By prisoner D.E. Steilman, Th.M.
“I have not always been a Christian. Upon entering prison in 1998, I had little or no faith, and my exposure to Christianity in prison turned me away from it altogether.
"Christianity in prison is perceived as a faith for the weak, a crutch for the wretched, a religion for those who are supposedly too outcast or too 'weak' to fall in line with the defiant and depraved politics of 'respect' [actually fear mongering] and status earned by extreme violence in response to the slightest frustration.
"Christianity is for those who 'go against the grain' and seek shelter and fellowship with others of similar ilk. 'You weren't a Christian on the streets,' is an often-heard provocation in the prison cellblocks. This is all very true, though initially I viewed this information in a very limited way, through eyes dimmed as a result of my own servitude to sin and desensitization to God. My pride wouldn't allow me to have any part of that kind of faith, and I didn't for a very long time."
Fortunately for Steilman, prison offers a lot of educational opportunities. He read hundreds of books on every subject imaginable but he says that he used his advanced knowledge to disrupt and persecute Christians.
"Looking back and realizing the depth of my delusion and depravity, I confess I was the worst kind of person: a sinner of the highest rank, deserving of eternal punishment. Praise be to God, He had other plans for me.
"Eventually, I was led to God, in part because of my tireless studies in religion, occultism, secret societies, and even the natural sciences and, in part, because of a brave and devoted Christian named Aaron who persevered in witnessing to me in spite of the intellectual hostility I continually spewed in his direction.
"Aaron was always very patient, even in the face of my anger and the personal insults I lobbed his way. His patience had a profound effect on me. I didn't realize it then, but later I understood that his patient bearing and humble disposition was the result of knowing the truth about God, and truly desiring that I come to know Him as well."
A few weeks later, Steilman was unexpectedly transferred to another prison.
"When I arrived at the Receiving Center, I was placed in a cell that was empty but for a mattress and a Holy Bible that must have been forgotten by the previous inmate. It is virtually unheard of to be in a single cell in the Transit Unit of the Receiving Center. Usually it is so crowded that three inmates are forced to share a cell designed for two.
"I knew the single cell and the solitary Bible was significant. I had been wrestling with questions about God since I first met Aaron. His witness was profound. He didn't have family or friends to support him emotionally or financially while inside. He grew up in a highly dysfunctional family, and he had a lengthy prison sentence to serve...yet Aaron's joy was visible every single day. Aaron would find cause to express happiness. He would point to heaven, smile and give Jesus all the credit.
"When we argued [about Christianity], he never lost his cool, not even once. Aaron constantly displayed an unshakeable faith and a visible joy in an environment suffocating with sadness and despair. This compelled me to really wonder about God, Aaron's professed source of peace.
"And in that cell in the Transit Unit, all those questions I had rose right to the surface. I needed to have a conversation with God, and He provided the optimal setting for it: the absolute privacy of a single cell, along with a copy of His Holy Word.
"I gave my life to Christ that evening in August 2010, on my knees and in tears.
"Immediately afterward, I enrolled in college to study Theology. It is in this field that I found my passion and purpose in life. Theology has since become a part of me and all my previous areas of study now make sense seen through the Bible. I have come to understand that all facts are theological facts, and every area of life is affected by one's understanding of God. I now hold a Master's Degree in Theology from Shalom Theological Seminary and my daily life revolves around my responsibility to Jesus' Kingdom and Commission."•