THIS IS MY STORY
Before and After
Sheriff Parsley. The Sheriff who took me from my cell, gave me his pistol, the keys to the gun rack and ordered me to clean the guns, cook the meal for the men in jail and the put myself up. They were off to make a drug bust, and besides the other inmate it appeared I was there alone with the dispatcher.
I had already said that I would not go back to prison alive. The difference was, I had just gotten saved days before and according to Sheriff Parsley, as a christian he wanted to prove that I was a new man.
I had already said that I would not go back to prison alive. The difference was, I had just gotten saved days before and according to Sheriff Parsley, as a christian he wanted to prove that I was a new man.
Isa 45:22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
This Is My Story
The Story of Ken Barber's Early Life and Conversion
I was raised in a poor family by American standards. My daddy was a drinker. Much of the hard-earned money that he made went to satisfy his drunken addiction. His daddy was a drunkard and often beat him as a child. So, because the Gospel had no place in our home, and my daddy was a drunkard. I was doomed before I got started. I did well in school most of my years, until the 6th grade, when I began to rebel. I stole for the first time when I was in the third grade. I stole a piece of Fool’s God that was on display in a science fair rock collection, thinking I was going to be happy. Growing up we were taught, indirectly, that riches and fame make you happy. Therefore, if I had that (what I thought was gold) I would be happy. When it came my turn to go around the table to observe the display, the “fool’s gold” found its way into my pocket. I thought for a moment that I was happy, until it was discovered that the rock was missing and my joy was turned to mourning.
The next time, I was caught with an older boy stealing money from the pants pocket of a man at a swimming pool locker room near Normangee, Texas. My punishment was to receive an allowance, that way I could pay back what I had stolen. Not a bad deal, I thought. Be paid for stealing.
When I was 8 years old, I went to a vacation Bible School at a little Methodist Church in Sweeney, Texas, where I was tasked with coloring a picture of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. I was the only kid in the class and so the teacher left me coloring. When she returned she read the scripture, Mark 10:25 it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. This all seemed strange to me, but a seed was sown. About that same time, Marilyn Monroe killed herself. Having heard all my life that being Rich and famous is what makes one happy, I was in a dilemma. If that were true why would she kill herself? By the age of fifteen, I had gotten very good at stealing from my parents, and friends. I was the first in thirty years to have a jury trial in Brazoria County as a juvenile. The result was a hung jury. Afterwards, I was offered probation, if I could pass an Interim time without getting into trouble. The day of reckoning came, and I was found with a glass of wine in my hand and the probation denied.
One of my friend’s fathers had gotten saved. While visiting with her and her dad one day, he shared his testimony with me. I was 15, and the hoodlum of the town. I went to church with them in Old Ocean, Texas and along with our other friends, was baptized. I had a bag of marijuana in my boot and a cross earring in my ear. I was really cool. I thought. Within 6 months, I was sent to the Gatesville Boys Home for crimes I had done. While in Gatesville, I had several encounters with the Gospel. One time was at the reception Center. Knowing something was wrong in my life and seeking for answers, I found a Gideon Bible in my room and I was reading the Beatitudes and realized that this was the person I should be, to be right, but not the one I wanted to be. I like what I was doing, smoking dope and “having fun”. I just didn’t want the consequences of getting caught. Once assigned to the School (unit) I was to do my time on, my bunk partner was Matthew Parks, a Christian, and he spoke often of the gospel. I went to the Chapel each Sunday while I was there. I knew that something was missing.
Four months after I got out of the Boy’s home, I was arrested for a burglary spree in Brazoria, Texas. Twenty four burglaries! I was sentenced to seven years. After making trustee I smuggled in marijuana and planted seed inside the chicken house at the Clemons Unit and was busted. I later found out that I was being brought up on a special parole hearing for good behavior and would have gone home had I not been a fool. They took all the
“good Time” I had accrued and shipped me to a Maximum security Unit for age 18 to 25. I did three years and eight months, before finally making parole. While on parole, I continued my life of sin and crime. 35 days before the end of my parole and sentence, I was sent back for drug use, a dirty urine sample. During my incarceration I began to feel that my girl friend was leaving me and at which time it became known that I had robbed a convenience store near Angleton Texas. Of all people it was attended by my girl friends best friends’ grandmother. I robbed her with a 22 caliber pistol owned by my mother, a gun that my father gave her to use on me if it became necessary. When I “threw down” on the store clerk, I demanded the money. I understand now that she was a Christian. It was unknown to me at the time, but she grabbed all of the one dollar bills and gave them to me. I left thinking I had made a big score, only to realize back home that she have made a fool of me.
