Biker risked life sentence to come clean to police
After ten years of living "like a cockroach" former biker and drug dealer Ken Burton exchanged the fugitive life he hated for an irresistible fresh start.
Once armed with a gun, crowbar or meat cleaver to protect his interests, Ken recalls he came close to murder multiple times: "I would hurt anyone that got in my way, even my own family. I had grown so cold in my heart that it would have been very easy to take someone's life."
One day, police surrounded his house while he was sharing drugs with biker friends. They presented him with two fresh charges for selling marijuana, because recent case law had reclassified it as an illegal narcotic.
That first day he fronted the Michigan Supreme Court, Ken realised he was no longer invincible and immediately fled on bond to Canada to avoid a certain sentence of at least 25 years and up to two life sentences.
As the Vietnam war raged, Ken thought he could hide among American draft dodgers, but he remembers that over the next ten years "it seemed that the police were everywhere I turned."
Following a dozen very close calls in which he was ready to die rather than be captured, Ken grew tired of his "cockroach existence" and the inability of drugs and thrills to quell his growing fears.
"You can't understand what it's like being a fugitive knowing that at any minute a bullet through your head can end your life. I hated my life," Ken says.
Holding a bottle of whiskey, he tried to think of something pleasant and surprised himself when he began singing songs he had learned in church as a child.
"My eyes starting filling with tears and I wiped them away straight away, because you don't ever show weakness to anybody."
Following a move to Vancouver, a challenging question began to nag at him: is any sentence more serious than an eternal one?
“How could I compare life in prison to eternity in hell?”"I heard somebody talk about Jesus, heaven and hell and thought, if there is anything to this, this little trouble with the police is nothing. You're talking about eternity."
Confident that he would spot a phoney, he asked his girlfriend to accept a Gideon's Bible gift in a mall, and found it easy to understand.
"I discovered the message of the New Testament was not mysterious at all: Jesus is the Son of God and came to earth in human flesh so that He might redeem mankind by dying on the cross. A day of judgment is coming but there is forgiveness for anyone who will confess his sins and trust in Christ as his Redeemer."
After just three days of reading, Ken says, "I felt I could resist God's love no longer."
"On July 28, 1980, I told God I was sorry for the things I had done. I knew I had hurt a lot of people and I regretted it very much. If He would forgive me like I read in the Bible, I would start doing things right. I told him I wanted to be a Christian and to start living like He wanted me to."
Next morning, Ken discovered he had been deceived by a business partner. As he plotted giving the man a beating, he remembers, "The Holy Spirit spoke to me: 'I have forgiven you for so much, shouldn't you forgive Him?' I knew God was right."
He also realised that he could not serve God and continue living under a false identity.
"How could I compare life in prison to eternity in hell? My life on earth would end one day, but eternity in hell has no ending."
After visiting and being baptised by a church pastor, Ken turned himself in to The Mounties and had to convince them to lock him up and check his story.
Ken humorously recalls that before he was deported to the USA, his captors initially refused to give him a Bible.
"Just look at the effect it was having on me in the few days I had been reading it! A wise law enforcement agency would have placed Bibles in every cell they had."
At his final stop before the trial, he met a female guard who was a fellow Christian.
"I was once a prisoner on the other side of this building where they keep the women," she told him. "Look what God has done in my life. Today I work for the sheriff's department. God will never leave you or turn His back on you."
Other prisoners asked Ken what he had found in the Bible and soon had literature to read through the guard's surprising kindness.
Ultimately, the Canadian authorities dropped all their charges, and Ken was placed on three years' probation.
A Gideon's volunteer for some years, Ken says, "I enjoy telling what God has done for me. I'm very thankful for the great love and mercy God has shown toward me."