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Is this Love Real?

Norfolk, VA

“Each robbery that we did that we didn't get caught, there was a sense of invincibility.” All his life Lowell Ivey needed to be in control.

At 19, he thought he found it when he joined a gang in L.A. who went on a crime spree - robbing restaurants and hotels from L.A. to Texas.

He recalls, “There was a sense of power over another person when we were doing these robberies. There was a sense of being in control. I'd done drugs before, but this was kind of a natural high.”

A month later in Texas, Lowell was caught and arrested. He sat in a jail cell confronted with his own powerlessness.

He says, “I can remember just feeling a sense of utter aloneness and despair. Also thinking, ‘What have I done? My life is over.'"

This wasn’t the first time he felt alone. When Lowell was three, he was abandoned in a motel room by his single mom.

Then after being passed around family members for a few years, he was adopted by his grandfather’s niece and her husband.

He says, “I kept them at arm's distance. I wouldn't receive that love. There was a lot of anger in my heart, and perhaps a lot of insecurity and mistrust. I was always wondering, you know, is this relationship real? Is this love that's being shown to me, is it real?”

Rebellion, drugs and alcohol would define Lowell’s teenage years. Much of which followed him into the Army when he joined in 1992, right after high school.

Lowell recalls, “I wanted to just get on with my life, I wanted to get out of the home, to get out from under the authority of my parents, and I wanted to be on my own.”

Two years later, he was arrested, for stealing and using another soldier’s ID. Facing military prison, Lowell went AWOL, which is when he hooked up with the L.A. gang that led him on a crime spree, and a 17-year prison sentence for multiple armed robberies.

He recalls, “I was pretty upset that I'd gotten caught. Of course, I was blaming the guys that I was doing robberies with. I was blaming them. I was blaming my parents. I was blaming everybody except for myself.”

In prison he joined a white supremacist gang. At first it was for protection.

Then it became more: filling his need for control, power, and giving him an outlet for his rage.

Lowell recalls, “Every time the doors opened up, there were riots, there were fights, there were people getting stabbed.

There was certainly an opportunity for me to focus my anger on others.” Yet it was only a matter of time before he embraced their ideology of hatred and dominance.

He says, “I began to read those things, I began to embrace that way of thinking. And eventually it became my whole identity, the way that way that I thought about everything.”

A few years later Lowell attacked another inmate and was put in solitary confinement that would last the remaining 14 years of his sentence.

Lowell’s illusion of control was over.

He recalls, “It got me really thinking deeply for the first time, probably, about the fact that I was in prison and I was in solitary confinement because of my choices.”

Even then, as several people came to talk to him about God’s love through Jesus, he wanted nothing to do with it.

Lowell says, “I was really trying to, again, push that love that was being shown to me, I was trying to push them away with my anger and my hatred.”

The time in solitary gave Lowell plenty of time to rethink his beliefs and hatred towards others, himself, and God.  

Then after three years in isolation he came across a Christian radio program.

He recalls, “That was powerful to me, to know that God knew everything about me. He knew all of my sins. I was beginning to see that God is real, that God is love, that God is a God who is forgiving and merciful and gracious. But I also was confronted with my own sin, my own evil. And especially the evil of racism. By hating those whom God has made in his own image, I'm hating God Himself. And in that moment, the only way I can describe what happened is, that the Lord changed my heart. He changed my heart. He took away the racism. He took away the anger and I fell on my knees in my cell, crying out to Him and pleading with him to make me a new person.”

Lowell repented of his crimes, renounced his ties to the white supremacist gang, and started reading the Bible every chance he got.

He recalls, “I felt a sense of overwhelming peace and joy, because I knew that, though I was in prison, I was free.”

After 10 years in solitary, Lowell was paroled in June of 2009.

He enrolled in Bible college desiring to share God’s love to hurting people.

Today Lowell is happily married with five beautiful children, still sharing about the life-changing power of God’s love.

He says, “Jesus is the one who sets people free. He powerfully changes hearts that are raging and rebelling against Him. He is able to turn those hearts to Himself.”

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