While I was in prison she I identified me from a police mug shots. Carol, my girl friend informed me of it. From that time I began planning an escape, both to see Carol and to end the life of the witness I robbed.
During the same time prior to my parole revocation, a young man had been murdered. Gabriel Casiano, home on leave from the military. I was a suspect at one point for the murder. They found his badly decomposing body in the Brazos River and discovered that he had been shooting drugs into his arms at the time of his death. Grable had shown up at a party where I was selling Methamphetamines and shooting people up, this made me a suspect. I mention this because they never found his car and so I devised a scheme whereby I would tell the Sheriff’s department that I knew where the car was buried, they would take me to show them and I would escape. Well, they gave me two separate polygraph tests to see if I were lying and I passed them both, so they set a date and took me from the prison to show them where the car was buried. I took them to a place that had been developed since the time of the murder and played as though I could not now tell the exact spot but that I thought it was at the spot where a huge two story house now stood. My plan was foiled, not once did they open the door on the police cruiser, even at my pleas for bathroom time.
My girl did leave me, but the lady I robbed refused to press charges or to testify if the state pressed it. Again the providence of God kept me from a life sentence during my stay in the Brazoria County jail while await the parole hearing I planned an escape. At that time they brought an industrial mop buckets into our cell blocks for daily cleaning. These hand two handles on them, about two and a half feet long when straightened. I took these and made two long shanks from each handle. We sharpened them to points; we also scored a couple spoons stolen from the kitchen. Every morning only one guard came to the door to take us for breakfast; we would take him hostage and escape before the morning shift arrived. It wasn’t a very well thought out plan, however, someone snitched it out and so, two extra people came to the door that morning and I ordered everyone to stand down. We were searched, but none of the shanks were found, they were hidden in the air vents and mine in the seam of my jail uniform. We were sent each to different cell blocks. I was told sometime later that four men found those shanks and attempted an escape and were each given life sentences. We never verified that story.
After that stay in prison, just two weeks out of prison, I was arrested for night time burglary of a habitation. This could have gotten me 99 years. My charge was later reduced to a criminal trespassing charge. My Grandmother started writing to me and sending Gospel literature. I asked God to help me to get out and I would serve him. He did. On my birthday they took me to court and reduced my charge to Criminal trespass. I plead guilty; they gave me time already served and eight more months. Upon my release, as soon as my feet hit the side walk a voice in my mind said, “You promised to serve me”, but I went my own way. Five days later, I was back in for a series of misdemeanors, including fleeing from an officer, which would cost me about another 4 months in jail. It was this time that I began reading more literature about the Gospel. Chaplain Ray’s “International Prison ministry” had a series of “life changing books” about gangsters who had gotten saved. Buddy Scott who was the volunteer Chaplain at the Brazoria County jail at that time, brought them in and I began to read. A book called “Holes in Time” the testimony of Frank Constantino, a Mobster and a thief. I knew I was lost and needed the Lord, but I just could not seem to find the magic faith button. It was at this point that I met my last fall partner, Ray. In for something to do with auto theft, we became friends.
Ray promised that when he got out, he would come back and bail me out, and he did. At this point, my Dad informed me that he could no longer help me, that he had spent his entire life’s savings keeping me out of jail. I have $200 he told me, and I will buy you a bus ticket to wherever that will take you, but you can’t stay here any more. We went to Gonzales, Texas to live with Rays grandmother, and to “straighten out our lives”, get a job, and do right. Two weeks later, and bored to death, I wired Mamma for some money. She sent $20. That night we went to a bar to look for work among the oilfield workers. After two beers and having given my name and address to the oilfield hands and a driller, I decided I couldn’t do this; it was time to leave this hick town.
I devised a quick plan. Ray agreed, and I walked over to a person whom I never saw before in my life and told him that we needed to return a vehicle home to its owner and that we wanted to come back and drink some more and would he kindly give us a ride to and from. He agreed. Almost to our destination, I took out my knife with its inch and a half blade, put it to his throat, demanded him stop and get out. He obeyed and we left Gonzales in a stolen car.
