Dwight Eugene Richard Jr. shares how his life of rejection, hopelessness and crime was transformed into one of purpose, love and passion.
I have been incarcerated for the past 29 years of my life. I came to prison in 1987 when I was a 16 year old juvenile for the crimes of Aggravated Murder and Attempted Aggravated Murder. My bad choices and decisions had caused the death of someone. At that stage I had a 9th grade education and was considered to be mentally diminished.
During this time of my life I was a very troubled youth. I didn't have any love, structure, guidance, direction or discipline in my life. I experienced mental, verbal, emotional and physical abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and community violence. I was never taught how to manage the emotional, social and psychological challenges of adolescence.
No one ever talked to me about Jesus, the love of God, nor salvation. I had no clue there was a better way or that I had an opportunity to have a new life in Jesus Christ.
I was searching for someone, anyone to come into my life and tell me they loved me, I mattered and was worth loving. As a child I grew up never hearing the words 'I love you' and 'I am proud of you' and I never heard any kind of encouraging and uplifting word that I was special.
Sometimes I remember thinking I was a mistake. Age 11 was the first time I thought about killing myself because I didn't think I was lovable. I was always called demeaning names, told I wouldn't amount to anything and that I would be in prison by the time I turned 18.
I know what it is like to cry out for help, only to be ignored by family, the community and everyone around you. I know what it is like to feel worthless, unloved and to be abandoned by your family.
At 16 I started to become increasingly angry toward everyone around me. I remember going out to the backyard to cry until I could cry no more. For the life of me I couldn't understand why no one wanted to love me and I used to ask myself and God what was wrong with me.
When I came to prison I really hated myself for being the reason why someone was dead and for causing extreme pain to someone else's family. I didn't believe that I deserved to be living. For three years I became increasingly depressed and suicidal. I couldn't forgive myself and I definitely didn't think or believe that God could or would forgive me.
In 1991 a chaplain sat me down and told me about the Gospel message and the love of God. I was reaching the point and place in my life where something had to change or I was going to take my own life. I needed God to step in, reveal Himself to me and do a work in my life.
My intellectual level was borderline between below average and above the retarded range of functioning but it was at this point God started to work in my life and heal my ability to learn and comprehend.
That year my Heavenly Father, my Lord and Savior and Great High Priest Jesus Christ started to truly encounter my life. In 1992 I went to a Christian retreat where I was introduced to the unconditional, amazing, never-ending and life-changing love of God.
For the first time in my life I saw the love of God through the people who gave up their free time to come in and love me. For the first time I heard the words 'I love you Dwight, you matter and you are special'.
what it is
like to feel
and unloved”Here I am today living in the favor of God. I know that during these 29 years God has had His hand on my life. He has been my father, mother and everything else I needed in my life to help me develop into the man He destined me to be.
God brought people into my life to help me grow. He taught me discipline and gave my life structure, direction and purpose. He taught me what it is to be a man, a man after His own heart. He taught me about being a husband, a father, a friend and about courting and dating women.
I now have a desire and passion to do urban and youth ministry and to possibly come back into the prison system as a chaplain one day. I have earned my Ministerial Studies Diploma and am now completing my Social Service Assistant Certificate.
God took a 16 year old child who was put in prison to die and be forgotten about and made him into a man after His own heart. My life now represents the greatness and unconditional love of God!•