Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliveryou, and you shall glorify Me. (Psalm 50: 15 NKJ)
Freedom is truly a precious gem, a God-given privilege of tremendous value. Many have paid dearly for freedom, yet it’s so commonly taken for granted. As the time of my release approached, my mind was filled with optimism for the opportunity facing me. God had kept his end of the bargain. Soon, I would be free.
I spent the last couple of months in prison preparing to leave. I had accumulated a large quantity of Christian books. During family visitation, I began sending those books home. I began telling my friends good-bye. I prayed, and I made big plans. I had a vision for the future and would succeed.
My prison term officially ended at 12: 00 p.m. on December 13, 1990. I carried my remaining possessions down the prison walk toward freedom. I passed through two electronic gates and stopped at the guard house. The guard returned my possessions, a ten dollar bill they had confiscated four years earlier. The clock ticked down to the famous 12:01, the convict’s most anticipated moment, freedom. The gate swung open, the guard wished me well, and I walked out 12:01 a.m., December 14, 1990.
My wife stood waiting at the gate. I could hardly believe what was happening. I was free to go: free to hug her, to kiss her, to get in the car with her, and to go home! It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was answered prayer. I was free to go.
We stared at each other for a moment. It had been four years. We were practically strangers. Finally, I ran up to her, hugged her, kissed her, got in the car with her, and we left. Jeannie drove; I had no driver’s license. We went home.
Jeannie was still in a backslidden state, so I started ministering to her right away. Almost immediately she repented and began living for God. Within a couple of months, she gave up cigarettes, the last vice. Since then, she’s been continously growing in the grace and love of God. She’s been a wonderful wife.
Life changed plenty while I was in prison. After several days of freedom, my family and I drove up to see my grandmother. We stopped to get gas, but I hadn’t pumped gas in four years. It’s amazing how fast things change. The pumps changed with the technology of the times. I didn’t even know how to pump gas. Everything had changed.
I went through a big adjustment period. I found myself thrust into a society that had changed. I was accustomed to having guards tell me every move to make, and now I had to do things on my own. My wife went through a big adjustment period too. She had been making all of the decisions around the house, and now her role was changing. Our son had to adjust. His dad had always been in prison. It was a time of big change for us all.
Every step that I’ve taken, from then until now, has been ordered by the Lord. The Bible says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6 NKJ). God has been with me every step of the way. At first, I was overwhelmed with responsibility. There was plenty that needed to be done. I went downtown and got a driver’s license; driving was awkward at first. I searched through the want ads in the newspaper, and within three days I had a job doing paint and body repair.
The body and fender shop was located on North Street, a rough neighborhood in the inner city of Baton Rouge. Jeannie also had a job in Baton Rouge. Having only one car, she would drop me off an hour early each morning on her way to work. I would stand out front and wait for the shop to open. At night, she would have to wait for me to get off work. It was tough with one car, but we managed.
I worked long hours in a rough environment: cussing, fussing, complaining. The boss was not a Christian, and he didn’t like me. It was tough. I was working myself to the bone, yet he steadily harassed me. I took it, I had to. We needed the money, the $240 per week.
During my first month out, I went down to the Sheriff’s office and apologized to the Sheriff. It was a tough moment for us both; I had put them through so much. I made it quick. I just, simply told him that I was sorry for all that I had done. I assured him that he’d never have any further trouble from me. It was simply an “ice breaker” meeting.
After a couple of months of work, God gave me a vision, the only supernatural vision I’ve ever had. It was Friday, and I had just been paid. We were having trouble meeting our financial obligations. I began to pray about our situation and God told me to count my pay. I knew that it was only $240; my boss would never make a mistake with money, but in obedience to God, I counted it. I could hardly believe my eyes. It was $260. I counted it again, this time, $280. I knew that I hadn’t miscounted; something supernatural was taking place. The money was multiplying in my hand. I yelled out to Jeannie, “Hey, come look!” I counted it again. There was only $240. God encouraged me, “This was simply a vision to show you my plan. From this day forward, I’m going to bless all that you do. You will prosper in everything.” Several weeks later, I got a new job. The atmosphere was much nicer, and the pay, $275 per week.