This began, for me a point of no return. A couple days later, in South Houston, needing to get rid of the stolen vehicle and tired of trying to change and failing, we attempted to kidnap the woman who car we stole, use her and then kill her. By the Grace of God, she got away. I knew at this point that if I did what I was planning to do there would be no return, but I was tired of trying to change and failing. At this point I decided to give my body whatever it wanted and when the police caught up I would throw down on them and be killed or else I would end up on death row. We took only her car, because when I turned to lock the door she got away. We dumped the other vehicle in Pasadena, Texas and headed to Utah.
From there to Salt Lake City, Utah, in this stolen vehicle, we robbed others at knife point to get the money to reach out destination. I robbed one man with a 16 ounce Dr Pepper bottle, threatening to break it on his face and cut his throat with it. He gave us what we wanted. On several occasion I saw the hand of God deliver me. The grace and goodness of God was keeping me and protecting me it seemed, in spite of what I was doing. He preserved me until I could reach that place back in Texas where I would finally be saved.
I tried again to change once we were in Bountiful, Utah; however, I knew it was too late and hopeless, with all that was hanging over me. I knew I would have to go back and face my crimes.
I had no rest. If I heard a helicopter at night I would think it was the Fed’s coming for me. After two months, we stole a vehicle and a gun from Rays mother and returned to Texas. Even then God was taking care of me. I recall Ray telling me, on the road, minutes before going to sleep, that when I got on the icy roads that I should slow down and be very careful. In the Rocky Mountains, I hit the ice, the car slid sideways, out of control. I remember taking my hands off of the wheel and looking over at Ray to see if he was asleep. Looking to the left we were sliding to the edge of a cliff with a snow covered embankment. About the time I thought it was over, it was as if a hand reached down and took hold of that vehicle and abruptly turned it straight and it caught traction, my hands immediately grabbed back onto the wheel. I looked again to see if Ray was seeing any of this, but he was asleep. I knew that it was God who just did that. I am not sure what would have been the outcome of going off that embankment but at the least, if it didn’t kill us, we would end up in jail in Utah with the Mormons. God kept that from happening; he knew right where he was going to save me, the Gonzales county Jail in Texas.
Once we hit New Mexico it was 17 degrees below zero, we were freezing cold, the heater was not working in the car, and we were out of money and almost out of fuel. We finally realized that the heat was not working because the engine was completely out of water. We kept going until we came to a rest area. I told Ray that as soon as someone came, I would rob them. A station wagon pulled in next to us, I could see two little girls asleep in the back seat. I decided that I would wait until he went to the rest room and then go in and rob him. He got out and I followed him in. I stood at the sink pretending to wash up, waiting for him to finish and come over. All the while something is saying in my mind and I knew that it wasn’t me, that if he resists, you will have to shoot him and what will become of those little girls? I never cared about such things before, but now I can’t stop thinking about that. He came to wash his hands and I just let him go, I could not do it. I knew that my crime spree was over. I went back out to the car and gave the pistol to Ray and said “I can’t do this anymore”. We waited till the morning and sought a place to sell some stolen goods that we had and ended up selling the pistol. From that, we had enough money to make it to Gonzales Texas, where we went to Rays Grandmothers house once again. It was then that we found that we had been indicted for Aggravated Robbery. It was a fire Chief from whom I had robbed the first car.
There in Gonzales, they surrounded us in Ray’s grandmother’s home. I hid us in a closet in his grandmother’s bedroom. The thought came to my mind to leave the closet door slightly opened and when they see it, they would think that no one would be in there since the door was not completely closed. I had planned to punch whoever opened the closet and dive out the bedroom window. Sheriff Parsley himself walked right over and reaches for the door knob, I could see his face but he couldn’t see mind, and for sure when he saw the door ajar he must have thought, that if we were in there we would have closed the door. He turned and walked away. I found out Later that there was a deputy outside that window with orders to shoot anything that came out that window. That deputy later told me that he believed God was taking care of me when he put that thought into my mind. He was scared and he would have shot me before I hit the ground. He was a rookie and we were considered armed and dangerous.
We left town that night and went to Houston to score some meth. I lost track of Ray and returned back to my home town to find my Daddy on his death bed.
