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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. ...

A Prisoner Chooses

By John Skipworth as told to Ann Floyd
April 25, 2010

Lying on the Caddo Parish (La.) Correctional Center floor, I knew no one could bond me out. Broken, I remembered the two happiest times in my life: When I was 12 and when I was 18, I walked to an altar, confessed my sins and believed there was salvation in God’s Son Jesus Christ.

Now I said, “God, I don’t care if I spend the rest of my life in prison. I want that relationship with You.”

By the time I was in my early 20s I was convicted of two DUIs, simple kidnapping, possession of cocaine and first-degree robbery. The state of Louisiana has a habitual offenders law. When a person is convicted of three or more crimes, especially in the same crime range, the state marks the offender as habitual and the three-strikes rule applies.

At 23, I was on my way to life in prison.

Easter 2002. A door opened for me to be released on bond — while on probation and with new charges — to Karnack, Texas, to Overcomers Training Center (now Eagle Creek Recovery Center), an outreach of Shreveport Community Church (Assemblies of God).

The Byrd family, members of SCC, were instrumental in my being accepted into Overcomers. Their son, Jim Patrick, was the person I was convicted of kidnapping. Jim had gone through the Overcomers program, and many had been praying for me. Before I left Caddo Parish, I told 130 men what was happening to me. Most laughed.

While still in Caddo Parish I had become a student of the Word, but not from a Pentecostal point of view. So when a pamphlet about the baptism in the Holy Spirit was given to me at Overcomers, I determined to prove the teaching was heresy. I soon discovered I could not have been more wrong, and two weeks later I was at the altar begging for the gift of the Spirit.

Just a couple of minutes after I began to pray, I heard a man say, “No more English.” I heard sounds and syllables in my spirit. As I worked up enough courage to speak, I felt like my life exploded — with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I have never been the same since. God just carved stuff out of me. I had been chasing the wrong things.

I served two terms in Overcomers. I was seven months clean, but the prison sentence was still before me. The supernatural aspect of Spirit-filled ministry drew me to “Sister” Frances Duron and her son, Denny, pastors at Shreveport Community Church.

I told Sister Duron, “I’m in your Overcomers program, and I’m in a whole lot of trouble. Can you help me?”

Sister Duron became my mother in the Lord — going to court with me, praying with me at the altar, allowing me to work in her home, sharing ice cream with me and preaching the gospel to me.

“John,” she said to me one day, “there is some great reason why you are going to have to go to prison. God is in this. The devil will regret the day he destroyed your life and you ended up in prison. You are going to get to be another apostle Paul. You are going to be our missionary.”

But my heart was broken. I felt God’s call to ministry, and I wanted to go to seminary. Sister Duron learned about distance education through Global University of the Assemblies of God. My prison sentence to Forcht Wade Correctional Center in Keithville, La., was 12 years. Ninety days into the sentence it was reduced to seven years. I served five years, then the sentence was reduced two years early to a halfway house. During that time I completed my training for ministry.

Sister Duron would tell me, “John, the people whom society has written off are the ones that God is looking to make champions out of.”

Sister Duron and Denny said repeatedly what God says about me: “You, dear friend, are the righteousness of Almighty God in Christ Jesus. You are the light of the world; you are the salt of the earth.”

I never heard such words of power, and they gave me the courage to believe God to let me grow into that. Now I’ve been released into that ministry, especially with youth, as I speak the Word of Life over them at my church and in other settings. I want to see this generation affected for Christ.

JOHN SKIPWORTH, 31, is college and career pastor and facility manager at First Assembly of God, West Monroe, La. This year he will receive ministerial papers from the Louisiana District of the Assemblies of God.

ANN FLOYD served as associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel. She lives in Springfield, Mo.

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