By J. Oliver Jones
In the Summer of 2012 I learned of Robert Vaughan when he wrote me requesting a copy of the Wesley Institute study book on John Wesley written by Dr. Vic Reasoner. He had seen an ad run in The Arminian Magazine for this newly printed study, and simply desired to have a copy for personal study. He gave the name of a local Methodist pastor in San Diego, CA who would vouch for his sincerity as a Bible student, and upon making contact with that pastor, I determined the request was both valid and sincere.
I mailed a copy to him, along with additional information on Light of Life Ministry and The Wesley Institute. We became “pen pals” so to speak for a few months before arranging for him to call me. Since early 2013 we have talked at least twice a month, for just fifteen minutes at a time, as that is all the time he gets.
Reading the many letters he has sent to me is often like reading something from the time of the Apostles. He has no computer, no typewriter, and no way to communicate but by written letter or the occasional short phone call. In time I discovered that he hand writes several messages each week to distribute to the men in his cell block. He has a limited library of Christian materials, and after about fifteen years or so of intense reading and studying of the Bible, has determined that the Wesleyan-Arminian understanding of the Bible to be the best. Dr. Reasoner and I have supplied him with several books and studies written from that perspective for his continued growth in the Word.
In one of our communications I mentioned the possibility of him teaching some of the Wesley Institute program materials to other inmates. He considered the idea, accepted, and now teaches a few men each week as a part of the Wesley Institute program.
Recently I asked Robert to write out his testimony. He agreed, and as you read it you will be shocked at the life he once lived and the evil by which he was once enslaved. He does not magnify the devil or his crimes, but rather the Lord who has delivered him from them both. Intermixed with his testimony you will find spiritual challenges, Biblical instruction, and Christian witness. Most of all you will find that God can save even the most wicked of us from our sin and use us to His glory. I hope you will be blessed by this message.
My name is Robert Vaughn and this is my life — such as it is.
I was born in Colorado the 25th of November 1955, and am now just over 57 years old. Of these 57 years I’ve spent just over 38 of them behind bars in three different states.
From where I now sit I will more than likely die in prison, for I am doing two life sentences for taking the lives of two different people. Yet this is neither the beginning nor the end of my story—there is a great deal that happened in between that brought me to where I am now. The Bible says in Romans 8:28 (NIV), “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” As you will see, my life is a fulfillment of this verse; it’s all on how you look at things.
As I said, I was born 57 plus years ago in Colorado. I grew up and lived in a very small town on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, in a religious home…. what I mean is, that we went to church. Yet, going to church doesn’t save anyone, salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). My father was a Native American and my mother was white. It was a match made in hell, because my mother was a nominal Christian and my dad was a drunken sinner, and the Bible clearly says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (II Cor. 6:14).
Because my dad was a drunk and my mother divorced him when I was around one and a half, the only memories I have of him is coming in drunk and kicking me or my older brother across the room. I should have mentioned it before, but I had an older brother who died in 1997 from drinking and drug abuse. I have a younger half-brother and my younger half-sister passed away in 2003 of ALS. To my sadness, neither was saved. Children are a gift from God and should be treated as such.
My mother made three mistakes her religious family never forgave her for. The first was for marrying a man, who was not white, nor a Christian, but a drinking Indian. Her second mistake was for getting a divorce in a small country town where she was related to most. Her third mistake was getting married yet again. Because of this her religious family never forgave her.
“Religious” people never offer forgiveness and understanding, just judgment and condemnation. They can do no less because they don’t have the life of Christ in them and, it’s the Holy Spirit who sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts at the new birth (Rom. 5:5).
Please hear what I am saying, don’t just get married because you think it will change your situation or is a cure for your lusts. Marriage is so much more than that, it is a spiritual union made in heaven, and God meant it to be for life (Matt 19:4-6). If you marry just in an attempt to solve your problems it will not work, you will never outrun your problems.
