“God Doesn’t Give Up”
By Calvin Kizer
West Shoreline Correctional Facility, Muskegon Heights, MI
I am the youngest of seven children (3 boys, 4 girls). My sister and I, the two youngest, were raised in Kentucky by my mother’s brother and his wife, who couldn’t have children of their own. Living in Kentucky, we went to church every Sunday until I was of age to decide and was asked if I wanted to continue to go to church or work on the farm with my uncle. Of course, as a young boy, I chose what seemed to be fun, working on the farm.
At the age of 11, my uncle’s wife died of cancer and my sister and I had to move to Michigan with our mother and siblings who we were used to visiting every summer, but not living with. Our father was never in the picture, so it didn’t matter concerning him. Once in Michigan, we lived in the suburbs and didn’t attend any church. At the age of 12, I became a troubled child, smoking (trying to) and hanging out with older, troubled teens. I began to skip school (elementary) and before long, I ran away from home and was stealing and breaking into houses to survive.
It didn’t take long before I was introduced to the juvenile home. Life as I once knew it was due for a big change. Trouble seemed to follow me into adulthood. Still trying to find myself, I was still hanging out with the wrong people and crowds, now smoking pot and drinking alcohol were habits. One night, I was picked up by the police for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was in the habit of carrying this big knife that was against the law because of how long it was. I didn’t know this, plus the fact that I had the knife concealed. Cost me my first felony.
Now living in the inner city and considered grown, I felt the city was my playground and trouble was my new name because every time I turned around, I was in trouble, in the juvenile home or on probation. At the age of 18, the juvenile was done with me and I received a birthday card from the county jail . . . “Happy Birthday, see you later” is what the card read.
Months later, I found myself in the back of a police car on my way to the county jail. In the county jail, I can remember talking to the chaplain and him telling me about Jesus Christ, His love for me and His death on the cross setting me free from bondage. The only thing I thought about was the “setting me free” part — from jail. At that time, I prayed what I call the jail house prayer, “God if you help me out, I’ll never do it again. I’ll never get in trouble again.”
Even though I soon got out, again and again, I always returned to the type of old co-called friends, drugs and alcohol, forgetting anything about God, Jesus, forgiveness or going to church, or even the promises I made to Him.
At the age of 19, I got the girl I was dating pregnant. Months later, I was caught in the act of doing a breaking and entering (B&E) and was sentenced to my first prison term of 2-1/2 – 15 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections. At 19, I was incarcerated away from family and friends, mentally confused, physically hurt and spiritually lost. I was bitter at the world and bitter at God. All I thought about was my pregnant girlfriend out there alone. I guess I was mad at God because of my misunderstanding of Him and His word. In my mind, or understanding, He was like a genie. He was supposed to help me and answer my prayers when I asked with all my heart and soul. I had done this and this God wasn’t doing anything the Bible or people said He would do for me. I was at the time a very confused and lost young man.
One day I was talking to a guy and called him the “N” word, as it was a common word in my vocabulary at the time. He explained to me that we shouldn’t call ourselves this, that we were Morrish Americans after our ancestors from Africa. He began to teach me Islam, which was his religion, and Moorish American, which was his nationality. The nationality part is what stuck with me the most. I was taught nothing good or positive about Christianity and I didn’t learn anything spiritually or about a Savior and His love not just for me, but for the whole world. I began to learn about studying and the importance of bettering one’s self. After serving my time, I still didn’t have any morals, I still had the same attitude, and not only was I addicted to pot and alcohol, I was now chasing women. Six months out of prison, I was back in jail for another B&E and parole violation. This time I was sentenced to 2-1/2 – 5 years. Back in prison, I continued to waste my time playing basketball and sharing street lies to fill the void of loneliness and to help pass the time. Not once did I even consider the higher calling that was knocking at my door.
Again, I finished dong my time, but this time I thought I’ll get married. It’ll help me stay out of trouble as a family man plus it’ll keep me from ever being lonely again, so I thought. I met up and married a woman with three young children, an already made family, which only made matters worse for me. Here I was, fresh out of prison with no education or job skills and a family to provide for. I soon became the neighborhood drug dealer, thinking “I’ll leave the crime to the fools.” That didn’t work either because six months before I was to get off parole, at the age of 30, I found myself once again on my way back to prison with 4-1/2 – 15 years for selling drugs to an undercover police office.
My marriage was over and I felt my life was, too. It was then that I began to think just a little about my life, my future. I buckled down and within the first year of my incarceration, I got MY G.E.D. and I was beginning to believe I was growing spiritually within Islam. I also was studying the Bible and other religions in search of the “truth.” It was then that I began to understand and realize that something was missing in my faith, in my religion, but I was still trying to be true to this nationality thing and to whom we called Allah, thinking “is this my calling?”
After serving my 4-1/2 years, I was sent to a correction center for two years where I worked a steady job paying off my restitution and saving some money. I began to think and feel better about myself and the changes I was making. After leaving the correction center, I started dating a woman who had her life somewhat (without God) in order. After all the years in trouble, I finally made it off parole. My girlfriend ended up pregnant and we got married. For 7-1/2 years life was good and I stayed out of trouble until I began to drink and smoke pot again. I began to hang out in the streets late at night, which made it hard to hold down my job. Things got so bad with my drinking that my wife just gave up on our marriage and I moved out. I also lost my job which prompted me to go back to old habits of selling drugs. I ended up getting caught and sent back to prison to serve 1-30 years at the age of 43.
It was at this point that I truly realized I needed a change in my life and that change was Jesus. But I wasn’t wholeheartedly ready to submit my whole life to God, though I did a lot of praying. I got out of prison after serving my one year. Five years later, the woman I was dating asked me to move to Florida with her. Before we moved, we had some serious issues we decided to overlook. One year after moving to Florida, I found myself back in Michigan dealing with that serious issue with 10 to 30 years. As I sat in the county jail, I heard a voice ask me, “are you ready for what I have been trying to give you all these years?” From that point, I gave my life daily to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah 33:3 “Call onto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”
I know God is with me because everywhere I go He puts true and sincere Christians in my life. He also has provided for me when I didn’t have and kept me from wanting to do wrong to make it while I am here incarcerated. He has opened doors that I thought were forever closed, and where others have meant to do me wrong or bad, God has made it to be for the good. Every day He allows me to wake up. I am at peace because it’s Jesus who I live for now. I may not be perfect, but I thank God that He didn’t give up on me.