Skip Lewis is no longer classified as beyond help
As a murderer, thief and prison escapee with a life sentence over his head, Skip Lewis abandoned any hope of changing his lifestyle until an incredible message reached his ears.
"I looked for fear in his eyes," Skip shares about the pivotal moment when Ron, a prison volunteer, changed the course of his life.
"I knew how to control fear in people. But when I looked into his eyes there was no fear, only friendship."
His wilful rebellion started at a young age when painful spinal cancer caused his father to lash out at him abusively, leading Skip to feel as if his parents were mere strangers.
"In my mind they ceased to exist and running away from home became my obsession," he says.
He lived on the streets, stole food to eat, clothes to wear and ate from garbage cans.
"I had changed into a crazy boy the courts would later lock up because I was running from life."
He was kept in custody from age 12 to 16.
"My dad died two years after I was locked up in the state training school and classified as 'incorrigible' (beyond help). In jail I met others running from life ... We believed no one wanted us and crime was just our lifetime occupation. It never entered my mind that things should be any other way."
At 17 Skip had a long rap sheet of convictions and was sentenced to added years behind bars after escaping from prison.
Then 12 years later Skip and a fellow escapee murdered two people who stopped to help the pair when they posed as "stranded motorists" in a stolen truck.
"We had been in a gunfight across the state line in Colorado, and were half drunk," Skip confesses.
"We were men who thought life had cheated them and the world owed them everything they needed."
For that crime he was given a life sentence and fifty years in prison.
At least once a year Skip's mom would visit him and tell me how he needed Jesus in his life and how He could change everything.
"By this time, the sin in my life had driven me insane and demons of darkness controlled me 100%," Skip admits.
"Voices would invade my sleep telling me hell was my future and I deserved this life. I had given up hope that I could have the American dream talked about on TV."
Then in 1984, committed Christian volunteers from ministries around the state formed a program called Prison Invasion.
One day he noticed some of these volunteers talking and laughing with some prisoners.
"When I passed near them I tried to see who they were and why they were laughing ... Suddenly one of them called me by my name ... He said that we had never met, but his name was Ron and someone had sent him down there to tell me some good news."
With no fear in his eyes, Ron eagerly declared to Skip and the other prisoners surrounding him: "Jesus sent me to tell you that He loves you and wants you to be a part of His family".
"You're mistaken, Jesus doesn't want me. I've done terrible things and it's too late!" Skip recalls responding.
Yet Ron continued to speak with him and help Skip to see that God had a good purpose for his life.
"He could see sin and bondage waging a war with my mind for control," Skip says.
"After that, believers inside began to pray to God asking Him to work in my life. Some would talk with me and tell me all the great things Jesus was doing in their lives. As I watched them in their own group, eating together, I decided God wanted them but I still believed my only hope was to escape from prison."
A year later a guy named Jimmy Smith shared with Skip about how he managed to quit smoking, opening up a conversation about spiritual things.
"I began to understand I was a sinner and when I died I was going to hell, but I didn't have to!" Skip remembers from the conversation.
"Jimmy asked me if I would like to be filled with peace and be a part of God's family. At the same time another voice entered my mind saying, 'It's too late. Jesus doesn't want you, a killer, a stealer and a destroyer like your master the devil'."
"I didn't answer [that voice]. I just got up and went back to my cell and sat on the bed. I sat there all day and most of the night until I fell asleep sitting up."
"I thought Christians all seemed so happy, such straightforward attitudes, such friendliness with each other ... It seemed too good to be true."
Then a few days later Skip finally made the decision to surrender his life to God.
"I asked Jesus to forgive me for my sins, to come into my life, and make me a blessing to all those around me," he shares.
He felt an inner prompting to read the Bible and, as the story of Jesus began to unfold, the Holy Spirit helped Skip see the new life he had received through faith in Him.
"By the end of the week everyone knew Jesus was with me," Skip shares joyfully about the complete change in his thinking and attitude.
Still behind bars at 67 years old, Skip concludes his story with these words: "I am writing this to anyone who is hurting. There is someone who cares for you and loves you and wants you to be a part of our family. His name is Jesus and He is calling you and drawing you, even as you read these words ... I may still be in prison, but prison isn't in me. Jesus is living in me and He wants to live in you!"•