When my stepdad died in ’62 of ALS we moved to a slightly bigger town by the name of Delta, Colorado, and in 1962 my mother ran off deserting us four kids. There were several reasons why she did so. The Bible says in I John 2:9, “He who says he (or she) is in the light (in Christ, a Christian), and hates his brother (or sister) is in darkness until now.” The word hate means to love less or to detest. Why is it we are harder on our own families and loved ones than anyone else?
My mother never had any loving moral support from her family of 15 other brothers and sisters, most of which said they were Christians. We spend a lot of time talking about love, yet I John 4:16 says, “We have known and believed the love that God has for us.” Many know the love of God to some degree, but how many believe in His love, the love that never fails, because God is love (I John 4:8). I Corinthians 13:7 says, love bears all things; one translation says of this verse, love covers over with silence all things. My mother’s brothers and sisters never let her forget how she had messed up her life. And instead of going to her and loving her and helping to restore her (Gal 6:1-2), they ran her off and treated her, in their words, like white trash, and sadly she did the only thing she thought would help, she ran from herself and all she had.
Do I blame her for the way I turned out? I once did. I used to blame my mother for every problem I ever had – until one day I realized I was my problem.
We need to understand something. Churches are full of hurting, messed up people – so are our neighbors. We need to reach out and love and help these people, yes even those in our own families. We are the only army in the world who, spiritually speaking, kills our own wounded. Our first job when one of our love ones sins or does something stupid, is to pray for them and love them, not finish the job of destroying their lives and then tell them, I told you that you were no good.
I’ll give you an example in my own life. In 1997 after not hearing anything from my family since 1972, we got in touch again. One of my aunts, my mother’s sister, sent me a letter. My aunt who confesses to be a Christian said in her letter to me, in the very first sentence of that letter “I knew you would be dead or in prison.” Where’s Christ’s love in that, where’s the compassion of the Lord? Jesus didn’t treat people this way. The only people He had problems with were the religious people. We need to love the hurting and the lost; Jesus loves sinners, not the sin, but the people.
For three years my brothers, sisters, and I were passed from relative to relative until an Aunt and Uncle brought us all out to Northern California in the summer of 1965 to live. Sadly the whole bunch of us, all six, were without hope and without God in this world (Eph. 2:12). I beg you, please do not live your life, or bring up your children, without a true relationship with the Lord in your lives. Don’t think that just going to church is enough. It isn’t! I say this for a reason. For the last 21 years I’ve been asking young men 20-35 years of age who are filling these prisons, if they ever went to church as a child or youth, and at least 50-60% said yes they did. Why then are these prisons full of these young men? There are a lot of reasons – no fathers, no mothers, but the biggest reason is, Jesus Christ is not in their lives!
Because of the way I grew up, I did so with a heart and mind full of hate. I hated everything and everyone, including myself. As a child I never knew what real love was…….. And it didn’t take a very long time for this hate to show itself. Two weeks after I started the sixth grade in September of 1965, I took a baseball bat to the school bully and almost killed him. They said I beat this kid for 27 straight minutes before the police got there. I destroyed his life, yet by the grace of God he lived. They put me in Youth Authority and when I was released in 1966, he and his family had moved to a different state.
Did I have any real family support when I was released? No! I went back to an uncle who weighed 350 pounds who would beat you for no reason. He stole things at work and drank heavily, and to an aunt who was nothing more than a bitter old woman. Did we go to church? Yes! So what, the church didn’t teach Christ and Him crucified and there was no love in the home, just hate and distrust.
The greatest gifts you will ever give your children are love and consistency. The Bible says a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways (James 1:8). True strength lies in the stability that only the love of God can bring (I John 4:18). Children need role models, so don’t try to buy their love with things. Bribing your children with stuff doesn’t solve problems, and it will never be a substitute for love. Things don’t meet spiritual needs, solve problems, or keep your children from a life of hell here and in eternity. I’m not saying that you should not bless your children with gifts; I am saying that they need your love and time more.
