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Pardoned in This Life and the Next

“My life's over, you know. In my mind, who cares,” Brooke Jones said as she recalled one of the worst days of her life. “I thought, if I go here and rob this place, the police will come, they'll shoot me, that'll be it.”

Brooke Jones grew up in a busy home with a working mother and stepfather. The oldest of five children, Brooke longed for the attention and acceptance she needed. Her grandmother was the only one who gave it to her, but that meant going to her poker games, where Brooke’s life would take a turn.

“There was some creepy old man on the couch and um, I was supposed to be coloring and he was, you know, just fondling me. I didn't want to tell my grandma what was going on, because I didn't want her to send me home,” Brooke said.

She was sexually assaulted two more times and still the now 9-year-old Brooke kept silent.

“Those incidents definitely shaped how I saw sex. I viewed it as a way to fit in, or for people to accept me,” Brooke said.

Making things more confusing, Brooke was enrolled in a Christian school at the time where she learned about Jesus and the Bible.

“I had that childlike faith, and I believed all of the Bible stories that we read,” Brooke said thinking back to her time in the school. “I can recall praying for things and believing that He was listening.”

That changed when she started going to public school at the age of twelve. She quickly fell in with the wrong crowd, smoking weed, stealing and having sex – anything to get attention and be accepted.

“I wanted people to care about me,” Brooke said. “When I became exposed to this new crazy world I jumped right in it.”

Then at 13, when her parents tried to discipline her, Brooke started running away. The police would bring her back, then the cycle would repeat.

“And that put me in the company of some really dangerous individuals,” Brooke said with her eyes wide remembering the situations she put herself in. “I’m 13 hanging around 18, 20-year-old men engaging in sexual behavior with them to buy my place to stay. And they're giving me alcohol and they do other drugs so I’m doing other drugs. It was overnight that I was, emotionally, was just numb.”

For the next eight years, Brooke was in and out of her family’s home, but when she stole money from her mother she was kicked out of the house. By the time she was 23 she had four children and was trying to slow her drug use while raising them. That’s when Brooke learned that her youngest sister, Jessica, the only family member she thought loved and accepted her, had heart failure and was going into surgery.

“Everybody was praying and I remember thinking God was gonna answer that prayer, you know. He was definitely gonna save my sister, but she didn't live,” Brooke said as tears filled her eyes.

Brooke slipped into a deep depression. After leaving her kids with family she fell hard into drinking and doing cocaine.

“I just had hit my breaking point,” Brooke said. “When you're on drugs like that you’re sick of yourself. I just didn't want to live. I just didn't have the courage to kill myself I guess.”

Strung out and using an unloaded handgun she’d stolen to sell for drug money, she began robbing stores, hoping the police would corner and shoot her dead. During one of the robberies, a bystander tackled Brooke and held her until the police came. She was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 25 years. Now forcefully separated from her children, Brooke began to consider their future.

“I wanted to be back with my children,” Brooke said. “My kids suffered because of my decisions. I definitely wanted to get out and to be available to my kids. To be the stable parent figure that they needed.”

Brooke was given a Life Recovery Bible and that’s when she started reading the stories she’d heard as a little girl.

“I was ready to hear God because I was just as far down as I could go. I was reading the Bible. I was feeling peace. I was feeling God, you know, touching my life and touching my heart,” Brooke said.

She also began listening to Christian music.

“I felt Jesus speak to me through those lyrics,” Brooke said. “God reached me and was like, ‘I can help you, I can change you.’ I prayed and said, you know, I'm gonna try. I'm gonna give my life to you and let's see what happens.”

Brooke started attending a Bible study in prison and continued to pray, grow her faith and overcome her addictions. Then one day, after serving 11 years…

“They told me my sentence had been commuted and I was gonna go home,” Brooke said. “I was stunned. It was a miracle. It was forgiveness that only God can give.”

Brooke received a full pardon from the Governor of Kentucky. She immediately reconnected with her children, reconciled with her parents and is now married to a Christian man. Brooke gives all the credit to God for restoring her life and giving her the love and acceptance she always longed for.

“There was nothing I could do or muster up within myself to make those changes, to change my heart,” Brooke said. “God was the only way to my new life. I don't have to look for acceptance in anyone or anything. I have found love and acceptance from God. His forgiveness, His pardon is waiting for me every single day.”

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