Isaak and Chad are two young men who have recently returned to their community after being incarcerated in the Livingston County Jail. Since their release in 2023, they have gone around the community with Lead Chaplain, Gary Childers to tell the story of how God grabbed ahold of their hearts while in their darkest hours. Please read their story below, but beware that there is a trigger warning as each of their stories involve graphic content.
Isaak grew up with a single mother who had him when she was only 19-years-old. His father had a dependence on alcohol and methamphetamines and spent a significant period in prison while Isaak was a young child. At the young age of 13, Isaak started experimenting with alcohol, Adderall, and started to get involved with women.
After about 15 years, Isaak was reintroduced to his father. At that point, he had already picked up a cocaine habit. The life he knew was one of dysfunction – drugs, alcohol, women, and the fast life. When his father was released, he re-entered that scene along with Isaak. One evening, while both high on meth, Isaak found himself in a dispute with his father. They ended up in a knife fight. The fight eventually dissolved, but Isaak went on to smoke more drugs and woke up enraged. With the intent to murder, he went to light the house on fire with his dad inside.
Isaak relived what happened next. “Before I was about to finish doing the job, I felt like God intervened and said, ‘My son, walk.’” Isaak remembers sitting there for a moment in awe and soon after found himself at the county sheriff’s office explaining what had happened. This was the start to Isaak’s jail stint of 704 days.
Chad grew up in Pontiac, Michigan. He remembers having a decent childhood with a great respect for his older sister. Chad was a child who preferred to be alone and spent much of his life as anti-social. Because his sister seemed to be so popular, he was drawn by her influence. After seeing what was happening behind the scenes in his sister’s life, he started to follow in her footsteps. She lived a party lifestyle, always had money, and was surrounded by people who used excess drugs and alcohol.
At the young age of 9, Chad smoked weed for the first time and by 12, he was arrested for the first time and started his journey with the judicial system. At the age of 14, he started using more illicit drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, and heroin.
Chad proclaims, “I wouldn’t wish a day of incarceration on anyone. I’ve spent most of my life inside of juvenile detention centers, rehabs, jails, and prisons. This last time I got arrested, I had been awake for 21 days straight. I shot up crystal meth multiple times a day, had attempted suicide multiple times. I was in the pits of hell.”
There was a point in the middle of this 21-day high that Chad went downstairs to find his dad having a heart attack. He called 911, but was hesitant to tell who he was because he had a warrant out for his arrest. The first responders were more concerned about caring for Chad’s father and were able to get him to the hospital to put two stents in his heart. Soon after, Chad received a call from a detective. To Chad’s horror, the detective told him that his sister’s body had been found in an alleyway in Detroit. The body was so badly decomposed that they weren’t able to tell the cause of death.
After a series of events that followed, Chad decided that the pain was too much to handle and that he would end his life. He filled a syringe with enough methamphetamine to kill 3 people and some time after woke up in the hospital with many doctors surrounding his body, working to resuscitate him. After 19 shots of Narcan, and repeated shaking, they were able to stabilize Chad. They let him know that the meth had been laced with fentanyl and that he shot up enough to kill about 15 people. It was Chad’s dog that found Chad overdosing and dragged family members to his rescue.
Soon after this, police found Chad at his friend’s camper and arrested him. He thought he would be going to prison for life due to his history. Chad recalls, “Psychosis is real. All of a sudden it felt like every person was out to get me. That drug [crystal meth] is evil; it’s pure evil.”
Through a simple kite (note) that Chad sent to the chaplain’s office, God intervened powerfully. Chaplain Gary remembers his first few meetings with Chad and how he was still detoxing from the drugs that were in his system.
Chad doesn’t remember much of the first 3 or 4 meetings, but he remembers how Gary always brought his Bible and would sift through the pages of Jeremiah and Luke, and other books to talk through the story of Jesus, and discuss hard topics such as forgiveness. Chad said, “His urgency in coming to see me made our bond so strong. He always reminded me of who I was. He encouraged me to go to the church services and Bible studies when I was ready and when I did I was able to see how honest and real the volunteers of RTF are.”
It was while being locked up that both Isaak and Chad were able to build the foundation for their faith. Chad states, “As I grew more comfortable in sharing my story, I was able to share what God was doing in my life with others.” Released in October of 2023, he has remained connected to Chaplain Gary, the volunteers of RTF, and has connected with a local body of believers to continue his faith journey and continue the path of sobriety and recovery.
Reentry for both came with its challenges. Isaak was released in June of 2023. He describes leaving jail as terrifying. “I felt like I was always being watched and for the first couple of months, I felt like I had a target on my back. I reached out to some of the RTF volunteers who helped me get connected and get into the community. After getting a job and shedding some of my fears, I now have my smile back.” He celebrates having a fulltime job, obtaining his driver’s license and being able to purchase his first car, legally. What motivates Isaak to stay on his path is the connection to his local church body. He desires to maintain a fulltime job and build a solid career as a school counselor.
These are the stories that keep us going as a body of chaplains, RTF staff, and volunteers. Gratitude flows as we are able to celebrate God’s work in these two lives. Someone who was on the brink of murdering his own father is now working to live an honorable and honest life, while giving back to his community. Someone who faced death various times throughout his life has been given his life back so that he can spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.