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Finding Direction on the Path to Destruction

Hundreds of convicts are confined within the fences at Avoyelles prison in Louisiana. Lewis Goodwin used to be one of them. But he wasn’t only a prisoner of the state; he was also held captive by the pain from his past. “There was abuse in our house and things taking place that shouldn’t be taking place in our home,” he said. 

He was a little boy when he watched his mother walk out of his life. He just wanted to feel loved and accepted, especially by his father, but he didn’t get that either. Instead, he says he was sexually abused at the hands of a trusted relative. “It was always done in a playful, lighthearted atmosphere. Wrestling would lead to something. Playing around would lead to something,” said Lewis. 

He says the dysfunction at home left him empty during his teen years. “I felt unloved. I felt out of place. I felt misunderstood and as I continued to grow older, I felt more distant.”

By high school he was smoking and selling marijuana. Then, after a stint in the military he moved from state to state, working odd jobs and selling drugs. He ended up in New Orleans. “I was changing from crystal meth to coke now, and I’m dealing it in the French quarter with bands, bartenders, waitresses. All I wanted to do was belong and be happy. Unless I was on drugs or drinking, I didn’t have that part of happiness.  In order to be happy, I had to make sure that the people around me were happy. So they needed to have pot, they needed to have drinking. The minute I would get alone I would start to feel black inside, voided inside again. I hated to be alone. And I couldn’t be alone unless I was loaded.”

Then he married and had 3 children, but his addiction to crack tore his family apart. “After we split, probably for 3, 4, 5 years all I did in my life revolved around cocaine, drinking and partying. The more you use, the more you have to buy. And for me, not having money, you would start to sell it.”

Lewis was busted numerous times. When he refused to turn in one of his drug partners, he was sentenced to 15 years. It wasn’t long before he found himself visiting the only place in prison that could save him from the heat; the air-conditioned chapel. He went to the Bible studies there and constantly argued with the teacher, challenging her with questions about God. One day she pulled him aside.

“And she had told me how the past week had been a spiritual battle for her. How she wanted so desperately to throw me out of this class because I refused to leave. And, the more she would tell her husband that and pray over it; she said the more God was telling her ‘You have to love him because I do.’ She said that He kept filling her with love for me that she couldn’t understand. And that she was not able to just turn her back on me.  When she started telling me this something inside broke. And it was only because this God that she loved told her to love me because He did.”

The teacher prayed with Lewis. He says it felt like a weight had been lifted. “And I gave God everything and said, ‘Lord this is the life I have led. You have shown me through this woman the love that You have for me. I am reading it in Your Word. Father God, I want everything that you have. Forgive me. Jesus Christ, forgive me. Lead me. Guide me.  Teach me.’ And God did.”

Locked in prison, Lewis found freedom in forgiveness. “It was a way of me knowing that I was accepted by God. When I understood that God had forgiven me for everything that I had ever done and loved me in spite of it, then at that point I had no choice but to forgive everyone else.”

Lewis was released on parole after serving only 7 years. He tells prisoners how Jesus accepted him just as he was. Now he’s finding fulfillment as part of God’s family. 

“The greatest feeling I ever got from a high couldn’t touch it. No matter what kind of expensive liquor I was drinking couldn’t touch it. No pretty woman could touch it. No party. No amount of money. No amount of excitement. Nothing in this world that I had ever experienced could change or could touch the level of God in my heart and His desire to just love Lewis…Nothing. Nothing touches it.”  

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