When I was released in 1966 I got into drugs and drinking like there was no tomorrow. All getting locked-up did was to make me hate even more, and rebel against all types of authority. I wouldn’t listen to anyone. I thought I knew it all. Now days we are told using drugs and drinking is a disease. This is a lie of the devil. It is a choice we make and because we are sinful fallen creatures we sin. We do all we can to rule over our own lives regardless of how self-destructive that may be. We never get enough; the more evil we do and get away with, the more evil we become.
Because of the drugs, mainly speed and drinking, I gave up or simply lost all constraint. I had already found out what I could do with a weapon in my hands, and being small, I always had some type of weapon. In the last half of 1967 I was sent back to Youth Authority for a violent crime and stayed there until the end of 1969. In those 2 ½ years I beat 2 murder accusations and an attempted murder charge while locked up. I wasn’t big and bad, I was just so full of hate and anger that I honestly didn’t care if I lived or not. Because of this mind set I didn’t have enough sense to be afraid of doing anything. All I wanted to do was hurt others any way I could. This gives you an idea how evil I was at even such a young age.
The issue is not social problems, where you were raised, or even how you are raised. Sin is the problem, and believe me; it doesn’t take long for it to show itself in our lives. The devil can show up in little kids just as much as adults. There is only one cure for all of this, and that is being born from above. We all need Christ, not shrinks!
This gives you an idea of how I was; I went to the State Prison when I was 17 for an illegal weapon. I was there from 1972 to 1977. I arrived there two weeks after I turned 17 years old. In five years I was accused of seven more murders while behind bars. I was released in November 1977 and was on my way back to prison in February of 1978 in Utah. I was released in September of 1983. Even then I wasn’t done. Early in 1984 I was arrested for assault on an off duty police officer. I spent 1984 to 1988 in prison in Arizona.
While I was in jail in Tucson, Arizona on October 29, 1984, I gave my life to Christ. I thought this was the answer to all my problems. And it is…… if we do so on His terms and completely surrender our lives in doing so. I know the reason I failed then, there was no repentance in my life. All I did was say some so-called ‘sinner’s prayer’ and that was it.
In January of 1988, being a young Christian and having no real business being in the ministry (I Timothy 3:6), I began a tape ministry. I ministered to ministers. The Word of God says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”(Prov. 16:18). The Clear Word Expanded paraphrase Bible puts it this way: “Pride leads to self-destruction and arrogance to a man’s downfall.”
When I was released from prison on July 1, 1988, I thought I was God’s gift to any church in town. I never had any godly role models in prison to help teach me. I was never discipled, nor was I really rooted and grounded in the Word, and my mind was not renewed in any meaningful way.
Please hear me, just because someone has a so-called big testimony, it doesn’t mean they are fit or even called to the ministry. Bring up your children in the fear of the Lord, lead them and guide and teach them. Big names may draw a crowd, but only the convicting power of the Holy Spirit can change lives, and He only does this through the godly lives of those who have surrendered fully to the Word and will of God. To put it bluntly there are too many puppets standing behind pulpits and not men truly called of God.
Needless to say, I fell and fell hard. Within a couple of months I was drinking and using drugs again more than ever before. The old attitude of not caring whether I lived or died came back.
On January 1, 1991 I started off on a drunk along with fixing speed. I was drinking close to two gallons of hard liquor a day. On the 18th of that month I killed a person and was caught on the 21st of January. When I started on the 1st I weighed in at around 155 pounds, and the day I was arrested I weighed 133 pounds in clothes. Without the clothes I weighed just under 130 pounds.
I don’t remember a great deal that happened those first few days, but that first afternoon a doctor came into my jail cell, looked at me and told the guards they could leave my cell door open because I would be dead by breakfast. I was dying of acute alcohol poison and my liver and kidneys had almost completely shut down. I was so far gone I could hardly remember my own name, much less anything else. I have no idea why the Lord raised me up off that deathbed.
