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I was the leader of a prison mosque

Charles McMillan spent 11 years following Islam in prison only to discover that it wasn’t a true relationship with God ...

I got into Islam in prison.

I was sentenced to 13 years for an armed robbery in 1996. I saw a dude going to the cash machine who owed me money from selling him crack cocaine, and I pulled a gun on him. He told the police on me. I was 23 at the time.

I had a friend who had got locked up about a couple years before me, and he came to me with Islam, and I got to studying it.

I was practicing Islam the whole time I was down. The last four years, I was the one in charge of giving sermons every Friday. I was considered the imam, the leader of the prison mosque. At that point, I was all into it.

I feel like I had a second chance, and I was resurrected.

Questioning Islam

I did 11 years in prison. The rest of my time was on probation. 

When I got out, when I was going to the mosque on the street, it was different. I wasn’t feeling nothing. I started thinking, how would I want my family raised? How would I want their lifestyle to be?

I really couldn’t deal with the way they were treating women — garbed up and treated as a piece of property.

When I met my wife, she was going to a Christian church, and I started going because I thought it was the right thing to do. I wasn’t raised going to church, but I always had believed there was a God.

A calm came over my life … and that’s what I was looking for that whole time.

An Unusual Invitation

I had this friend of mine, and she had kept inviting me to NewSpring Columbia. One day, she said, “You need to come! They’re giving away free T-shirts. Give it a shot!” So I said, “OK.”

That was August of 2013. I realized that day I believed in God, but following God was more than that — it was a relationship. I didn’t have one. I realized I didn’t know who Jesus was.

I was always struggling with the Jesus thing — that Muslims would look at Him as a prophet, and not the son of God. There’s always a voice inside of you that will tell you something’s not right.

When I was in prison doing Islam — when you’re in it and surrounded by it — the conscience gets muffled. When I asked Jesus into my life, I knew that little voice was Jesus.

I feel like God is giving me back everything I’ve lost and then some.

Freed from my burdens

Everything just opened up for me. It’s been like a burden was lifted off. I feel way, way happier now than I ever did before.

A calm came over my life. It was like a peace, and that’s what I was like looking for that whole time in prison. I began taking next steps, and gradually everything just changed.

I didn’t realize it then that I was bitter. Before, I was like I wanted to be left alone. After, I just wanted to give back — serving in Fuse, KidSpring, the Care Team, baptism. Doing good frees you up from a whole bunch of negative thinking and problems.

I was talking to one of the pastors on staff about getting more involved and telling my story and helping people, and I checked into serving with Fuse.

I am a Fuse leader now of eight kids in seventh grade, and I tell them how easy it is to get in trouble and how hard it is to get out of trouble — things people didn’t tell me.

Money and stuff don’t define you. Your relationship with Jesus does.

A Second Chance

Everybody has noticed that things are different. A relationship with Jesus changed my outlook. I stopped drinking. I put God first with my money, tithed, and stayed out of debt. I just became more focused. 

Now I have a job as a barber. I just passed real estate school. I got a house, three cars, a wife, and a 7-month-old boy. We had been trying to have a child since we got married in 2010!

I feel like God is giving me back everything I’ve lost and then some. When I thought I had everything earning $2,000 a week selling crack, it doesn’t compare to what I got now. 

When I look back on it all, I knew that wasn’t the life I wanted. I feel like I had a second chance, and I was resurrected. Money and stuff don’t define you. Your relationship with Jesus does.

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