Clinton Byrd, currently serving a life sentence for a 1997 murder conviction, thought all hope was lost when he entered prison. However, he has found a purpose and a plan for his life, stating that he is "freer today in prison then I ever was before".
Clint was a "problem child" from an early age. He grew up believing that trouble followed him everywhere he went. He was a part of a gang, had rowdy friends, many girlfriends, took drugs and drifted in and out of jail.
He blamed his "parents' divorce [that occurred] when I was seven years old, the physical and mental abuse from my dad, and seeing my dad beat my mom and brothers".
When Clint was 22, he had caused so much trouble in his birth-town in Michigan that the rowdy youth was sent to Arkansas by his father. "My family prayed that this would be my fresh start," he recalls.
However, upon his arrival, Clint got involved in the wrong crowd and was introduced to drugs that he had never heard of before. Sooner than he realized, he was deep into "the sin of addiction".
"I was blinded to the realities of my sinful lifestyle," he admits. "I believed that I was having fun. I had made new friends and my life was, once again, one big party. I had no responsibilities, no plans for tomorrow, and no direction for my life or future."
Clint tells of the time that, one night, he thought he had hit rock bottom because he had used up all of his drugs. "I found myself alone and very scared. I was home sick and lonely. The emptiness was one of despair. It was dark and I was depressed."
At 2am in the morning, he walked to a pay phone and rang his dad, begging for help. But, seeing as he lived 14 hours away, there was little he could do. Clint repeated the process with his mother, who warned him against coming back to Michigan ever again as the police were still on the hunt for him.
When he was on the phone to his sister, who was willing to drive down and get him, one of his drug buddies pulled up next to him and held up a bag of dope. "Problem solved! I was no longer in need of help."
They parked the car sideways across the road just over a hill with the lights off and smoked meth out of a light bulb with the radio turned up. "If a car would have come over that hill, we would not have heard it," Clint says. "Looking back, I remember telling [my buddy] that there was no turning back and that I hoped a truck would come over that hill and kill us."
On a different night, Clint recalls getting high when "the Lord spoke to my heart, telling me that I needed to go to a church that my dad's family attended and be in that night's service".
Unwilling to go alone, Clint rang up his girlfriend and asked if she could drive him to church. However, as soon as the service started, Clint knew that he could not stay.
"The pull of the devil was so great that all I could think about was drugs and sex," he admits. "We got up and left."
The next Sunday, though, Clint found himself in the church again. He left after ten minutes but before he backed out of the parking lot, he was confronted by his cousin Chris who told him, "God is calling you to Him."
Even though Clint knew that he was right, he could not go back into the service.
No matter how many warnings Clint received from his parents and others, he refused to listen. Soon after his last visit to the church, he received a life sentence for murder in the first degree.
"I got to prison still bound by the chains of addiction to drugs and anger," he says sadly. "It was accompanied by bitterness and resentment towards God. I refused to feel bad or repent for anything I had done wrong. Of course, it did not take long for me to find myself in the usual routine of drugs, gangs, violence and pornography.
"I ended up living the same reckless lifestyle, even in prison. Within the first couple of years, I got into enough trouble to have the administration decide to segregate me from the general population."
It was while Clint was in that segregation cell that he truly hit rock bottom and found that was where God could reach him. "I became so spiritually broken to the point of torment."
Clint reviled God and cursed Him to His face. He blamed Him for everything bad that had happened in his life and denied His very existence.
"I had spent my entire life running from Him and myself," he confesses. "I asked God, 'Is this what You created me for? To live the rest of my life alone, in a cage, like a wild animal?' God could have struck me dead in that cell. He could have taken me the moment before I committed my crime, but He did not. He still loved me."
It took Clint ten years in incarceration before he was willing to give his life to God. In that time, he realized that his cell was a blessing for there he "truly begin to change". In that time alone, he faced his life's wrongs and even though he did not change overnight, God "finally had my full attention. I am now willing to listen to Him".
Clint became free from his drug addiction in 1999. In 2007, he denounced himself from all gang memberships and activities. In 2008, Clint accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and was baptised [immersed in water] as an outward sign of his repentance.
"I have matured through Christ and the Word into a man of Christian values and integrity. I have learned to face responsibility. [Now] I am a minister of the Gospel and I work daily to lead men to Christ."
Clint has worked at five different prisons as an Inmate Peer Counsellor in the Drug Rehabilitation Program and speaks on tours as a member of the Inmate Panel. He shares with other fellow prisoners of the love they can experience in Jesus.
One of his favourite Bible passages is from Titus 3:5-6 where it says, "According to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior."
"No matter where you are or what you have done, Jesus loves you and is calling out to you," he concludes. "Your life has a purpose. He has a plan for you that was started before you were born. So, go to Him now. He is waiting on you."•