"Jesus Christ My Only Hope"

Carlos Turis

My name is Carlos Turis and I was born in a small family of three people; my father, mother and sister. I am from the country of El Salvador and am doing a 50-year sentence with 25 years mandatory in New Jersey State Prison. I was locked up when I was 16 years old, and let me tell you that being locked up is not cool!!

My prayer is that when you finish reading this testimony that God who created the heavens, earth, oceans and everything that dwells in them - - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and my God Ė will touch your heart so that you may come to believe in Christ, our only hope. It is written, "Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye will find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light". (Matthew 11:28-30)

I came to the United States when I was 10 years old. The first place that I arrived was the state of Texas. I was finally going to meet my mother. She was the woman who carried me for nine months in her beautiful womb. Thank you Mom!! I remember that I was very nervous about meeting her and my heart was pounding. When my mother first saw me she embraced me strongly and began to cry. I was very confused not realizing at first that she was my mother. It was like embracing a stranger. The warmth of a motherís kisses, her caressing, good advice, and love are the sweet words that a child needs to hear from their motherís mouth. "Son I love you." "Son how was your day at school?" "How are you feeling today?" All these words I had never heard from my father or mother. This is why she was like a stranger to me.

I lived the next two years in Texas, and by this time it became a living hell for me. My relationship with my mother was not going smoothly. My father would only visit us on Christmas and would only stay with us for two weeks and then return to New Jersey. As time went on my relationship with my mother became more complicated. I recall during one Christmas that I had told my father everything that was going on in his absence. Soon he brought me to New Jersey. My sister elected to remain with my mother.

I began a new life in New Jersey, but it was not a bed of roses. I did not get along with my stepmother at all. We never had more than two weeks of peace at a time and I looked for ways to make her life miserable. If I was not going to be happy, then she was not going to be happy with my father. The only thing that we had in common was that we liked to fight like cats and dogs.

The only person I ever respected was my father. I obeyed everything he said for the most part. In fact, in all the time I lived under his roof, he only had to use his belt on me three times,I wished he would have used it more often. It is written, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." (Proverbs 22:15)

My life started to deteriorate when I began the seventh grade. I started to associate myself with friends who liked to smoke, drink, and do drugs. The Bible stays, "Be not deceived, bad company corrupts good morals." (I Corinthians 15:33) This is so true. I can now see the influence and progression towards evil that these people had on me. Cigarettes turned into marijuana, beer to hard liquor, and friendships to gang membership. Satan had begun his work and do you know what his job is? The Bible says, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." (John 10:10) He was working hard in my life, and he knew that eventually, my last step would be death.

Has Satan robbed you of something in your life? Has he taken away your freedom? Has he killed something in your life? Do you have the hope that someday you will be free? Has he destroyed something in your life? Has he taken relationships and family from you? My life was a disaster. I believed that I was in control of everything, not realizing that Satan held the reins. I continued living in a chaotic manner and ended up hitting the lowest point in my life when I became an assassin and took the life of another human being. The only thing that awaited me now in the future was prison.

Because I was only 16-years-old, I was placed in a juvenile facility. The first night I could not sleep a wink. I was really scared. Every movement that me cellmates made, my eyes were upon them. If they were going to do something, I wanted to be ready. After all, taking another human life did not mean anything to me at the time.

Months went by, and I continued in my old ways. Finally, I believe, God said, "Enough is enough. The time has come to call Carlos into my kingdom." I honestly believe that when God calls someone to remove him from the world, no one can impede His will. When god send His word, it completes His purpose because it is written, "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth, it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10,11)

I remember one day a 61 year-old preacher who every two weeks would come in and preach the Word of God. It did not matter if it was raining or snowing, he was always there. At the time I was not very happy about this because according to the prison rules, we were required to listen to the sermon. Believe me, I did not pay attention to what the preacher had to say. In fact, during the message, my friends and I would talk and his message went by the wayside. After 10 months of incarceration, God began to work in my life. The preacher continued to give his sermons always asking at the end of each service if anyone had any questions about the Bible. But having only one hour of recreation time, we never had any questions. The preacher would then go into a room and sit down and wait to see if he could share the Gospel with anyone.

