Murderer to minister: How one man is using his checkered past to change lives
SAND SPRINGS, Okla. (KTUL) —
There’s a minister in Sand Springs that has a past like you wouldn’t believe. He was in prison for 23 years for murder. But he’s making his second chance count.
His tattoos are constant reminders of a life lived mostly behind bars.
“At 15 [years old] I got a life sentence for 2nd-degree murder,” Jason Jones says.
His mother left his family when Jason was 10-years-old. He acted out.
“It created a sense of abandonment in me,” he remembers. “So all these cars I was stealing, I would steal these cars and drive them to Texas where she lived. I was chasing my mom, basically.”
He got caught. Jones was sent to a drug rehab ranch in lieu of jail.
“I pretty much just lost it, you know,” he says.
He lost it even more when he heard this.
“My stepdad had been drinking,” he remembers. “And hit [my mom] a few times.”
He felt like he needed to get to his mother. So he tried an escape.
“So in the process of trying to get out of this rehab facility, I got caught by a security guard,” he says. “And I panicked and ended up taking the security guard’s life.”
After 13 years of his life sentence in prison gangs, a then 28-year-old Jones met a seminary student he’ll never forget.
“It was the love of Christ shining through him,” he says. “He wasn’t there to judge me. It didn’t matter what I’d done.”
He turned to Christ, leaving the gang he was involved in, putting his life at risk. He says God was his protector and got more involved in prison ministry.
“We have a youthful offender program here at the prison,” he says. “And the unit manager approached us about starting a young men’s ministry. And I was like ok.”
“Whenever I got to a place in my walk and my journey with Christ,” he says. “Where I was completely content where I was, no matter where I was, that’s when doors opened for me.”
Eventually, in 2012 and after 23 years, it was the prison doors that opened. And he started his search for a church.
“Initially it was a struggle,” he says. “Finding a place where I was a good fit.”
He found Church that Matters in Sand Springs after a brief stint leading a church in Muskogee.
“How many churches do you know that have an ex-murderer on their staff?” jokes Pastor Rusty Gunn.
And Gunn gave him a job. He created a full-time position for a man he saw living his life poured out for Christ.
“What really excited me was hearing him talk so boldly about his story,” Gunn says. “And how God had delivered him.”
It’s a church of second chances.
“Well, and a third and fourth and fifth and a million chances,” Gunn says. “Because that’s what God’s given me.”
“I see so many needs in this community that God can meet,” Jones says as his emotions get the best of him. “And it’s a blessing to be used by him.”
Now the convict is leading the congregation.
“The freedom that I want to see people have,” Gunn says. “Is the freedom I see in Jason.”
Jason and the Church that Matters are going to start a food truck ministry. They’ll be using the money they raise to build or buy a house to use as a sober living facility for people coming out of rehab.