The police knew that I was there. They had heard from the Gonzales Sheriffs Department of my near capture and escape. One of them stopped me and he asked if I had cleared my problem back in Gonzales, to which I replied that I had. He let me go. That bought me a little time. After they knew that I was still wanted both in Gonzales and there in Brazoria County as well, I have always assumed that they left me to spend some time with my daddy whom they knew to be dying, before they came for me. I spent Christmas and the New Years with him. Two nights later at a bar, I was beaten up very badly, by some rivals because I had punched out one of their ex-wives, knocking some of her teeth out. I had gone outside to pass out in the car when they jumped me. My little brother came out to check on me and found them stomping on my head. Had he not come out that night, it is possible that I would have been dead. I was unconscious for about two days. When the police did arrive in my driveway, I was glad to go with them and went outside to surrender. I was tired. Once in jail, I began to think about my life. They put me in a cell with a guy who talked about Jesus. I punched him out once, but he kept on witnessing.
I began to realize that I was lost. At this point, an old man came in and talked with my friend and I. He opened the Bible to the passage about “the camel going through the eye of the needle.” The story he told to me that day was the story told to me long ago in vacation bible school. That scripture troubled me for all those years and I was finally told what it meant. He asked if we would like to accept Christ. I knew I needed Him, but more worried about what my friends would think if I did. I told him I was not ready.
My dad died while I was in jail and it devastated me. Many of the sheriff’s deputies and even the Sheriff seemed to try and give me chance after chance over my life. Now it seemed they were all giving up on me. Because of my flight from justice in Gonzales, no deputy in Brazoria County wanted to take me to my father’s funeral. Finally, a Black deputy who knew and liked my Dad volunteered to take me. He assured me that if I tried to escape he would shoot me. I arrived at the funeral in handcuffs, but he took them off to give me a little dignity among my family. Death had taken a new dimension for me, now it was real. When I looked into the coffin and saw that body, my daddy was not there and I knew it. Ten years later, I preached my grandmother’s funeral at the same place to the same family members.
Back in jail, I began to realize that I would probably never be free again. Death haunted me. My charges in Brazoria County were dropped. They sent from Gonzales County, where I had an indictment against me, an old man, a semi -retired deputy in his 70’s to pick me up and transport me. I was thinking that it may be easy to take him out and escape in the police car. I did not want to spend the rest of my life in prison and so I waited. We stopped at some point to get gas, about half way to Gonzales. He had let me sitting in the front seat, with my hands cuffed in the front. He opened a box that was in the seat between us and removed a credit card; there was a pistol in the box as well. It appeared to be a 357 revolver. The box was left unlocked. I thought for sure that God was smiling on me and I would surely be able now to escape. Each time I was about to get the pistol something kept saying to my mind, “you promised” As he went to pay for the gas, all my plans fell away, as I remembered the promised I had made to my Dad on his death bed. “If I ever get out of this, I will change.” God used that promise to keep me from taking that gun, that police car and to get me all the way to Gonzales. Once I arrived, and they slammed those doors behind me, I cursed myself for a fool.
Once, I was settled in jail, things really began to change. For the first time in my life, I really began to feel hopelessness. I could not manipulate my way out of this situation. There was no smoking and no commissary in the jail. The food was not much either. The Sheriff limited that stuff to make it tough on prisoners, rather than catering to us. I had brought some marijuana from the Brazoria County Jail in my personal belongings. It had been taken off a shrimp boat busted by the sheriff’s department, some trusties had unloaded it. I had acquired it from one of them, a friend. This was actually kept by the jailers, in a locker, with my belongings, all of which fit into a manila envelope. There was about two joints worth in that envelope. I asked the deputy to bring my belongings so I could write a letter, which he did. I tore a page out of a small pocket Bible and rolled a joint, but I didn’t get a buzz from it. I remember thinking that something bad was going to happen to me for doing that with the Bible. I knew though that It was high dollar Marijuana. There was one joint left for another time.
I began to have nightmares every night and regrets every morning that I would have to wake to face another day, only to face another night of bad dreams. I had beaten my daddy up when he was dying of cancer and knew I had never been a good son to him and now he was dead. I knew that I would never be free again. I began to consider suicide as a means of quieting my conscience and soothing my misery. I had tried to be a Christian before, after reading stories of converted gangsters. I prayed all the little “Sinner’s Prayers” I had been baptized and sprinkled, but I had never changed. I could not be a Christian, I thought, I had tried that. I couldn't’ kill myself either. Something in my mind began to tell me that if I died when I left my body, I would be in hell and my misery would be intensified. God continued to say to my heart, “I sent my Son to die for you, if you will accept Him, I will give you a new life.”
