Warren Bruce’s oldest grandchild thinks Jesus lives at his house.
That’s quite a compliment to Bruce, whose longest stint out of prison from the time he was 17 to 48 was just nine months.
“The people that I know and am around see a drastic change in me,” said Bruce, 52. “My grandkids came over recently and after they went back home their mom called and said, ‘She thinks Jesus lives at your house,’ so we had to explain to her that He lives in and through everyone. My wife really got excited when she said that. It’s like going from my past life—a total 180—to people seeing the light through me now. I never saw myself being where I’m at now. I still have work to do, but I know that in the struggles I do have, I can see God working and changing things. It’s so amazing.”
Bruce’s first exposure to Southeast Christian Church came by watching sermons on television three years ago.
“This church is so amazing reaching people,” Bruce added. “I don’t think anybody else could’ve reached me. I just had that outcast, nobody loved me, nobody wanted anything to do with me feeling because I have a troubled past. Now I feel when people see me, they see a completely changed person. God’s light shines through me.”
Bruce was baptized at Southeast’s Indiana Campus Oct. 4.
“I’ve been in and out of prison for most of my life, and I just feel that God’s ready to use me and take me on another path. I’m so ready to get on the road and follow God where He leads me,” he said. “They’ve seen the transformation that’s taken place in me. I feel it happening. I’m ready for the ride.”
Bruce grew up in New Albany, Indiana, with three siblings. His mom, a Jehovah’s Witness, took him to Kingdom Hall three times a week.
“We used to go knock on doors,” Bruce said. “I was in the ministry school. They would give me a chapter to read, and I would go up on the platform at a Thursday night service and talk.”
Bruce’s dad was around but absent.
“My dad was there, but he didn’t go to church and never showed any emotion at all,” Bruce added. “I think the first time he told me he loved me—he thought he was about to die—was in my 20s. Any attention we got was negative attention. I believe we got in trouble to get his attention. That was my case at least. I kept trying to get my dad’s attention and that’s how I could get it.”
By the sixth grade, Bruce was smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, and he was expelled for using drugs in the seventh grade.
“We were a family of six, so we didn’t have that much money, and most of the kids out there were rich,” he said. “I was pretty much an outcast. Nobody really hung out with me. It made it rough on me. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere, so I started rebelling more, and it just went on from there.”
Bruce started dealing drugs at 17, and he found out if he had a lot of drugs, he “had a lot of friends.” After being arrested for robbery, he was sent to prison for the first time.
“I had such a marijuana habit I couldn’t stop,” Bruce said. “I went to prison my first time, and when I got out, I kept smoking pot, and they kept sending me back. I kept getting into more trouble.”
In his early 20s, Bruce had two sons in two years during short stints out of prison.
‘Prison was God’s grace’
Bruce has spent more time behind bars than any other place throughout his life.
Whenever things got rough, Bruce would run.
“I ran from stress,” Bruce said. “I didn’t know how to deal with it. If I had a bill that was due and I couldn’t pay it, my answer was drinking, drugs, whatever, and that always led me to prison.”
Up until four years ago, he was in and out of jail or prison for violating parole or getting caught using or selling drugs.
“I was institutionalized. I was used to the structure. I had to make no decisions,” Bruce added. “Nobody was counting on me to pay a bill. I wasn’t expected to do anything. No responsibility. I ran from responsibility. When I got out this last time, I couldn’t even ride in a car. It scared me to death. I was afraid of the dark because in prison they leave the lights on. I was really badly institutionalized. That was my safe place, instead of running to the Lord.”
Looking back, Bruce knows God’s grace was at work.
“Those years were really, really rough,” he said. “I know at least two or three times, if I wouldn’t have gone to prison, I would be dead. God saved me numerous times. Prison was God’s grace over and over; I just couldn’t get the lesson. I’m 52. It took a long time. I kept pushing it away.”
‘I feel at home’
Three years ago, Bruce was channel surfing and stumbled upon Southeast TV on WAVE 3 TV one Sunday morning.
“What led me to Southeast is I decided my life had to really change,” Bruce said. “I started praying and really wrestling with God. I felt like He abandoned me. I live in the country where channel 3 doesn’t usually come in, but for some reason, it did this day. Kyle Idleman came on. I just felt like God spoke straight through Kyle to me. It was the exact message I needed to hear. I started watching and things started changing for me. God’s working miracles in me.”
Bruce, who lives in New Albany, continued watching Southeast TV each week, and two years ago, he visited Southeast’s Indiana Campus for the first time.
“I was kind of leery and felt out of place,” Bruce added. “They were standing at the door, greeting me with open arms, and it brought tears to my eyes.”
Bruce has seen God work since surrendering his life over to him: his kids call and listen again. They bring over the grandchildren. He got married in October and his probation period ended a couple of months ago.
“I’m so glad the Lord finally reached me, and I believe it was through Kyle and this church. This is where I need to be because I feel at home. I’ve never felt that before—even since I was a little kid—it’s welcoming and like a family.”