"Freedom Found"

Mark Luciana

I found myself running away from home for the first time at the age of 9. Since that first time, I grew used to running away and hiding in one place or another. It varied from family, friends, and to the bottle. I wound up living with different relatives only to run again to where I ended up in foster homes. No matter how kind those people were, it didnít feel like home, so Iíd run again. It is written, "Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." (Job 5:7) My continued running led me to run-ins with the police who always took me back home. Since I wouldnít stay there, the only choice they had was to put me in juvenile detention. Being there, only allowed me to see how the roughnecks broke the law. Through that environment, I learned I could last longer on my own if I did petty burglaries and stole my meals. So the first place I was sent to, I ran again, and this time I survived longer than before on my own.

Due to my new ways, I ended up back in juvenile because of the stealing. It is written, "You shall not steal." (Exodus 20:15) This continued on until I was out on probation at 18 years old. I didnít have a home now, so I drank more often and went from job to job until my drinking led me to violate probation and spend 6 months in the county jail. I was now an adult. During the 6 months, the chip on my shoulder grew, and I only wanted to get out to drink.

Near the end of my 6 months, I contacted my family and they welcomed me home with a job when I got out. Just after turning 19 years old, I was "free" again. No rules and a steady paycheck to do with as I wished. It is written, "Many are the plans in a manís heart, but it is the Lordís purpose that prevails." (Prov. 19:21) This only lasted 3 months, and in that time I canít remember one day of being sober.

In June of 1987, I was back in the county jail, only this time I was charged with murder and was facing the death penalty. Being only 19 years old and having never really "lived," I couldnít handle all I had done, so I tried killing myself. Luckily enough, an officer was checking the cells and found me hanging. So I was cut down and "saved." Since the suicide attempt, I was kept on drugs to keep me calm. I couldnít think about anything because the medication kept me in a state of disorientation. So time passed and my "trial" was over and since the jury was undecided on the death sentence, I was automatically given "life" in prison. Yet again I was "saved." It is written, "Salvation is of the Lord." (Jonah 2:9c)

Soon after that I found myself on a bus to the most miserable place in the state--TRENTON STATE PRISON. Let me tell you that being young, white, and having a life sentence made my adapting to prison life all the more difficult. The years slowly passed by as I started fighting for my survival. I never actually got to grow up but learned how to survive. I could make weapons to strike people to keep them from possibly hurting me. I felt good about being able to tell others about how "to jail," but what it meant to be a "MAN," I hadnít a clue. Onward I went, trying to do all I could to shield out the loneliness and solitude. It is written, "I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof." (Psalm 102:7)

When growing up on my own, I was blessed with a visit or two in the beginning from the family. Since then a lot of years went by with nobody beyond these walls in my life. Prison life hardened me on the inside, and I found it easy to use violence as my means of communicating. In this environment, actions speak volumes above "words," but then there was "the Word" that conquers all that I would eventually learn about!! It is written, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105)

As the years went by, I manipulated my way out on a visit so I could possibly network my destruction. While there, I met a lady, and as time passed, we built a bond between us. I felt at "home" with her and her kids, as if they were my own. We spent every visit together, and I soon forgot about where I was and only wanted the days to pass so that Iíd be back with them on the next visit where I felt I belonged.

Months went by and I moved to another unit for a short time. Once there, lo and behold, a "Christian" came to my door asking if Iíd mind if he wrote me while I was in solitary confinement. (I had some time I owed in the "hole"). How he knew, I still donít know? I was a little shocked because I had never seen that in prison. I knew for a fact that misery likes company, so when this happened, I figured this guy was either gay or nuts. After hearing him witness about CHRIST I ruled out gay, but his being nuts was still up for grabs. Since the "hole" was a depressing place, not to mention all the time I spent there, I reluctantly agreed to have him write me. It is written, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

So Iím in the "hole" when a guy named Philip starts writing and dropping seeds on me about Jesus. After a few weeks, I was out of the "hole" and he would frequently come to my cell to witness to me about Jesus. It is written, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) Time went by, and as I was out on a visit, Philip came walking over with his visitor, Debbie. They introduced themselves, and it was awkward for us because we knew through talking that they were Christians. So, as they turned to walk away, we both rolled our eyes at the "Christians." To us, nothing was more pathetic than a Christian preaching the word.

