Have you ever wondered if someone you love is too far gone to meet Jesus and be saved? Maybe they’re addicted to drugs, or living on the street, or partying every night, or just ignorant of how much God loves them. Keep praying! And let Casey’s remarkable, spirit-filled story of salvation encourage you in your prayers. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily