From Bondage to Freedom: A Life Change

The gift of life is a matter concerning time that gives one the opportunity to consistently make decisions that imply direction towards change. A teacher of mine once said, “If you slow down, the good things in life might catch up to you. There is an old saying, "If you don''t schedule your time, something else will (Paul Tikker). The story that you are about to read is true and defines the previous statement while also considering the work of a miracle from God.

My name is Joe Parham, I was born in Dallas, TX in 1971 by my mother Kathleen Parham and this is my story. I have a sister Jennifer, who is 37. I have another brother and sister that my mother put up for adoption in which, I will probably never meet. I was mostly raised by my grandparents and off and on by my mother. I was raised in a Christian home and was taught who Jesus was by my grandmother at a very young age. When I was four years of age, my family and I went to a Dwayne Friend Revival in downtown Spokane at the Opera House. It was there that I met a man out back who was homeless and had recently lost his family due to alcoholism. He was a mess and was crying in pain. I did not realize it then but God used me to witness to him about Jesus Christ. When my family finally realized that I was not with them they turned around and seen me talking with this man (stranger) and motioned for me to get away but soon perceived that I was telling him that Jesus loved him. They started talking to him and he said “I do not want to hear from you, I want to hear from the boy”! Little did I know that what was going on that day was really what God had in store for me later in my life.

When I was five or six, I was abused by an older neighbor boy on our block. Then it just was not me but another boy my age, my best friend at the time. We were told never to say anything because we could be taken away from our families. The life I had already experienced, as I will discuss shortly, is the reason I did not say anything. I was in fear and shortly after that; I was discarded by both boys and made fun of because one day, I said no to them! It all came out and my parents found out what had happened to me. I was confused and did not know what to think. This was about the time I started elementary school and it was hard. I felt like I did not belong and I was already having issues of my mother not being with me and lots of problem with insecurity, low self-esteem and did not have many friends, if any! By the time I was in Jr. High, I had already moved back and forth from my mother’s to my grandparents three or four times, including moving to Shelton and Walla Walla, WA. At this point I had started to rebel. Skipping school, smoking cigarettes, drinking, stealing and using pot to escape my pain, was just to say the least. I would soon move back to my grandparents but know I had made a decision to start selling weed to cover my habits and lifestyle.

I grew up mostly in the Shadle neighborhood in NW Spokane and although I was a regular boy who loved to play just like any other boy, I could not relate to most other kids because up to this point, my life was not really normal at all. Let me explain; my mother, six months pregnant, arrived in Texas with her boyfriend to live with his aunt Helena, who was an R. N at Parkland Hospital, to start a new life. Although I was not yet born, hidden from my mother was a truth that would soon surface and change not only her life but mine as well. Upon arrival, things seemed to be good for them until one day my mother’s boyfriend went to go look for work and never returned. My mother was told by Helena that he has left to go back to Washington. My mother was shocked, later she learned that he was already married and expecting a child of his own and now the truth was being unveiled to her, in that, he lied to my mother to get her to come with him to Texas, so that when I was born, I would be sold to a couple in Mexico. This was the plan the entire time and now in the eighth month of pregnancy, my mother was trapped with no hope in sight. She was not allowed to have any outside contact and now realized that she was caught in a real life criminal “baby ring”.

My mother finally got a small window of opportunity to sneak a phone call in. She called her Dad (my grandfather).The same day that my mother had the opportunity to call her father, she was also told that I was to be taken to Mexico that weekend and sold. They kept telling her that I would have a better life and that she would be fine. My mother played along so that they would continue to trust her. It started raining very hard that night, more than usual and Helena had to go to work (night shift) at the hospital 10 minutes earlier due to the weather. Coincidently, her ex-husband and daughter, who were coming back from work to relieve Helena, would also be 10 minutes late getting there to watch me. This was the break that my mother had been waiting for. Helena said “you can watch Jose’, it will only be for a couple of minutes”. While Helena was getting ready, my mother called the cab company to be there at a specific time . . . the time Helena was to leave. Amazingly the Cab arrived right on time! She left with me, the clothes on her back, and a couple of bottles of formula. No sooner than the cab pulled down the street, Helena’s ex-husband came around the corner to the house. She told the cab driver to take her to Western Union and then to Trailways (bus depot) as quick as possible. She knew that they would be looking for her so she did not go to Greyhound. By the “Grace of God” in perfect “timing”, my mother got on that bus and brought me back to Spokane.