I do know this though, that Galatians 6:7 in the Amplified Bible reads, “Do not be deceived and deluded and misled, God will not allow Himself to be sneered at, scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside. He inevitably deludes himself who attempts to delude God. For whatever a man sows that and that only is what he will reap.” It is never smart to play games with God for any reason. We are either going forward or we are falling away, there is no middle ground, it does not pay to attempt to straddle the fence.
In October of 1991 I was given a 15 year to life prison sentence. This was my fifth conviction. I almost received a 107 year sentence from the state and life without parole from the Federal government, because the victim was a federal informant. So don’t ever think that a life of drugs and drinking is fun and committing crimes is a life of glamor….it’s not.
At present I am under ‘investigation’ for more than 40 other murders – it doesn’t matter one bit if I did them or not (although I likely did some, I do not remember). In January of 2005 I was convicted of a 30 year old cold case. I was on escapee in 1975 when I killed a man for no other reason than for asking me too many questions. I left a hand rolled cigarette at the crime scene and 30 years later they used DNA to convict me. I was given a life sentence to go along with my other life sentence. To put it simply I will either die in prison or the Lord will return. I see no other way out.
But I have gotten ahead of myself, so let’s pick the story back up in 1991. After the Lord raised me up off that deathbed in January 1991, I still continued to play games with God for the next year. I was the most miserable ‘Christian’ around. There is no joy in trying to serve the Lord and live in the world at the same time. I was coming to the place of being sick and tired of being sick and tired.
In January of 1992 the Holy Spirit sent a very old Christian brother to me. He spoke to me for several days, and the only thing I remember now is he told me I had to have a “want to”; I had to have a want to serve the Lord. This brought me to the place where I saw how messed up my life was. How much of a lukewarm compromised life I was living. Always deceiving myself, thinking I was serving the Lord in Spirit and Truth, when in truth I was on the fast track to hell.
Please understand….God is not Burger King and you can’t have it your way. It has either got to be the Lord’s way, or it is the way to hell (Matt 7:13-14, 21-23). You may think you are safe and nothing bad can happen to you, but looking at the big picture you are heading for a wreck with no good ending to it (John 15:6 compare with Rom 11:19-22).
So, finally, in January of 1992 I fully surrendered my life completely to the Lord, and have done so repeatedly ever since for the simple reason that we are always growing in the wisdom and knowledge of God. We should be ever learning that there is always something else that needs to be changed or that we need to be set free from and only the work of the Holy Spirit can do this if we allow Him to do so. Is dying to self easy? No! It is the hardest thing you will ever do.
Death is painful and requires letting someone other than yourself completely run your life. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, or even reality. When we face the true reality about ourselves, it is not fun. I wept for months over how horrible I really was, over how much filth was in me, even after I knew by the witness of the Holy Spirit that I was a child of God. This is growing in holiness or being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, being made useful for our Lord’s work. This is the starting place of our Christian life if we desire to truly be used by the Lord.
In Luke 9:23 Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus starts with the word IF. I’ve always believed that He was saying that there will be very few who will really want to pay the price and do what needs to be done to truly be one of His followers. The first and hardest step is in denying ourselves. Jesus
said in Luke 14:33, “Whosoever of you does not forsake ALL that he has cannot be my disciple.” Denying ourselves is hard because it takes us out of our comfort zone, it demands change (Heb. 4:13). Yet until we fully deny ourselves, we will never take up our crosses daily, and taking up our crosses daily is the only way we will deny ourselves.
We will never truly follow or be true disciples of Jesus until we deny and die to ourselves. This is the starting point of real Christianity, and the ONLY way to reach the starting point is through REPENTANCE. Jesus said to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). There is no real believing without repenting beforehand. They are both a precious gift of God, but we must repent first, then believe (Rom 2:4; Eph. 2:8-9). The Bible does not teach cheap grace or easy believism. Dieteich Bonhoeffer, a man of God who gave his life for the cause of Christ, said this, “The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”
You may be asking yourself at this point what kind of testimony is this? Why have I said all that I have so far?
