Ever wonder if God can redeem the worst moments of your life? Darryll Davis wondered for 20 years.
Men lined up to talk with Darryll Davis after hearing his story at a local halfway house. Davis told the men about how God changed his life while serving 22 years in prison for murder. He noticed a man waiting in the shadows as the room cleared.
When he finally approached Davis, he introduced himself as Johnny, and said, “I forgive you.” Davis was too shaken to speak as the two men hugged as they wept.
That moment was the answer to a prayer Davis repeated often for more than 20 years.
You see, Davis killed Johnny’s father April 26, 1988, in a drug-crazed rage. A thousand times, Davis wished he could relive that night with a different outcome. Within a few hours, he was arrested and charged with murder.
There was no way to deal with guilt and regret.
Davis had no peace until he gave the broken pieces of his life to Jesus. Two years after that horrible night, a jury found Davis guilty of wanton murder and sentenced him to 35 years in prison.
“Every time I looked in the mirror all I saw was a monster, crushed hopes and dreams for so many people,” Davis said. “I read words like God forgives and wants to work in our hearts, but it took a long time for me to believe it.”
In time, Davis became a chapel clerk in prison, studied the Bible through long days and sleepless nights, and his faith grew strong in a hard place.
“I began to believe that grace is greater than my sin,” Davis said. “It’s greater than my brokenness, my past. It’s greater than all that.”
Johnny was just 8 years old when his dad died.
Davis prayed for 20 years that their paths would cross, but he never figured out what he would say if it happened.
“As it turned out, I didn’t have to say a word,” Davis said.
Davis’ nonprofit, The Prisoner’s Hope, helped Johnny transition out of the halfway house, gave him clothes, helped him get settled in an apartment, find a job and set up ongoing counseling.
The two men continue to stay in touch.
But that was not the end of the story.
Just before Thanksgiving, Davis opened an envelope with a typed letter that left him stunned.
It was from Perry, the secret oldest son of the man Davis killed. No one, including Johnny, knew he existed.
“My dad came into my life for only two to three years before the night you killed him,” Perry wrote. “He instantly became my protector. Yes, he had been in prison often and was an alcoholic, but he stopped the abuse I’d suffered for years at the hands of my stepfather. Every night I went to bed hungry. I hated you. Every time I was thrown from home to home, I hated you. I hated you every time my life was hell. I didn’t have my dad to call out to and didn’t feel like God cared. I locked my feelings inside and hated myself, you and everyone around me.”
Perry attempted suicide multiple times. At 17, he decided to kill Davis if their paths ever crossed. By 20, Perry led a gang and soon began selling drugs. A life of crime eventually led to him being sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Perry seemed like a lost cause, but when he turned 30, God got ahold of his heart.
In prison, Perry began contacting the most destructive people in his life, including his stepdad.
“I’ve made amends with many people, and today I want you to know that I forgive you, too,” Perry wrote.
He asked a question at the end of his letter: “Would you please consider mentoring me? I have a few friends here. The one helping me is a man you mentored while you were here many years ago. That’s how I connected to you. The Lord is all I have, and I realize He is all I need.”
Perry asked Davis to check on his son, who has Down syndrome. Davis and friends at The Prisoner’s Hope are reaching out to him.
“What a time to receive the gift of forgiveness—Thanksgiving,” Davis said. “Perry and his son are my Thanksgiving gifts. I so wanted forgiveness and healing. I could never give back what I’ve taken. But Johnny, Perry and his son are gifts in my life. They are proof God restores things that are broken.”