As time went on, I moved again to another unit to be around others like myself. Philip continued to chase me whenever he could and tried to witness to me. I found out that Debbie was doing the same thing on the other side with my visitor. Since we were in our own world, we couldnít hear the "TRUTH OF HIS WORD." It is written, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17)

A year went by, and the hardship of prison life took its toll on our relationship. A gap was forming where the bond once was. I soon started demanding things she couldnít handle, and she started wanting things I couldnít give her. The tension was obvious, so she slowly started putting distance between us. For me she was the only true freedom I ever had experienced. I never felt so at home as when I was with her and the kids. When I felt I was losing the only thing that meant anything to me, I crashed hard and attempted suicide. It is written, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

I woke up on the floor with a hole in my arm. I got my cell partner to help me to the bathroom. I found out that when you lose that much blood, you lose control of your bowels. He got me help, and once out of the hospital, I was medicated and sent to the psyche ward for a few weeks when I was out of there, I ended up back in the "hole." Then they transferred me to protective custody because I was too unstable in my thinking. It wasnít but a few weeks when I was found on the floor covered in blood again. I was so tired of the prison politics, the time I had spent locked up, the things I had done, and the same nonstop things day after day. I had no hope legally without a real lawyer, and I saw pain in my visitorís eyes for the first time through the tiny glass window.

During this time I met the prison counselor, Ms. Alice Garcia. She seemed sincere in trying to help, but I was too blinded by my own self-pity to see or hear her when she asked about letting God in my life. I was glad to hear again from Philip and Debbie, but they too were getting in touch--not so much as to console me, but to witness to me about opening my eyes to HIM who "Saves." It is written, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13) I couldnít remember being any lower, so I did start reading the WORD. To be honest, there was some progress to my situation, but without real faith, it was short lived.

So I was right back into population and into the hustle and bustle of prison life. It only lasted a year before the reality and lack of stability hit me. Here it was July 1999, and I sat in my cell contemplating a way to kill myself--without getting caught this time!! I had some thinking to do, so I stayed in my cell away from the everyday distractions. Slowly the WORD started filling in the holes I felt before me. After a slow month of staying alone with GOD, HE started to break down the walls I had spent all these years building up. I started to listen to HIM, and all I heard from Ms. Garcia, Debbie and Philip seemed to fit together like a perfect puzzle. So I got down on my knees, repented and confessed my sins and asked - no begged -- HIM to forgive me because I knew I was undeserving. "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10: 9)

That was a short time ago. Since then, Iíve learned that no matter how good I had it, my way wasnít working. I never had instruction in my life. Since being SAVED by HIM, I have learned to depend on the BIBLE, which is our "instruction manual for living!!" It is written, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17: 17)

I am trying to live my life in the WORD, and I have realized that the more I stay in the WORD, the more breath is breathed into my fallen spirit. John 6: 3a says, "the Spirit gives life." I can vehemently say with great PRIDE that I have honestly found a place to rest my head. I have no need to run anymore because I have finally found a home, IN THE HOUSE OF GOD. Praise to HIM WHO SAVES. II Cor. 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!!" Let my words be a seed to you who are lost. There is only ONE way and that is through JESUS. He chose us long before we could ever choose HIM. . . So I plead with you now to repent. Today you can think you have Ė but what about tomorrow???

It is written in Luke 12:20a that "This very night your life will be demanded from you."

I write this in appreciation to Ms. Alice Garcia for the unselfish time she gives to help us in this prison. I can see from the sincerity in her eyes that itís more than just a job. A gracious, most special thank you to Philip and Debbie without their persistence in witnessing to me, I would still be lost. Were it not for their love of Jesus and the anointing in their lives by the Holy Spirit, they would have given up on me long ago. This is the "PG" short version. I share with you out of a need to witness to the fact that despite all one thinks they have in this life, we have nothing without JESUS. It took all this, and so much I couldnít share, before I recognized that my life is meaningless without CHRIST.

Before you give up. . . Let HIM in!!!!

You just may be as surprised as I was . . .

He was your substitute upon the cross. He suffered, bled and died, was buried and rose again the third day for you.
Godís word says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him." (John 3:36)
Godís word says, "that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth that Jesus is LORD, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Rom. 10: 9)
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD, shall be saved." (Rom. 10:13)

May God Bless You!!
Mark Luciana

Mark Luciana
South Woods State Prison
215 Burlington Rd. So. Bridgeton, NJ 08302