First, I refuse to give the devil any glory or honor. I will not exalt crime and sin. But there is another reason why I’ve said all I have. For the last 21 years of my Christian life, I have spoken to thousands of young men who are now in prison….. those between the ages of 20 to 25 years old who are in for their first time. I’ve found out that more than half of them, maybe as many as 70% of these young men, grew up in religious families and the Church. So, why are they filling up our prisons?
There are a great many reasons for this, and I don’t know all the answers. Yet, I believe the greatest reason is that the Church in general no longer preaches Christ and Him crucified. From what I hear most churches just preach some sort of social gospel. Many because they fear to offend or lose the few people coming to church preach what Paul said in II Timothy 4:3 about “itching ears.” Because they have itching ears they find teachers to preach the so-called feel good message that will damn thousands to hell.
Believe me. I know first-hand you will not make friends by speaking out against sin, yet the Bible says judgment will begin with the Church first (I Peter 4:17-18). Look at the New Testament in Matthew 3:34. After 400 years of silence the first sermon to come from the Throne of God was through John the Baptist – it was repent. The first message Jesus ever preached after His temptation was to repent.
A religious sinner who grew up in church is going to hell just as fast as the sinner who has never set foot in a church. As I’ve said before, going to church does not make you a saint. Only repenting and believing in the finished work of Christ will set you free and get you to heaven. Please hear me, let the Lord have your kids before it’s too late. Love them, live Godly lives before them, show them the right way before it is too late…… because I am tired of babysitting them! By the time your sons meet me, they for the most part are hard hearted with demons who think they know everything and don’t need to hear anything.
I believe another reason so many “Christian” young people end up in prison is that in this day and age, most people who get saved think it’s all fun and games, with few or no problems, and that the Lord will make you rich and always keep you in good health. Yet Paul said in II Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Paul also said in Acts 14:22, “We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God.” The truth is, the holier you live your life, the more you will face difficulties. BUT it is worth it in every way because the Lord can and will use the person who is totally sold out to Him. This is the place of joy unspeakable and full of glory. As the Lord tested Abraham’s commitment, He will also allow us to be tested to see if our commitment is real as James 1:2-4 teaches.
In 1996 I was transferred to one of the worst prisons in the State of California, named Salinas State Prison. I was on “B” yard, which was called “little Beirut”. It was one of the most violent prison yards in the entire state at the time. In this prison there was no place for living a life of compromise – if you did, you simply didn’t last long. The devil’s children saw to that! I had been there almost two years, when in January of 1998, a serious race riot between the blacks and whites broke out. I was walking the track sharing the love of Christ with a young white man. I didn’t even know his name. As I was sharing the Gospel with him, we were rushed by six blacks with homemade knives. I never thought about what I was doing, I simply put myself between the man I was sharing Jesus with and the rushing attackers. He never got even a scratch on him. I was stabbed five times and my left shoulder was dislocated. You may ask was it worth it? Yes! A thousand times yes, because within a few weeks that precious man I was sharing the Gospel of Christ with, gave his life to Jesus!
Three days later while we were under controlled feeding (Keeping the blacks and whites separated), I came back from breakfast and went down to a friend’s cell to get a magazine. My left arm was in a sling and I could not use it. Somehow two young blacks got out of their cell and charged my friend and me. The one with the knife came at me. I received four stab wounds and when I went to the ground I had him and seven guards on top on me. When my back hit the cell floor with all that weight (close to 1,000 pounds) it sounded like a shotgun going off and my back was broken in three different places. I ended up with six smashed vertebra, two in my neck, one in the center of my spine, and the bottom three at the base of my spine. For the next two months I had no feeling from the waist down, yet by the grace of God I was able to walk with no feeling in my legs the whole time.