As you can see, it was a miracle in itself, that I am know here, alive, telling my story! When I graduated High school, I was already a well-known and established drug dealer. I had built an empire that would soon come crumbling down like the walls of Jericho! I started using cocaine when I met the mother of my soon to be child, Natasha! That was a very fast five years of my life. I had a $15,000 dollar phone list and was headed for destruction. I used to be out for myself and no one else. I had a ten year addiction and my life was all about that next base hit! I was smoking more cocaine than I could attain in profit. I got arrested on a possession charge and I decided to call it quits. We soon had Natasha and then my worst fears were coming true! The mother and I split up because we discovered that we did not like each other when we were not on drugs. I was so screwed up from my past combined with my poor decisions that I did not know how to be a father. I wept and wept for days. I dove back into cocaine even harder. I got ripped off for 1400 dollars. I was thrown out of a moving vehicle at 35 miles per hour, hit with brass knuckles and my right eye was hanging down to my cheek. I was left for dead on the side of the road where a mailman saw my emergency and called an ambulance. You would think that I was done then, but I wasn’t. I tried to bounce back and be even better, but then I got introduced to meth. The meth took me for a ride...a ride that I wish I had never experienced. However, after living a dysfunctional life filled with terror and chaos ...I was brought to my knees by meth!

Dysfunction was so close to me that I thought it was my only friend. When my grandparents died I had nothing and nowhere to go; I was laid off from work and so I delved into selling meth once again, not by the gram, but by the pound! I was what you called a roller. Everybody was out for themselves. I soon realized that I was in hell with nothing but dysfunctional people around me. Although these things happened to me I still did not change. I found myself in a “sting” operation at Safeway and soon went to jail. I had been arrested one other time at a Flying J truck stop in Geiger, and now they wanted to prosecute me for 5 years. My world was coming to an end. They told me that they knew about my 17 year history of being a drug dealer but I was very slippery. They could only prosecute me on three charges of which one was a double charge of possession. So that brought it for two charges and three felonies. Instead of a 5 year sentence I got 6 months. (By the Grace of God) When I got sent to Geiger I felt like I was still in the same place I had always been. There was no one to call to, and no one to receive letters from. I was surrounded by the same chaos that I came from but now I was behind real bars. I had sold everything from pot to crystal meth to cocaine. I used to drink, and used just about everything under the sun except for shooting heroin. I was a worthless father to my child and this was reality for me at the age of 34. No future, no hope, no life worth living and no light at the end of the tunnel! I didn’t even know how to love or what it meant to be loved. I thought that I was destined to die a failure at life. More importantly, I felt guilt and shame because of my daughter and the way I was. Robbing her of her need for a father and a normal child hood was all that I could give her! At this time my Daughter was nine years old. What a mess!

I soon found myself crying out to God! I cried out to God and said, “I’m tired of doing it my way, because my way is wrong and I do not have any strength to go on. I do not know what to do, or where to go. I don’t even know how to act.” My body hurt from the meth that I had subjected myself to. It was very cold, and dark . . . I had no emotion! It was at that point that I got on my knees and asked for something that I knew was there but did not know how to attain it. As soon as I asked the Lord to help me, I suddenly had a rush of emotion come over all of my body. It was there, that I was sitting in a cell . . . dark and alone! Then a sense of peace came over me! Like nothing I had ever known before or ever remembering to have known. All these tears came flowing out of my eyes... and God told me that there is nothing impossible for Him (Luke 1:37). I requested a Bible. It was a Gideon Bible. I read and read and read! Although I did not understand too much of that which I was reading, I kept on reading. Only God must have known what was going to happen to me next, because I would have never thought in a million years that I would be sitting in a room with 20 guys praising the Lord while crying our hearts out! All of a sudden there were all these hardened criminals turning into Christians! They invited me to prayer, and a friend gave me the NLT. Suddenly the light bulb turned on and it all made perfect sense to me. I knew that the only way I could be free in prison or in life was to be free in Jesus. I gave my life back to the Lord and started attending prison ministry with Dick and Shirley Main. I thank God for them every day. A miracle has happened and not just to me!

I bow to the Lord with my allegiance! I will follow Him for the rest of my days even though I may not be perfect I can be perfect in Him through Faith. God is my strength and power and He maketh my way perfect (2 Samuel 22:33). I am now four years clean and sober, have a restored relationship with my mother, am also married to my beautiful wife Kristie Parham and I have not only my daughter Natasha, now 15 years old, but a son Ryan, who is 7 years of age while owning our own home in Greenaceres, WA.! I have worked with Off Broadway Family Outreach ever since I was released from jail while also attending Family of Faith Community church, where I am a member of the praise and worship team and teach advanced Adult Bible Study. I am also on the praise and worship team at OBFO and am currently a Treasurer and an active Board Member. Miracles do happen! I am one of many that have chosen Jesus Christ as my savior. That is the key to living a redeemed and fulfilled life! If I can do it . . . so can you.

If you think you are a case that cannot be solved or if you are a problem that cannot be fixed let me introduce you to “Jesus Christ” the One and only true living God that is mighty to save... Halleluiah! If you are reading this and think that you want to meet this God, this Jesus... you can. He has promised! John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. He will save you if you call upon His name and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

The power of testimony is the transformation of a person’s life just as in God’s testimony in John 3:16. It has the power to save others as well as an entire world! All God asked me to do is believe. My name is Joe Parham and I am a miracle! All God has asked you to do is believe... so believe!