We lived with Jeannie’s aunt during my first couple of weeks of freedom. We slept on her couch. Finally, we were able to rent a trailer, a place of our own. We signed a six month lease and moved in. At the end of those six months, we bought a used double-wide trailer and nine acres of land. We moved in on the very day that the six month lease ran out. Our friends were shocked that we had gotten the loan. They couldn’t believe it. God had really blessed us.
George and my mother were still living in my childhood home in Wakefield, Louisiana. My brother Chris was living there too. The drinking was really destroying their lives. I tried to tell my mother that, but she wouldn’t listen. She already had cirrhosis of the liver once. The doctors had told her that she might live if she would quit drinking. She did quit for a short time, but eventually started back.
One day God spoke to me; he told me to go see my mother. I found her in the bed. She had been there for three days. It was cold in that house; she had nearly frozen to death. I wrapped her up in a blanket and took her to the hospital. They kept her for about a month. After being released, she stayed with us for about a month. She didn’t drink during that month; she was really trying. She moved back in with George though, and before long, she was in bad shape again. Chris called for an ambulance one day, and they took her back to the hospital. She died the next day at the age of 47.
George continued to live in the house with Chris. I told him that he could stay if he would work. I tried to help him, but he wouldn’t work. He wouldn’ t even clean up. He wouldn’ t do anything, except drink. I finally asked him to leave.
During our childhood, Chris was always esteemed as the favorable son, the one who would be successful. He made good grades and stayed out of trouble. He was calm, obedient, and respectful. It hurts me to see him plagued with the same spirit of addiction and revelry that oppressed me. It’s a generational curse that has effected our whole family. I’m optimistic though; God is dealing with his heart, and I’m excited about the changes that are coming in his life.
I bought the house in Wakefield from Chris after my mother died, and we moved back in to straighten the place up. We had also inherited a trailer park there. Since then, we’ve remodeled the house and have turned the trailer park into a successful business.
My brother-in-law called me up in September of 1991 and began recruiting me for a job with his company. He was a successful salesman who was making good money. He told me that they had an opening, and that I should apply for a job. I did. Soon, they called me for an interview. It went great. They hired me on October 15, 1991. We were at the hospital when they called; Jeannie was giving birth to our second son, Zachary. It was a great day. God had blessed us with both a new son and a new job.
I soon began my new employment with this small, Louisiana-based company. The first year, I became their number one salesman. We’ve been extremely blessed ever since. The money has been great. I’ve had increases of 35% per year, every year. It’s just phenomenal. God keeps our accountant busy. I remember filing taxes that first year. It was the first time I had ever filed. I told the accountant I had been a drug smuggler all of my life and had just gotten out of prison. She couldn’t believe it. She didn’t know what to do. The IRS didn’t even know that I existed.
I remained the number one salesman with my company until the acquisition. We were bought out by a large corporation, a nationwide company. That year, I was ranked number 10 in sales for the entire nation. The following year, I was number four out of 1,500 sales people. God is so good!
I’ve learned that the key to getting is giving. That’s the message of Luke 6:38. It’s the way to get the blessings of God. I’ve learned, to be more specific, that it’s not only giving, but giving to people, being a servant to people. That’s what really moves God’s heart. If you serve people, God will most definitely bless you. It works every time.
We’ve had the privilege of giving several cars to needy people over the last few years; we also buy groceries to help people in need. We always give in the name of Jesus, and it keeps coming back to us. We tithe 10% before taxes, and then give offerings above the tithe. We give and God gives back. It’s incredible. Money just seems to come from everywhere. It’s the law of reaping and sowing, and it works. You can’t out give God!
During my first week out of prison, I got involved with a local church. I worshipped there about a year. During the end of that year,God began speaking to my heart about changing churches. He was calling me to be a servant of people. So one Sunday morning, I took my family to another local church. After the service, I told Jeannie that this would be our church. She agreed. We were there for about 7 years I am totally sold out to Jesus. I spend my life serving both God and man. I’ve taken many people into my home over these years. W e’ ve moved entire families into our home for months at a time. We took in an 18 year-old one time. We took in a 14 year-old another. We just try to help people. I believe that the mission of a Christian is to win souls. I live that way. That’s my purpose for being here on planet Earth. It’s not about money, fame, or fortune. It’s not about promoting to the next job. It’s about souls, winning souls to Jesus.