When I was brought back a little later that morning, I came in through the back door of the yard through the medical clinic. In the clinic there is a holding cage made out of bars and the two young blacks were in this holding cage. I cannot take any credit for what happened next, it was all the work of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God says the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). The love of God came up out of me as Jesus said in John 7:38 and I looked that young man in the eyes who had just stabbed me and caused my back to be broken, and told him I loved him and would never testify against him in a court room. When that happened the Holy Spirit showed me that his sweet little Christian grandmother was at home at that moment praying for his salvation. I told him this and I also told him he needed to take the Bible I had given him a month or so before and read and believe it.
Was it worth becoming a cripple, to never be able to run or exercise again and to have to walk with a cane and live in pain for the rest of my life? Yes! Because before I left that prison in May of 1998, that precious young man found his way to the cross of Christ and gave his life to the Lord.
From there I was transferred to Ironwood State Prison. I spent two years there. As a person who has spent most of their life behind bars, I learned one of the most important spiritual lessons of my Christian life around the end of July 1998. Paul said in I Corinthians 15:10, “by the grace of God I am what I am and His grace toward me was not in vain.” The Amplified translation of this verse reads, “But by the grace, the unmerited favor and blessing of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not found to be for nothing, fruitless and without effect.” No! It wasn’t any part of me that did anything for the Lord; it is always the Holy Spirit who does anything good through us. Yet there is a part we do.
This sounds like a paradox, but it’s not. A great man of God by the name of Adam Clarke put it this way; “without the grace or power to believe no man ever did or can believe; but with that power the act of faith is a man’s own. God never believes for any man, nor does He repent for him; the penitent, through his grace enabling him, believes for himself, God gives the power or grace; man uses the power or grace thus given, and brings glory to God; without the power or grace no man can believe; with it, any man can.”
The key in coming to this place where the grace and power of God can use you is found in what Paul spoke in Philippians 3:7-14. I won’t try to deal with all these verses, but I do spend a good deal of time meditating on them. Paul says in verse 10 that he wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, but this only comes by being conformed to Christ’s death. Ephesians 1:17-20 shows that the power God used to raise Jesus from the dead dwells in us, yet it takes a surrendered life for the power or grace of God to be manifested through our lives. In verse 13 of Philippians, Paul gives the secret of a fulfilled life that God can use. Paul says, “…one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind or in the past…”
Paul, the killer of Christians, after he was saved, said, over and over he had a clear and pure conscious. Why? Because Saul of Tarsus died on the road to Damascus, and Paul the bond slave of Christ was born.
II Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation”, or as another translation reads, “he is a new species of being that did not exist before.” Or, as John Wesley put it, “no man is able to work it (the new birth) in himself. It is a work of omnipotence. It requires no less power thus to quicken (make alive) a dead soul, than to raise a body that lies in the grave. It is a new creation, and no one can create a soul anew, but He who at first created the heavens and the earth.”
What I am saying is this, we all have things we have done in our past, some worse than others. We can either let them go, and go on with the Lord, or we can live a sad, miserable life always wondering what if. Let God give you a life. He’s not looking for ability, He’s is only looking for availability. He will equip you for whatever He calls you to do. We can’t change the past, but remember ALL things do work together for those who love God!
It was after learning this lesson that the Lord opened the door for me to spend the next year and a half there to teach a Bible study. I was asked by the Catholic Chaplain to teach his midweek Bible study class to the Catholics. By the grace of God, around a dozen Catholics came to Christ in that period of time, simply because the Lord worked it out that way.
It is easy to say we know the Lord has forgiven us, but how many of us truly believe it. In Luke 7:47 Jesus said those who are forgiven much love much and those forgiven little love little. The sad truth is we have all been forgiven so much, yet we don’t love Him who forgives us as we should. Jesus said in Matthew 22:39 we should love our neighbor as ourselves. It took me a lot of years until I could finally say in truth I liked myself, not because of who I am, but what the Holy Spirit has made me; I like myself in Christ. I’ve learned to love what the Lord has made of me.
