Sometimes things become crystal clear in the craziest places.
For Southeast Christian Church member Randy Stinnett, 34, it was a jail cell. By then, he’d been through a decade that he describes as “no ups and downs.”
“It was all down,” he said. “I look back at who I was and it makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t even recognize myself back then.”
Those years included a decade of hard holidays in prison—away from family, friends, traditional family meals and gifts.
This year, he cannot wait to celebrate Thanksgiving, see Christmas lights, purchase gifts for his wife Melinda, her son, his daughter and their triplets due in the spring. Most of all, he just wants to live it all in slow motion to savor every day.
It’s hard for Randy to get through his list of blessings without tearing up. A loving wife. A soft bed. A growing family. Restored relationships. Second chances. Fresh air. Three jobs and the ability to pay bills.
“I don’t deserve any of it, but I’m grateful for all of it,” he said.
Randy, a member of the Oldham Campus, describes himself as a country boy from Glasgow, Kentucky, raised in the world of horses, cattle, tobacco and hay. He learned how to work hard on the farm, but what seemed like an idyllic life shattered when his parents divorced.
He lived for weekends with his dad.
“I remember getting off school, packing up my stuff and waiting for my dad to come get me,” Randy said. “A lot of times it never happened. One night my mom let me wait until close to midnight until she made me give up and go in the house.”
Randy was still young when his dad and older brothers introduced him to the world of drugs. His life spiraled when he went to live with his dad where there were no rules or accountability.
Despite what was going on behind the scenes, he managed to earn good grades, perform as an athlete and Eagle Scout.
He came close to escaping the world of drugs and alcohol when he was offered a scholarship to study diesel engines at a technical school.
But that dream vanished the day he was caught with methamphetamine at school.
For the next 12 years, he bounced in and out of prison, became commander of a prison gang, filled with hate for everyone—especially himself.
Randy was sitting alone in his cell the day when he hit bottom. He didn’t know a lot about faith, but he got down on his knees and prayed.
“God, please give me something I can see the end of,” he began. “If You’ll help me survive prison, I’ll live my life for You.”
His life changed so dramatically from that time on that Randy was given parole the first time he was eligible. He didn’t take that second chance lightly.
Before release, he became involved with Prodigal Ministries, a faith-based prison care program for men and women that is supported by Southeast. After release, he moved into the rambling Prodigal house in La Grange where he went to Bible studies, counseling, met with his mentor, Southeast member Tony Ford, and began attending worship services at the Oldham Campus.
“The whole staff at Prodigal took me under their wing,” Randy said. “They spoon-fed me like a child. Every single person played a different role in my life.”
Ford, now chairman of the board at Prodigal, said Randy understood the Gospel and ran with it.
“Many of the men we meet in Prodigal Ministries have one ear to the world and the other to the Word of God,” he said. “Not Randy. He was determined to follow Jesus and be a good dad to his daughter. His second transformation happened as we studied Biblical manhood.”
Jennifer Partin, the executive director at Prodigal Ministries, is proud of Stinnett. Transformation is always the goal of the ministry—to stop the revolving door in and out of prison, to offer hope through the transforming power of Christ.
“Randy is pretty amazing,” she said. “He was always serious about change, devoted to Bible study and ready to change his life. Now he’s on our staff encouraging us and others.”
Randy met his wife Melinda, a nurse practitioner, at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
“Randy is an amazing husband and dad,” she said. “I’m so glad he’s by my side on this journey. We tell our story to let people know there’s hope.”
These days, Randy works at a plumbing company, at Prodigal and at the horse farm where he and Melinda live. He also takes classes to become a drug-abuse counselor.
“Now my goal in life is to be a Godly man, to follow God as close as I can and teach my children to do the same,” he said.
Southeast partners with Prodigal Ministries to care for men and women leaving prison. Most are ordinary people who have made bad decisions. There are 20,000 people behind bars in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The goal of Prodigal Ministries is to meet physical and spiritual needs so prison does not become a revolving door.