The Granger Community Church Reentry team works with a growing list of incarcerated men at the South bend Community Reentry Center. One of those men, Keith West, has really connected with our team. I asked him to write down a little about his experiences with life and with GCC. In his note he mentions a couple of team members that we are honored to have on our mission team from GCC. Bob and Dawn Coffee have been instrumental not only in Keith’s life but in many others as well. I am proud to have them on our team and to call them friends. Here is what Keith had to share, unedited-
I was asked an open & honest timeline involving my experience leading up to and including my involvement with Granger Community Church. I am going to attempt to express my feelings and thoughts where I was spiritually/emotionally in this journey or better known as “My Road” to today.
I grew up moving from one family member to another, never really having my own family. My parents were unable to provide a structured environment to grow in. There was lots of instability and emotional handicaps. I was affected by their addictions and anger problems. I spent my childhood with mixed influences that ran the gamut from religious grandparents to drug addled parents. It produced a warped sense of reality. How I fit into the world was blurry. Right and wrong only seemed to depend on what I needed and wanted.
The skeletons I hid in my closet began to fuel a need to self-medicate. I felt shame and hurt. As I had moments of clarity about what I had done I became addicted to the hurt. I needed the pain. I relived events in my mind and the hurt caused me to want to do things that hurt more. It was weird. I needed to hurt more to erase the previous pain. I was focused on self destruction.
This brings me to today at the Reentry Center. When I met the volunteers from GCC, I had an idea of what I wanted to be, yet, I didn’t know how it felt or how to get there. Bob & Dawn Coffee began to listen to my story and with the power of Gods love began to touch my heart. They motivated me with words of wisdom, the truth in the sense that we all make mistakes. I was given the book Purpose Driven Life. I really grew as a person reading that book. It made me feel that someone really cared about my spirituality and walk with God, with no judgements.
I was invited to GCC’s baptism service, I wasn’t ready for it. I struggled and prayed on it. I came to the conclusion that if I was wrestling with this decision, who was I wrestling against? Myself or God? In a way I felt I didn’t deserve it. I decided to go and was baptized.
It was one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. I nervously approached the water tank carrying all of my hurts, shames, and guilt. The Lord placed people there to support me. First, Bob & Dawn agreed to be with me in the tank, which took a lot of my reservations away. Second, a man that had seen only on DVD at our Sunday services at the Reentry Center but really wanted to meet, Dr. Bob, was also in the tank as well as LeRoy from MC3.
I will never forget the words that Dr. Bob chose to say to me. Those words broke me down emotionally and paved the way for rebuilding. Even before I was submerged into the water I felt this amazing presence. I was overloaded to the max inside. For the first time on my life I was able to let go. Let go of everything, all of it. The only thing that remained was the look of Bob & Dawn being proud of me and the words chosen for me by Dr. Bob and LeRoy. I remember falling back and then feeling the hands of those with me lift me up. I can honestly say that I have never felt anything close to that in my life.
I feel like a new creation. I have my days just like anyone else but the word from Josh Jones stick with me-
“You will have this upward ride and then it will plateau or maybe even drop off due to hardship. Always remember even the small experiences of God touching your life. Hold onto those and keep them in the front of your thoughts”.
It has been the holding on of those experiences that have gotten me through the tough times so far.
In closing, I had a big hole in my life and my heart. I was searching for something and I have found it. I can’t wait to continue this journey with GCC and find my place in the GCC family. I can’t wait to serve. Thank you GCC for your prayer and volunteers. Thank you for opening your hearts to me, supporting, encouraging, and believing in me.
Keith Donald West Jr.