God has begun a work in us – we need to let Him finish it. After all, we are made in His image and likeness and in Him dwells all good things, for we are His workmanship created in Christ, bless God. Always remember this, it says in the book of Lamentations 3:21-24, that it’s through the Lord’s mercies that we aren’t consumed. Why? Because His compassions, His love does not fail, it is new every morning and He is great in His faithfulness to do so.
Yes! Even in prison, every morning when I open my eyes I know my Heavenly Father loves me anew. And knowing this I no longer have any problem receiving His forgiveness, and living each day for Him. Am I perfect? No! I mess up more than I should, but I know when I seek the Lord in true heart felt repentance He forgives me. You only lose when you refuse to get back up and let the Holy Spirit do His work in your life. The devil is not our biggest problem, we are our biggest problem.
Jesus said in Mark 5:36 “Do not be afraid, only believe.” The minute you allow fear to grip your heart and run your life you are through. So many people today fail or even worse don’t even try because they are afraid they will fail. Yet Jesus said only believe, only believe, all things are possible only believe.
I left Ironwood in the spring of 2000 and spent the next two years in CMC East, waiting on the Lord and learning and growing in the Word of God. In 2002 I was transferred to Pleasant Valley State Prison. The biggest turning point in my Christian life came there as the Holy Spirit began to teach me what true intercession was about. The Holy Spirit starting showing me what verses like Isaiah 62:6-7, Ezekiel 22:30 and Romans 8:26 were really about. In 2002 and early 2003 I didn’t know why, but I soon found out. You see, the Lord blessed me in allowing me to lead a young Muslim to Christ. He was a precious brother. He didn’t read very well, and I had just been blessed with the New Living Translation, Life Application Study Bible, so I gave it to him because he could read it.
Where this prison is located, there is a virus in the dust that gets into the air when the wind blows. It is called Valley Fever. In the six years that I was there between 2003 and 2009, it killed 20 people and made hundreds sick. This precious brother got Valley Fever and was dying; there was no medical help for him. The Lord put him on my heart to intercede for him, because He had a work for him. I started praying and when I reached the place where I submitted my will to the Holy Spirit He started praying through me, and at this time it was the most intense spiritual battle I’ve ever been in. Because of the physical strain I suffered a large stroke and heart attack. The stroke was in the left side of my brain, two small blood vessels exploded.
I have been asked, “Was it worth it?” Yes, it was. The Lord in His mercy raised me up, but even more important than that, was the fact that when I came back from the hospital, that precious brother was standing at the yard gate Bible in hand waiting for me. Praise the Lord. Only the Lord knows how many Muslims that precious man has led to Calvary. I say this because of Jesus I would have given my life for him. Jesus showed me through this, that this is what it means in part to give our lives for another. This is where the real blessings of the Lord are. Hebrews 7:25 says in part that, “Christ ever lives to make intercession for us.”
Please understand this. Every battle that you ever fought and won was won because Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was interceding through you. Jesus’ intercession is the victory of our every spiritual battle. Paul gave a secret to this type of life of prayer when he said, “the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14) I know the Lord will keep me going until my work here on earth is finished.
I stayed at that prison until July 2009 and then spent a short time in two other prisons. I arrived at Corcoran State Prison in 2011. As I said I am part Native American. I am half White Mountain Apache and half English. In January of 2012 I was sent to “C” yard at Corcoran, and I was led to start witnessing to the Native Americans there. The Holy Spirit put three of these men on my heart. So, on March 12th I started interceding for them. I was in a cell by myself, and I spent four days lying on my cell floor fasting and crying out to God for the salvation of these three men. On day four I suffered yet another stroke. This time four blood vessels let go on the left side of my brain. I lost all short, middle and long term memory. I was pretty much brain dead. I had no memory or real brain functions, yet on day five the Holy Spirit touched my mind and restored my brain. I spent eight days in the hospital, yet before I left there I had regained use of my right hand and could speak again, I had no feeling from the waist down in my right leg. The doctors told me I would spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. But by the grace of God I was out of the wheelchair within five months, and am now back to walking with a cane, and slowly I am regaining the feeling in my right leg.
