“I finally reached a point that scared me. I was tired of not having anything. I kept thinking, is this all there is? There has to be more to life than feeling like nothing matters – like I don’t matter.” ~ Buryl
Meet Buryl: An interesting blend of “before and after.” He has prison tattoos of a skull and a confederate flag, all intermixed with Dante’s Seven Deadly Sins "inked" throughout, encircling his arm. He was protected by a white supremacy gang while serving time, yet his best friends in the Academy are of varying race and culture. He was hurt and abandoned in his youth (a reason to cling to self-pity), yet he desires life-change in himself for his 3-year old daughter, Bailey. “I learned I was going to be a dad while I was in prison. So now, I have to keep my focus and never give up. I don’t want her to grow up without her father like I did.” Before coming to the Academy, Buryl had no more than 5th grade-level literacy skills, yet in his 4th quarter of the residential portion of the program, he is preparing to pass his third and final exam for his GED. Buryl never read the Bible before. He never knew about Jesus. Yet, when he was sharing his favorite Scripture, he read it with absolute conviction from his heart; “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 ESV
“The staff members are really kind,” Buryl shared. “I’ve never known people like this. And the volunteers are amazing! They come here week after week, spending time with us when they could be doing something else. They help us for no pay at all. And they’re all nice, too!
I have to admit, I wanted to leave this place when I first got here. It was just weird. Everyone hugged and talked non-stop about Jesus. My background was nothing like this. My mom was an alcoholic, and my stepfather was violent. I was addicted to Meth in my teens and stealing from everyone I knew to support my habit. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been to jail. I’ve been to prison 3 times, facing another round with an 8-year sentence for theft. I had options, though. Since the crimes were all related to my addiction, my P.O. recommended the Mission. I said yes, but, for sure, coming here was a culture shock.
Toward the end of my 3rd month, things were improving. I remember being in TLC [Transformative Living Class] when I heard something that hit home. ‘Real change doesn’t happen by trying harder. It happens when we face the reality of our inner lives. You must feel to heal.’ I think that was the moment I understood. From that time on, I let Jesus help me feel the pain of my past and work on my attitude. Today, I’m grateful. I’m humbled by the way God loves me. I can feel Him in me. It’s just like the song describes; Amazing Grace.”
Buryl's testimony appears in the June 2016 edition of Lighthouse News.