By Aaron Mueller, using Anthony’s written testimony from a Minnesota prison
Sitting on the cold cement floor and his head in his hands, Anthony wanted to scream.
He wanted to unleash all his rage at God.
Stuck in solitary confinement and left alone with his thoughts, Anthony couldn't shut off the video screen in his mind playing the traumatic moments of his past on repeat. Just twenty-four years old, Anthony has already endured more pain than many experience in a lifetime.
He remembered his unstable childhood, being shuffled between the care of his mother, grandfather and aunt. Sleeping on a urine-soaked mattress with his brother, taking beatings day after day from his drug-addicted mother, while his father sat in prison.
Anthony's mother would beat him with paint stirring sticks and telephone cords and burn him with lit cigarettes, leaving red bull's-eye marks on his neck. The scars are no longer there, but sometimes it feels like they might reappear just by remembering the horrific moments.
At age six, Anthony went to live with his aunt and his father who had just been released from prison.
"My aunt was the first Christian I ever met. Her love and affection confused me, so I shut down, stopped talking and waited for abuse to happen," Anthony said. "It eventually did."
Anthony's father became incredibly violent, so Anthony moved in with his grandfather. For a short period of time, he was under the loving care of his grandpa, until he passed away. Anthony was then sent back to his father's house where the abuse continued.
"At seven years old, I went to the hospital after getting beaten by him," he said. Anthony soon began running away from home.
"I actually often went to the church, because I knew my dad would never go there," Anthony said. He would attend Bible studies and eat snacks that would be the only food he would have for sometimes days at a time.
When church was over, Anthony sometimes would hide in the restroom until everyone had left the building. He would then sleep in the youth room, which became a safe haven from his violent home.
At age fifteen, Anthony turned to drugs and booze. Addiction soon had a strong grip on his life and he was bouncing in and out of treatment centers.
"I didn't want to change or turn my life around. I continued to be in and out of treatment centers. Always the same thing would happen. I would be released to my dad, he would beat me and I ran away," Anthony said.
At age eighteen, the cycle came to an end when, after being beaten by his father, Anthony ran away and committed a crime that would ultimately land him where he is today – prison.
"I was arrested for assault with a weapon. I begged God to get me out of it. He didn't, and I felt so abandoned," Anthony said.
In prison, desperately seeking acceptance, Anthony got caught up in the wrong crowd. He became the target of assaults, rape and extortion. Eventually his prison "buddies" asked him to do something that he couldn't do.
"They wanted me to assault another inmate, and I said no," he said.
That served as a turning point in Anthony's life. Just like when he was a child, and he was seeking safety, Anthony turned to the church. He attended services in prison and signed up for Crossroad Bible Institute's Bible studies.
But Anthony's attitude was antagonistic toward God. "I had come to believe God was my worst enemy. As a fighter, my mentality was to study my opponents. This time, my opponent was God, and I was ready to go after him," he said.
For Anthony, studying God's Word hurt, and it caused him to ask himself difficult questions. "If God loves me, why did He let me suffer so much?" Anthony asked himself, recalling being assaulted, raped, stabbed and ultimately put in solitary confinement.
Why did He cause me to suffer so much?
Sitting alone in his small cell, the question rolled around in his head and then came to a sudden stop. In a moment of clarity, Anthony realized he was blaming the wrong person.
"I realized it's not God harming me, but the Enemy, and God wants to save me from the evil that's happened."
Anthony fell to his knees and cried for hours, as he was surrounded by God's love.
"I told God how sorry I was for not trusting Him, for not realizing He was always with me," he said.
Anthony continued Crossroad's Bible studies, and the Word has come alive to him. Now in his fourth year with Crossroad, he has also signed up for several other Bible study programs.
"Now, with God, I have a future in front of me. I'm out of here in three years and have plans to get involved in faith-based treatment centers," Anthony said. "All because CBI showed me the way to the path that will lead me to love." •
Used with kind permission of Crossroad Bible Institute
Crossroad Bible Institute is an international prison ministry that mobilizes and equips people to be in life-changing relationships with prisoners. Over 7,000 volunteers guide students in their walks with Christ through correspondence Bible studies and letters of encouragement. For more information, visit crossroadbible.org