Murderer found Islam in prison, but couldn’t get Jesus out of his mind


By Liyat Belay —

For taking a man’s life, Joel has served 16 of his 38-year sentence so far at London Correctional Institution in Ohio.

“Even though I did grow up in a very strong Christian home, I fell away from God,” Joel says on a Rock City Creative YouTube video.

By age 18, he had two kids and a serious drug addiction. His crimes on the street led to committing a homicide, for which he is in jail.

For one filled with hate, Islam was very appealing, he says.

“I converted to Islam,” he says. “I was a Muslim for 10 years. I was a member of the Nation of Islam.”

He remained involved in gang life inside the prison and wound up in the Supermax at the Ohio State Penitentiary.

Once in solitary, he was battling his emotions. “For years I struggled with suicide. At this moment I was ready to do it,” he confesses. “I had written a suicide note. I was done with life. I was tired of feeling the pain. At that moment, I don’t know why, but the name of Jesus kept coming into my head. It kept coming in my head and I tried to push it out.”

Since he couldn’t push the name of Jesus out of his head, he asked God for a sign.

Immediately, a corrections officer knocked on his door and asked if he wanted recreation – something that never happens, he says, when you’re in solitary confinement.

“I opened my mouth to say, ‘no’ but ‘yes’ came out,” he recounts.

In the recreation area, there was a TV broadcasting the pastor from Rock City Church preaching.

“There’s somebody listening right now who’s struggling,” Pastor Chad said on the broadcast. “And God is telling you to come and rest.”

Joel was hit as if by a lightning bolt.

“That was the confirmation,” he says. “Right then and there, I received Jesus, and when I received Jesus, I received a new family. It’s a family of guys who love me like I haven’t been loved ever. Even when I was in the gang life, even when I was Muslim, I have never been loved by a group of guys like these guys.”

Today, Joel is one of the leaders in the prison evangelizing and discipling men. He’s no longer depressed about being locked up. Instead, he asks God daily to fulfill his purpose of serving the Lord and making an impact in the lives of men.

“When it came to speaking to Christians, I couldn’t stand it because I was taught through Islam to hate this,” Joel says. “Being able to identify God’s grace and to see God’s mercy and to see God’s love unfold in my life…it’s the greatest feeling I ever felt.”

If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here

About the writer of this article: Liyat Belay is an Ethiopian student in Los Angeles studying at the Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica.


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