One day an administrator who was third in command in the prison felt bad when he saw that no one was going to speak with the preacher. He asked me to go and speak with him. I responded with a resounding, "NO"!!! I felt if I did not search for God when I was free, why should I search for him now? I believe the administrator knew that he would not be able to convince me, nevertheless, I finally made an agreement with him and went to see the preacher. While I was telling the preacher my name and age, we were interrupted by a group of people who were interested in talking about the Bible. I felt relieved, as this would take the spotlight off me. They were talking about the book of Revelation, but I did not understand a single word. Finally the time had come for us to return to our cells. This was the moment I was waiting for. Just as I was leaving, the preacher said to me, "Before you leave I want to give you this." It was a pamphlet that contained the Gospel of John. I really did not want to take it from him, but, out of respect, I accepted it.

That same day I was in my cell and had nothing to do. I can still remember reluctantly reading the pamphlet and, to my surprise, I discovered these words: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). When I finished reading this verse, it was like a light came on in my mind. I wanted to know more about this Word, so I kept reading. That day I read three chapters and then three more the next day. I couldnít believe that I had read three chapters in one day. When I reached chapter 17, something strange happened. I had some doubt as to what I was reading. It seemed it was not true, so I threw the pamphlet on the floor by the toilet.

My heart was hardened, but suddenly all the words that Jesus Christ spoke came to mind. I remember in John 11:43, when Jesus spoke to Lazarus, and said"...Lazarus, come forth." Those words echoed in my ears. It was as if Jesus himself had said to me, "Carlos, I order you to come out of the world and into my kingdom." The conviction and guilt were killing me, as I knew I had taken another human beingís life. Yet, at the same time, I knew that my only hope was Jesus Christ. I was aware that he had been crucified to pay for the sins that I could not pay for. I understood that it was I who should have been hanging on the cross. I wanted to cleanse myself before I came to Jesus Christ, not realizing that God wanted me just the way I was, a sinner. I tried for seven days to do it on my own. On the seventh day, about midnight, I recall that I rose out of my bed and went over to the toilet, and there knelt down and prayed to God. My words were, "I come before You acknowledging that I am a sinner. I also recognize that I have taken a life. I believe that Jesus is Your Son and that He died for my sins. I believe that on the third day He arose from the dead. Please take control of my life and change my way of living. I understand that on my own I can do nothing. Please God, if I fall into sin, forgive me, and give me the strength to come up out of it, that I may continue to serve you with all my heart and strength. All of this I ask in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

When I finished praying I felt as if something heavy had been lifted off me. For the first time in my life I felt at peace in my heart and had no worries about the world. In my soul I began praising God for giving me the faith to come to Jesus Christ. I have to admit that I began to cry like a baby that night. I remember being so happy that I wanted to wake up my cellmates and tell them, "Look, I finally did it." "I accepted Jesus into my life." It was hard to force myself not to. That night I slept like I had never slept before, with much peace in my heart.

It has been now three years since I accepted Jesus into my life. I would be lying if I told you that these three years have been easy. Jesus is changing my life little by little, day by day. I still have a way to go, but praise God I am not where I was. Satan continues trying to use whatever is in his reach to convince me otherwise. I know that my Redeemer lives and that the greatest triumphs are accomplished through greater hardship. Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." (John 6:44) This is true. I cannot force you to accept Jesus Christ. My only obligation is to plant the seed of the "Good News" in your heart. The rest of the work I leave to God. In your own words pray to God and humble yourself before Him confessing that you are a sinner, that without Jesus Christ the only thing you deserve is Hell, just like I was deserving of it. Read the Bible every day and let the Word fill your mind, govern your heart, and guide your life.

There are many books that can influence your life, but only Jesus Christ can radically change your life. You will see the Word clearly when you concentrate more on Godís Word. Do not let Satan lie to you and tell you that it is too late to find God. It is never too late to return to Him. Christ has risen from the dead to raise us from sin. This sacrifice of Christ is what God wanted and what our sins required. A sinner is always welcome into Godís family.

If you have responded to the calling of God, the only thing I can say is, "Welcome to the family." Remember, to love God is to obey and serve Him only. Do not worry about the criticism that people have to say about you. They were not the ones who died on the cross for you. Remember, that Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Fatherís house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." (John 14:1-2) To live for Christ makes life worth living.

Carlos Turis
East Jersey State Prison
Lock Bag R
Rahway, NJ  07065