'Prison caused me to see myself. ... God used prison to change me'

Inmate Sidney DeLoach said he forever will be thankful for prison. – if he had not entered the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola 26 years ago, DeLoach said he thinks he would be dead.

    Inmate Sidney DeLoach said he forever will be
thankful for prison. – if he had not entered the Louisiana State
Penitentiary at    Angola 26 years ago, DeLoach said he
thinks he would be dead.

   “Prison was good for me,” insisted DeLoach, pastor of St.
John Institutional Brotherhood at Angola. “Prison caused me to find
myself. It caused me to see myself. It caused me to know myself. God
used prison to change me.”

    DeLoach offered his story during a time of testimony
at the 2005 Louisiana Baptist Evangelism Conference last week. He was
one of four testimonies at the conference, which also featured a range
of speakers and small-group sessions related to evangelism. (See
accompanying articles and coverage on Pages Five, Six and Seven)

    Raised in a Baptist church, DeLoach said he accepted
Christ as his personal savior and Lord at a young age. However, he also
said he despised preachers because he saw some of them living an
immoral life.

    Once the Army drafted DeLoach to serve in Vietnam, he said his life changed forever.

    “I was a different person,” DeLoach said. “I was
trained to kill, trained to do everything wrong under the sun.”

When he returned home, DeLoach built a barroom and played in a band. He
stopped attending church and lived a life filled with alcohol and drugs.

    “The devil targeted my life and he carefully and
strategically plotted and planned my downfall,” DeLoach recalled. “When
the right moment came, he trapped me. And when he trapped me, he
ambushed me.”

    One night, DeLoach attended an all-night party. The
next morning, the police arrested DeLoach for rape. He had lost his
family, life, freedom, dignity and self-respect.

    DeLoach said he entered prison an angry and bitter man.

    Though he knew Angola had a reputation as the
bloodiest prison in America at the time, DeLoach said he had seen so
much blood in Vietnam that it was not going to make a difference to him.

    “I had made a promise in my heart that the first
person that was going to say something to me, I was going to kill him,”
DeLoach recalled.

    However, God had another plan, he said.

    “I didn’t get in a bit of trouble,” DeLoach said.
“The only bit of trouble I got into in Angola was taking up for someone
else.”

    Soon after entering prison, DeLoach quit smoking marijuana. A year later, he took his last sip of alcohol.

    One day, a fellow inmate noticed DeLoach was reading a Bible and invited him to attend church.

    At first, DeLoach declined the offer because of his
past experience with church. However, he finally agreed to attend the
worship service.

    DeLoach continued to grow spiritually, and in 1985,
he earned his seminary degree through the New Orleans Baptist
Theological Seminary program at Angola. Five years later, he became
pastor of St. John Institutional Brotherhood located at the prison.

Looking back on his spiritual journey  in prison, DeLoach said, at
first, he was hurting but did not know why until he “found” himself at
church.

    “Everywhere you looked, men were hurting, and that’s
when I realized God allowed me to see myself,” DeLoach said. “I was a
rebellious, disobedient child. But I didn’t have a relationship with
the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    DeLoach said he was an unforgiven man and was
confronted with forgiveness. “It became difficult for me,” DeLoach
recalled. “I asked Christ when would be a good time for me to forgive
everybody I hate.”

    One day, while reading Luke 23:34, DeLoach said he received his answer.

    “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not
what they do’ ... while hanging on the cross, ... while spit and blood
was running down his face.”

    DeLoach explained it takes a transformation on the
inside to receive that forgiveness. “That’s when I got a 

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