Testimony of Joshua Kelly

My name is Joshua Kelly, I was raised in East New Orleans with two siblings by our mom who was on welfare and food stamps. When I was very young, my parents fought constantly, and their fights were often very physical. Because of this, my parents separated, and my mother was left to raise me and my siblings on her own.

My childhood was difficult, as there were days when we had no food, no electricity, no phone service, and no clean clothes. My troubles really began one Christmas that I remember, I decided to start selling drugs. We went from having almost nothing to having what I thought was everything. I became well-known to everyone in my neighborhood, and I was also very talented in sports. I then left my mom’s house at 15 years old and moved into my own place.

I had money, cars, respect, and I thought that everyone loved me.  However, I would later find out that they only loved me because of what I could do for them. I gained the reputation of not playing  around when it came to business.

In 1993 things began to change for me, I was arrested for armed robbery and was sentenced to 65 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola Prison). When I first arrived in Angola Prison, I continued to do what I was doing on the streets, but now God was beginning to speak to me. As God was dealing with me, I began to go to Church, and I stopped selling drugs. The Lord began to pour out His blessings upon me, one after another, and even old relationships were restored. Though I experienced God moving in my life, I was still not completely sold out to Him.

I was eventually transferred to the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, where I was going to assist in implementing an Inmate Reentry Program. While at Hunt Prison, I escaped and was subsequently taken back into custody. Because of my escape, I was sent back to Angola Prison and placed in CCR (Close Cell Restricted) which is in the Death Row Camp. I had lost everything, even the past relationships that had previously been restored. It was when I had lost everything, that I turned to God and began to pray more than I had ever prayed before. I began to pray for God to give me a second chance at freedom.

God completely changed my life when I met Pastor Marty Harden and the ministry of the School Of Christ while in the CCR Unit. I had little to no faith at that time, and I had not recognized the many times that God had saved my life while I was on the streets and in jail. I enrolled in the SOC, and as they brought the Word of God to me and demonstrated the nature of God Himself, it began to bring joy back into my life. The SOC kept me fed spiritually during my hungriest times, and it guided me through many situations that I faced. I was becoming a better person, and my faith was growing stronger.

As time passed, during one of Pastor Marty’s visits, I asked him to baptize me. It was a little bit of a process to get the necessary permission from the Prison officials, but we were eventually granted permission. I was still in the CCR unit on the day that Pastor Marty came to baptize me. The guards placed restraints on my hands and feet, to then escort me to the makeshift baptistry in the yard. It was difficult to get into the baptistry with the restraints on, but they eventually convinced the guards to take off the restraints on my feet. However, they would not remove the hand restraints. I was then able to get into the baptistry, and Pastor Marty began the baptism. Pastor Marty put me under the water, and when I came up again the restraints had fallen off my hands! That was God giving me the confirmation, that He had forgiven me, and had set me free from everything! As the guards were escorting me back to my cell, they began to try and say that the restraints were just old, but there was no way they would ever use old restraints on Death Row! When God does something amazing that only He can do, there will always be someone trying to say otherwise. But I know what God did, I experienced His freeing power that day!

Sometime later I was up for parole and let me tell you how God works. Never in the history of Louisiana had a Judge, District Attorney, several Wardens, a Pastor, and many other prominent people advocated on behalf of a guilty man for parole to be granted. But I was the first one! God brought me out and gave me freedom! God is never done working; He deals with each of us daily. The good news is that He does not get tired, nor does He sleep! God sees everything and He hears everything, and He can do for you what He did for me!

You can be just like me; you just have to make the right choice. God gives us all a choice and it is never hard to make the right choice, just let God guide your footsteps. My past is not my future, I cannot forget my past, nor do I want to, because I know I can use it to help you. This is my story, this is my change, this is my life! Remember, God is not facts, God is Truth! There is only One Living God, and He has been so good to me!