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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Jamie McAbee

Prisoner Turned Pastor

When he became a teenager, Jamie McAbee was introduced to alcohol, illegal drugs and sexual abuse. In 10th grade, he was expelled from school. By age 18, he was in prison. Yet for the past decade he has been serving in the Assemblies of God, including the past two years as youth pastor at South Strand AG in Murrells Inlet, S.C.

McAbee, 33, recently spoke with Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.

evangel: What drove you to commit a burglary?

McABEE: I saw my friends score some big stuff like VCRs and televisions. I thought I’d give it a shot. I burglarized a home, but got caught in the act. I ended up punching a 62-year-old man in the eye. I was under the influence of drugs and alcohol that night. I got charged with first-degree burglary and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. I got locked up for 2½ years.

evangel: It seems it could have been a lot longer.

McABEE: Each charge carried six years, but it was reduced.

evangel: How did you find salvation in Christ?

McABEE: God was dealing with me. A month into my sentence, on Thanksgiving, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit all day. That night I invited the Lord Jesus into my heart. Almost immediately I felt a call to ministry. Soon I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I began studying the Bible 10 to 12 hours a day. They had the Pentecostal Evangel there. I can remember the Bible Reading Guides, and I was encouraged by the stories in the magazine.

evangel: You met your wife soon after being released.

McABEE: I saw Misty shopping at Wal-Mart, and it was almost like a Jacob and Rachel experience. I knew that she was the woman I was going to marry. We exchanged phone numbers. She invited me over for dinner and to an AG revival. I waited a couple of weeks to tell her about being in prison. Five months later we married. She accepted me for who I was.

evangel: How did the South Carolina Assemblies of God help you after you got out?

McABEE: A local pastor, Robert Hallam, served as my mentor and got me involved with Berean classes. The district encouraged me to get involved in the credentialing process. I spoke at churches and in prisons. I became an on-staff youth pastor in Union, S.C.

evangel: And you felt accepted.

McABEE: I thought I was going to be considered an outsider. How could I get a youth pastor’s job with a criminal record? I thought it would take 10 years for them to accept me. But they made me feel like my life was an example to others. It was a weight off my back.

evangel: You continued to get support by receiving a pardon.

McABEE: My pastor, Robert Hayes, and South Carolina District Superintendent Steve Brown went with me to the hearing and spoke on my behalf. On Jan. 28, 2009, the board voted 7 to 0 to grant me a full pardon. The AG has been the cornerstone of my life and made me the person I am today.

evangel: How does your past help you teach youth today?

McABEE: With all the life experiences I’ve been through, it allows me to serve without blind spots. Memories of the temptations that I indulged now help me to know the warning signs. I’ve been down the road of drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, and I know where it ends. Being filled with the Spirit is better than any drug.


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