Jonathan Schulte and Brandon Davis could be described as the twin towers: They stand 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-7 respectively. 

Schulte met Davis for the first time at Community Transitional Services, a re-entry center in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood that helps inmates transition from prison back into the community.

“I remember meeting him in the hallway,” said Schulte, 48. “He’s got a smile on his face, and I’m like, ‘Who is this idiot?’ because I’m in a real bad state. I did not want to be there. I did not think I deserved to be there. And he says to me, with a smile on his face, ‘Hey man, do you know about Jesus?’ ‘Yeah, whatever man. I know about Jesus.’ I kind of blew him off.”

Davis kept telling Schulte about a weekly Bible study led by Southeast Christian Church member Tony Cash and attended by about 70 CTS-Russell residents. (CTS-Russell has space for up to 325 men.)

After a miserable first two weeks, Schulte decided he was going to leave the next day and violate parole until he saw someone wearing a T-shirt with the phrase, “Stay Strong.”

“I wasn’t doing anything but smoking and going back to my rack,” Schulte added. “I see that shirt … I don’t believe in coincidences. So, I’m like, I’ll go see what this guy has to say at the Bible study. I had a ‘whatever’ attitude. I was blown away. I heard Tony’s testimony, and it just spoke right to my heart. I’m like, ‘This guy’s the real deal here.’ To where he was and what I saw as a man, I was like, I want what he has. From that moment on, I started doing his suggestions … and that’s everything right now in my life, just getting into the Word and Jesus.”

Never going back

Never Going Back, continued from page 1

Those suggestions—reading four to six chapters of the Bible each day, praying coupled with confession, growing with other believers and sharing your testimony—helped lead Schulte to the baptistry in January.

Davis baptized Schulte and both attend Southeast.

“I’ve been blessed to watch both of them grow and hear the testimonies of the wake left behind them of what each one’s done in the lives of others,” Cash said. “I hear constantly, ‘If it wasn’t for Brandon. Brandon did this.’ And the same with Jonathan. They’re both submissive and shapeable, willing to be molded and learn.”

Brandon Davis

Davis was raised mostly by his grandmother in Covington, Kentucky, and a life of crime all began with petty theft as a kid.

“There was a corner store, and they sold all kinds of penny candy,” said Davis, 38. “I walk in the store. I didn’t need to steal this particular day. I had money. I think my mom sent me to get something. I remember stuffing my pocket with candy cigarettes like I was the coolest kid on the block. Looking back and where I’m at today—being in step with the Spirit and walking with the Lord—I see how my sin nature progressed over the years starting off with something as innocent as candy.”

Davis’ dad was out of the picture, and his mom worked a lot of hours.

“I wasn’t brought up in church,” Davis added. “I wasn’t taught the Bible as a young kid. I wasn’t religious. I wasn’t any of that. I was just born into this world and learned how to deal with things.”

At 10, Davis graduated to stealing cigarettes to smoke, and by middle school, he was drinking regularly and dealing marijuana while riding his bicycle.

He dropped out of high school, moved into his own apartment and bought a ’69 Camaro at age 17.

“That’s the life that I knew,” he said. “At that time, I wasn’t worried about the cops or the consequences. It was all living for the day and who cares about tomorrow. Satan was putting on blinders and using that to lure me deeper and deeper into the pit. Refrigerator is full. Rent is paid. Girls look good. The last thing I’m going to have you do is talk about Jesus.”

At 23, Davis stopped dealing drugs, but he was addicted to opiates. He owned a construction company but he lost everything when the housing market crashed, so he moved to Sacramento, California, around 2012.

“I told myself, ‘I’m done with this area. I need a change, not God.’ I needed to make that geographical change because the area is the problem,” Davis said.

Davis got a job, quit using drugs and traveled back and forth between California and Kentucky because his grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

He met someone in Louisville and got engaged, but his fianceé overdosed on heroin.

At the funeral, a friend asked Davis if he had ever prayed to God, and he decided to accept Jesus in that graveyard. However, he still struggled to fully surrender, and he was arrested for drug possession. He landed at CTS-Russell last November.

In the last 10 years, he racked up 89 misdemeanors and two felonies.

Davis was visiting a church faithfully, reading the Bible, praying and singing to God before he met Cash who baptized him last December.

“When I came out of the water, my whole mindset changed. The way I viewed the world changed. The way I looked at Scripture changed. The way I looked at people changed,” Davis added. “That was honestly where my old self really did die. The old self was still trying to crop up, but the Holy Spirit wasn’t letting me act on it.”

Jonathan Schulte

Unlike Davis, Schulte grew up with both parents in a Lutheran home in Rhode Island.

“I would go to Sunday school, and I just didn’t really get it,” Schulte said. “That He died for our sins, ‘What does that even mean?’ I’d see pictures of Him with the lamb and shepherd’s staff and I was like, ‘What is this?’ I didn’t really buy into it to be honest with you.”

During high school, Schulte began smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, but he was the starting center on his school’s basketball team that won the state championship his junior year.

He went to Panola College in Carthage, Texas, stopped partying and focused on basketball. He transferred to the University of Colorado Boulder his junior year, but he fell back into chemical addictions. He transferred to Texas State University, but he broke his back in an off-court accident.

“I knew my career was over, and I was real angry because my arrogance told me I was going to go to the NBA or overseas because I was that good,” Schulte added. “When it didn’t happen, I was basically like, ‘Screw you, God. This is all your fault.’”

Schulte began using cocaine and was kicked off the team with two games remaining in his senior season.

“The only thing I knew to do was drugs,” he said. “I don’t know how to deal with life, so I’m going to get high. Being a college athlete, you get pampered. So when all is said and done, I’m like, ‘What am I going to do?’”

Schulte moved back home before his mom died from cirrhosis in 2002, and that compounded his anger toward God.

He moved to Los Angeles, got addicted to crystal meth, became involved in commercial burglaries and landed in Delano State Prison.

Shortly after his release in 2009, he was homeless and living in a car with his dog.

“That’s when I cried out to God for the first time in I can’t remember when,” Schulte said. “I was literally crying, ‘God, I need help. Please, I have no idea what I’m doing.’ I was praying out daily, but I just thought He forgot about me.”

Schulte was arrested for drug possession last year and eventually landed at CTS-Russell.

“Now it all started to make sense. God did hear my prayer in the van,” Schulte added. “He put the wheels in motion and put people in place so He could save me. I was expecting the clouds to open up and for Him to scoop me up and say, ‘It’s going to be all right. Here we go.’ That’s not how it works. He put people in my life to say it’s my choice.”

Schulte and Davis were both released from CTS-Russell and now live a couple blocks from each other in downtown Louisville and lead a 3/3rds Bible study.