I’ve used my trailer park, to some extent, as a ministry. I own five of the trailers there. We’ve tried to be selective with the people that rent them. I like renting them to people in need, people that will go to church with us. It’s so good to see people come to Jesus, to see them set free.
One time we took in Wally, his wife, and two children. They were homeless when we met them. We moved them into our home for about three months. I helped him get a job in Baton Rouge, then rented them one of our trailers. Jeannie drove him back and forth to work. They were doing good, until they decided to go back into the world. They didn’t stick with Jesus and things started down hill for them. They started drinking and drugging again and consequently are no longer together. The last time I saw Wally, he had just gotten out of jail for taking someone else’s car across three state lines.
You’ve got to stay the course. Sin will always take you further than you planned to go, keep you longer than you planned to stay, and cost you more than you planned to pay.
I’ve been blessed with a terrific family. Zachary, my five year-old, walks around the house singing, “Shake the devil off.” He’s quite a character. Stirling, our 11 year-old, makes straight A’s in school. I recently rented a stretch limousine to pick up him and a couple of his friends from school. He had a lot of fun. In my opinion, he deserved it; I never made an “A” in my entire life. Both of our kids are saved, thank God. I’m raising them a little bit differently from the way I was raised.
Jeannie is the most wonderful woman in the world. Her life is a ministry. She does a lot of intercessory prayer behind the scenes. She’s washed dishes and clothes for people staying in our home and has never complained, not once. We’ve both been hurt badly by people that have stayed here, people that we’ve gotten close to, that have gone back out into the world. It hurts, but Jeannie has never complained. We just keep on doing it.
I could spend another 500 pages talking about my wife. She loves people. That’s the bottom line. She’s constantly cooking for people, praying with people, praying for people, taking people places, ministering to people, counseling people. She visits people in the hospital. She doesn’t even think that she’s doing anything special. She thinks that every Christian is doing what she does, but it’s just not so. If every Christian did what my wife does, this world would not be in the shape that it’s in. She’s a precious wife. She’s a wonderful woman. She takes care of every need that my kids and I have. We love her much.
We serve people, that’s what we do. Our motto is “Win the lost at any cost, because people last forever.” It costs us our time, our money, our
privacy, and everything else, but it’s worth it. That’ s what we do. W e serve people. It doesn’ t matter what race, weight, height, name, religion, reputation, or anything else; we serve people. Jesus said, “Let the greatest among you be servants.” That’s what it’s all about, serving people.
I’ve been living for Jesus for nearly 10 years now. During prison my nickname was Jimmy Swaggart. They called me “little Jimmy.” They’d say, “There goes little Jimmy. He’s hiding behind that Bible. When he gets out, he’ll never pick that Bible up again.” But they were wrong. I went back to preach at WCI several years after my parole. I reminded them, “Everybody said I’d leave this Bible at the gate when I got out, but I’ve got news for you: not only did I take it home with me, I also brought it back tonight.” I’ve served Jesus as long as I served the devil, and man is it a better life. There’s no comparison.
People ask me sometimes, “Ricky, do you think you’ll ever go back?” And I’ll answer, “Go back???!!!! Go back to what? Go back to hugging a commode? Go back to overdosing? Back to prison? Are you crazy? Of course not! I’m sticking with Jesus.”
I always try to witness to everyone that I see. It’s the most important thing that you can ever do for anybody. I know that Jesus is truly the only answer; He’s changed my life. So, I just strike up a conversation like this, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! What about Jesus?” I’m a nut for Jesus! Why not? Why not go all out for Him? He died for you and me.
I have problems in life like everybody else, but I try to keep a good attitude. Our attitude is the most important thing that we have. I always try to encourage myself to smile and to be upbeat. Depression is of the devil, and I’m at war with him.
The Bible says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9 NKJ) That’s how I live, always. It doesn’t matter who I’m around; I abhor every form of evil. I just don’t have anything at all to do with the devil. I’m a Christian; I live for Jesus everywhere, around anybody. I’m not a lizard Christian. I hope to preach a sermon on lizards one day. I don’t change colors. I just love Jesus, and I love you.