Yet the biggest miracle that happened took place in my brain. For twelve years prior to the stroke I was kept on large doses of Psych meds, because those who ran the prison system thought that was the only way they could control me. They don’t understand the effects of the new birth. So, every year for twelve years I was given an MRI and CAT scan as well as an EEG and had to take IQ tests to see what affects the large amounts of meds I was on was having on my brain. In those twelve years the highest I ever scored on the IQ test was 107. When the Lord brought me out of the stroke and my mind started working, I was taken and had an MRI and CAT scan. The results were that several areas of my brain that had never showed any real use before were working, and the doctors don’t know why. When I got back to the prison, and was feeling better, I was given three days of IQ tests that averaged out to about 150. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know and neither do the doctors. In some areas I have a memory that remembers so much and in other areas I have no idea what’s being taught – such as math and spelling. Yet, by the grace of God, I can now read the Bible or good godly books and remember more that I know I should. I know it is the Lord and not me.
Well, the most precious miracle of all was and is that when I did get back to the prison my three Native American brothers, Nick, Black Dog, and Ames were all saved. And because the Lord knew I would be transferred, He raised up an old Christian brother by the name of Mr. Bishop and restored him and showed him that He still loved him and used him to disciple my three young Indian brothers, to help them grow spiritually.
I am now in a prison in San Diego, California. For the Lord’s own reasons He has opened up another door for me to walk through and grow from. He made it possible for me to not only take the Continuing Education units from the Wesley Institute, which is a part of the Southern Methodist College; the Lord has made it possible for me to teach this program to others. Has all this happened because I know more than others? No – a thousand times no. I simply believe it is because I desire to be used and am willing to pay any price it takes to do so.
In spite of the fact that I threw my life away, the Lord gave me another chance. He will give you another chance IF you let Him. God at times has a plan “B” for our lives. Now this doesn’t mean we should play games with God, that we can live like a devil for as long as we want to. It is only the grace of God that draws us to Him and if we continue to live a sinful life, there is always the chance we hit the place of no-return.
As I said, I had a lot of chances, but will now die in prison. Do I blame God? No! I put myself in prison, I am where I desire to be, I broke the Lord’s moral law in a lot of ways, yet I still didn’t get all I deserve. God is merciful. You don’t have to come to prison to be in a prison of your own making. Many of you are doing harder time than I am. The Bible says, “If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.” (John 8:36) I know I am free. They have a body locked up, but I am free in Jesus. Even behind these fences, I can be used of the Lord. But you don’t need to get locked-up to serve the Lord.
Please take what I am saying to heart. These prisons are full of your children, and they shouldn’t be here. Love your kids. They are a gift from God, raise them in the Lord, raise them up right, before they come to see me and they are hard to reach. The truth is I am tired of babysitting your children. They don’t need me; they need Jesus and a godly home to be brought up in. Your children are our future, what kind of future do you want them to have?
Has my story or life ended? No. It is on-going and as I said, all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Serve the Lord where you are; don’t play games with the Lord; don’t live a life of compromise. Because, if you do, it could end up destroying your children in the long run.
I will leave you with a verse that means a great deal to me in many ways, “But thanks be to God who leads me on from place to place in the train of His triumph, to celebrate His victory over the enemies of Christ, and by me sends forth the knowledge of Him, a stream of fragrant incense throughout the world for Christ’s fragrance am I unto God.” (II Cor. 2:14, paraphrase)
In His grace and love,
“My Testimony” by Robert Vaughan is available in booklet format.
If you would like to obtain a copy or copies of this booklet for distribution, contact Light of Life Ministry.
Other Articles by Robert Vaughan