These experiences soon led to my own negative behaviour at school. I found myself in more and more trouble, with numerous suspensions until I was expelled in Year 8 for fighting with students and hitting a teacher. I ran away from home and lived on the streets for about six months.
By the age of 13, I was taking drugs to ease the pain and escape from what was happening in my home life. I was angry with life, and sunk myself into partying, alcohol, drugs and even dabbling in seances. One night I invited the devil to come into my life and take control. During the next six years, I got more heavily into drugs and began gaining pleasure from hurting people--both physically and mentally--including my own mother. Eventually, my behaviour resulted in my being imprisoned.
My first thoughts in prison were total denial. I spent the first night in a safe cell under 24-hour surveillance. I didn't want to accept responsibility for my actions and placed the blame on the victim. Prison life was fearful at first but then I began to relax. A minister would visit on Saturdays and an announcement was made over the speakers that the worship service was on. For a few weeks, when I heard the announcement I heard a voice in my head saying, Come to church and worship Me.
Then I discovered there was a week-long Christian program happening and I decided to attend to see what it was about. Different people from the program gave their testimonies and shared how God loved us and would forgive us for whatever we had done. I saw in these people a genuine love for Christ and other people.
I discovered by talking with them that some had travelled long distances to spend a week with what society considers the scum of the earth. They didn't judge or condemn us but showed love, kindness and encouragement, and told me no matter what happens Jesus will always love me. About midweek, I went back to my cell and fell on my knees. I
cried out to the Lord to forgive me for all the evil I had done and all the people I had hurt. I asked Him to be my Lord and my Saviour, and peace came over me as I acknowledged I was a rotten sinner.
This began a change in my life. I asked my mother to forgive me for all the horrible things I said and did to her over the years. I started reading the Bible every day and other Christian literature.
After eight months in Grafton, I was transferred to Long Bay Gaol and continued to study the Bible. I was talking to another inmate who gave me a copy of Signs of the Times magazine, in which I saw an advertisement for the book Steps to Christ. I wrote to Signs requesting a copy of the book and asked them to pray for me while I was in jail. Within two weeks, I received a copy of the book with a letter from Meryl McDonald-Gough, the editorial secretary.
I enjoyed the book and asked if there was any other literature I could have. I soon received a selection of books. In one of my letters, I asked if someone could visit me. She kindly arranged for James Fletcher, the Seventh-day Adventist prison chaplain, and one of the local pastors, Peter Rollo, to visit.
I requested more information and kept in regular contact with Meryl, Peter and James. Soon, I was convicted about keeping the seventh day as the Sabbath.
One night I was sitting in my cell, feeling lonely and homesick. I started praying and felt a brief, sharp brightness within my cell. As the light faded, I felt so clean on the inside, right throughout my whole body. I felt free on the inside!
I was released from prison in September 2006 and immediately began attending the Seventh-day Adventist church in my home town. I have continued to grow in my Christian experience. I am continuing Bible studies and am planning to be baptised soon.
I was in prison, and you visited me. Matthew 25:36.
Daniel McLean lives in Lismore, New South Wales.
This story is used with permission from Signs Publishing Company. More of these stories can be found in these collections: Ordinary People—Extraordinary God, Ordinary People—Faithful God, and Ordinary People—Generous God