Though there was a Bible laying in the cell, and gospel tracts, I continued to resist reading anything Gospel, I had tried that before and it did not work for me. Finally, all I could think to do was to unload my misery on my Mom by writing a letter. As I began to twirl the pencil in my fingers, and consider what to write, I looked at the pencil and there was a Bible verse on it. God, in His infinite wisdom, knowing that I would not pick up the Bible, put the very verse that I needed to read right there in my hand. When I read that verse on that pencil, God spoke to me, and I knew it. Something happened in my heart. I knew he was calling me to come out from the wicked and be separate, to touch not the unclean thing. ( 2Co 6:17,18 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty).
That last joint was never smoked. I gathered up all the gospel material that I could find and began to read. Two days later, reading a Gospel of John booklet, there was prayer written there similar to the ones that I had prayed so many times before. The difference was that this time, God was calling me. As I read it, it said, ‘If you prayed this prayer sign your name on the line.” As I picked up my pencil and began to do so, that thought came to my mind, “you’ve signed these things before and nothing happened. This is it; you either come to me now, with all, or don’t ever come to me at all.” I knew now that I could not have my cake and eat it too. This was it, all or nothing. I looked back down at that prayer, which said something like this. “God I know that I am a sinner and I know that I cannot change, I am tired of trying. Please come into my life and change me.” It was as if someone walked over and lifted a load off of my back, I felt it lift away, the presence of God filled that cell and peace came into my soul for the first time in my life. I looked to the domino table where my two cell partners were playing dominoes, to see if they had seen or heard anything, but they went right on playing, not knowing what had just taken place in me.
Peace filled my soul. A joy and a sense of security that I had never known before engulfed me. I literally felt like God had wrapped me in his love, I knew I had found what I had been searching for all of my life. I knew that something happened and that I would never be the same. That same day, before I got saved, the devil had told me that I could not be a Christian, because I couldn’t even quit smoking, I knew it was true, I had tried twice and failed. That day, God told me to just him trust Him and it would be alright. The day after my salvation, still trying to quit, when that craving came upon me, the verse of Scripture, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” came to mind. At that moment, I realized that there was a devil and that he was tempting me with the craving to smoke. When I obeyed and resisted, I felt a presence move away from me and as he did the craving for a smoke subsided, I sensed him standing in the corner of the cell looking at me and then he was gone. I haven’t had that craving since.
After several days, I realized that I had not been using foul language, which had characterized my life. I was taken out to unload a truck of marijuana that the sheriff’s department had confiscated. Afterward, when we would have gotten searched to make sure we didn't keep any, I told the deputy that I didn't’ want that stuff anymore. He looked at me and said, “Why do I believe you”, and sent me back without searching me.
Earlier that day, the Sheriff himself had taken me to his office and told me that they were going to make a bust and would be gone for a while, leaving me outside the cell alone with the female secretary. He told me to cook the evening meal for the men, sat me at his desk, pulled out his pistol and laid it on the desk, got another pistol from his desk, then gave me the keys to the gun rack on the wall and told me to clean the guns. Removing the bullets from some of them, I did what he asked and then cooked the beans for the inmates and put myself back in my cell.
The District Attorney later offered me two years if I would plead guilty. After a day or so of struggling with that, the Lord spoke to my heart, “If you plead not guilty, you will be lying and I do not want you to lie anymore.” That settled that. I went before a judge. He looked at me and told me, “I don’t know why but I am going to help you young man. He set aside the indictment of Aggravated robbery which carried 5 to 99, reduced my offense to simple robbery, which carried 2 to 10 and he gave me the minimum, 2 years. That means that I was sentenced to three years less than the minimum for the crime that I had committed. I was sent to the Texas prison where I spent 8 months at the Darlington Unit, making my entire incarceration exactly one year from the time I was arrested. I was released on mandatory supervision. One year later I was off paper and free. After my release I went back to those I could find, whom I had harmed and did what I could to apologize and make restitution. Since that time, I have lived for The Lord Jesus Christ. Telling my story wherever I can, preaching the death, burial and resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ to all who will listen.
Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God that he died, was buried and rose again? He died to save sinners! All who turn from sin, trusting in him will be saved.
Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Want you call upon him today?