Truly Changed

By Michael Coatney

When I got locked up in May of 2000, at Knox County Jail in Knoxville, I was scared at first. I had never been locked up before. Plus, I had a good family life, true Christ-like parents and older brother and older sister. We didn’t have much money, but we had love. Plus, we didn’t go hungry. Our mom was a licensed wedding seamstress, and she could make and sew anything. She did this for a living in our house. So I had a lot of hand-me-downs from my brother. When I was in second grade, my Pap quit his $10 an hour job. God had called him to go to college, where he got his B.S. degree in teaching. He had to learn how to play one musical instrument. He chose the autoharp, and taught me how to play a song. These days, I play the guitar and sing about our Lord Jesus.

My mom started making a lot of wedding and bride’s maid dresses, while Pap was in school. Meantime, he worked part-time at his old job in the summer, and in the winter worked in his dad’s leather shop to earn money to help mom take care of us kids. After he graduated, he and mom started Yoke Ministries in 1977 for middle school kids. They retired about two years ago and someone else took over.

As for me, after I graduated high school eight years later I got married, and a year later our son Tyler was born (he is now 29). We went to church, but we did not have that one-on-one personal relationship with Jesus. When Tyler was eight, I got into trouble, and got locked up. We had preachers come on Thursday nights and tell us what Jesus had done for them—and what he did for us. I had a real hard time forgiving myself. One Thursday night Preacher Jim was running late coming to our cell block. I told him my situation while he was leaving. He told me to read 1 John 1-9: “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Man… that hit me like a ton of bricks.

Then, later around 2 a.m., I heard a still small voice say, “If I can forgive you, don’t you think you can forgive yourself?” And he said, “Are you trying to be me?” At that moment I hit my knees on that cold concrete and asked Jesus to forgive me of all my sins, and made him Lord and Savior of my life. I’m truly born again. I have that personal relationship with him, and will never be the same.

I was sentenced to prison about two years later. I went to South Central Prison, and that’s where I met my brother Roger T. Johnson. He was of the world, but when Jesus got hold of him, he was completely changed. Just last year my old celly told me of Roger and Theotherapy. I wrote to Roger, completed that course and the facilitator course. I now serve as the public relations director as we wait for the detox program to start. We welcome your prayers for these efforts!

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