From Prison to Praise: The Story of Carlos

By Carlos Ollison

As a child I grew up in an environment that saturated me with a consciousness of God. My parents were missionaries. And did all they could to infuse an awareness of God's presence into me. Then my grandmother passed away and I was so furious with God that I turned away from him the only way I knew how, what I did not know, or understand, was that God never turned away from me. I guess I was kind of like Jonah who ran from the presence of an omnipresent God (Jonah 1:3).

As a result of my turning away I lived totally contrary to the way I was taught by partaking in drugs, alcohol, and having interactions with people that indulged, my drug use was such that when asked if I'd ever indulged before joining the Army, and having replied yes, I was asked how much, I explained the best way that I could "I woke up in the morning and I smoked a joint, then I would get up brush my teeth and smoke a joint, while getting dressed I would smoke a joint, then I would cook breakfast while smoking a joint, after eating my high had come down so I would smoke another joint..." about this time the Physician stopped me. As I think back on the experience I am surprised they still let me in. I also got involved in many thefts, as a matter of fact my prison sentence was due to burglary of a habitation. This came about when some friends of mine asked me to watch their house for the weekend while they were out of town, like the idiot that I was, I took there car, a rifle, and a BB gun to the woods with a large amount of marijuana, got so high I fell asleep and when I awoke I was to late to get everything back so I tried to hide it. Upon their arrival home they of course called the police who came out and investigated. It was discovered that I had taken the items and charges were pressed. When my friends found out that it was me they tried to drop the charges but the state of Texas picked them up and sentence was served. Once again God was bound and determined to get my attention. Lies became such a primary form of communication that some lies I told so often that I began to believe them myself to such a degree that much of my life is somewhat unclear to me. As a result of such a lifestyle combined with an intense love of God I was given time to reflect, that sentence served was for twenty years and I will not complete that until 2014. But before going to prison I was in and out of jail and each time I could sense God's call as the God who so love me and tried repeatedly to get my attention. Also like Jonah every time I went to jail (which we referred to as the belly of the whale in prison) I cried out to God but also like Jonah my attitude was not really changing.

In prison I finally listened. He finally got my attention. I finally had ears to hear. So I started to seek the one who first sought me the only way that I was aware of. I started to go to church. One of the things going to church did for me was give me an awareness of the fact that there was much about my own faith that I did not know. Also, there I was challenged by a brother, who was my chaplain, to read the new testament once every month by reading 8 chapters a day and the old testament every 3 months by reading 10 chapters a day. This resulted in an understanding of the God I ran from that transcended the understanding of the God I learned about as a child. This also resulted in the realization that though the gospel is simple truth is massive, as massive as our God. This made a tremendous difference in the way I would live my life. In fact it changed my whole perspective on most of what I thought I knew.

By the time I got out of prison I had read the bible over 50 times. At 50 I just stopped counting. After my release I immediately looked for a church where I could continue to grow in the knowledge of God and in relationship with Him. In the church I connected with I met Ed White and Chuck Blanchard who after hearing my testimony invited me to join them in jail ministry at the Upshur county jail there I discovered that I had a great joy for sharing insight into the word of God, I found that my intense desire was not so much to tell people how to interpret or understand it but rather to encourage them to consider as many nuances of what is being said as they could. The possibilities of what else is meant, I personally believe that is what made the teachings of Jesus impact His hearers to such a great degree The way He took the truths they thought they understood so clearly and expanded them to truths they had never considered I found that God's word is like a diamond that has may facets and only The Expert can see them all, but our challenge from Him is to seek and study each facet like the precious jewel that it is (2 Timothy 2:15).

Since my experience in prison I admit that I don't read the bible as often as I would like but I do maintain a devotional time at which I commune with my God and He with me. Also I have made it a point to have regular fellowship with other believers so that I can be exposed to other understandings of God's word my desire continues to be to discover every facet of truth that my God will allow and my anchor is the fact that it will never contradict but only enhance any truth previously revealed.

My life has been better since I surrendered to The Lord, not always easier, and quite often harder, but definitely much better.