When the Path to Prison Leads to Freedom
By Randy Rudder
The 700 Club
CBN.com -“We came up with the idea to get a badge, blue and red lights. We went and bought a Crown Vic. We got handcuffs. We went and got gun holsters.”
When Steve Hirschauer wasn’t running from police, he was impersonating them. “We began to set guys up. We would pull ‘em over, and would handcuff them, and we’d take their drugs or their money. I didn’t have any regard for the law. I didn’t have any type of morals at the time.”
Steve’s parents divorced when he was a small boy. After that he lived with his mother, who was a Christian but her influence was not enough to make him change his ways. “What I knew of God, and what I knew of Jesus, was because of my mom. My sisters would sit down and watch The 700 Club, with Pat Robertson, so we knew, we knew about God. But I didn’t have a reverence for Him, I didn’t have an awe for Him, and I didn’t want to follow Him.”
Steve began drinking and smoking pot at a very young age. “We would smoke in the morning before we went to school. It just escalated. I began to drink. I was numb. I didn’t care about anybody. I didn’t care about myself. I used anybody that I could to where I could get high. It was all about me.”
Steve sometimes stayed with his father, who was a corrections officer in Kentucky. While there, Steve would often visit the jails and prisons with his dad, but seeing the men behind bars did little to deter him. “We could see the prisoners; we could see how they lived; we could see their cells. But it never crossed my mind that I would end up there.”
Steve quit school in ninth grade. The only job he could get as washing dishes, but he always found ways to make enough money to buy drugs. “I worked at a restaurant. I worked with some guys and they were doing coke and crack. And that’s where my drug use really got bad.”
He met Lisa and they had two children. Steve sold drugs to help support them, but also to support his own habit. “I would lose weeks. I would wake up and think, ‘Hey it’s only been two or three days,’ and somebody would be like, ‘No, you’ve been gone for a week and a half.’ Once it took over my life, I couldn’t hold down a job anymore.”
They eventually split up and he continued his criminal lifestyle. He began impersonating policemen in order to shake down drug dealers. “Everything that you see on COPS, that’s how we portrayed it to be. And we would take their money and drugs and leave them out on the side of the road.”
Steve later met Paula who had been raised in church. She knew Steve was dealing drugs, but she saw something in him that others didn’t. Paula recalls, “I remember when we first spent some time together, I was going to drop him off at home and we ended up talking for two or three hours that night. I remember looking at him and saying, ‘You must have sisters.’ And he said, ‘Yes I have three sisters.’ And I said, ‘Well, I can tell, because of the way you talk to me. You’re just very respectful in how you speak and how you act.’”
Steve and Paula continued dating. Steve tried to quit using drugs, but his past caught up with him and soon he was facing a twenty-year sentence on multiple charges. While awaiting his sentencing, he proposed to Paula. To his surprise, she said ‘Yes.’
Paula explains her thoughts. “When i really knew that he was going to be going away, that this was what he was facing, I just wanted him to know that someone was going to be there for him. My parents have been married for years, and I take marriage very seriously, and I knew, at that point in my mind, that, if I committed to him, then I was going to be committed to him.”
Steve was given a 15-year sentence. While in prison, he began attending daily chapel services to get out of his cell. Hearing God’s Word started having an effect on Steve; as did a couple of older women who visited the prison every week. “These two ladies used to come. They were called Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Middleton were their names. I really saw Christ in them. I seen that shine, that glow that you see other Christians have. I wanted to be more like that, if that’s what a Christian was supposed to be. I wanted to more like them.”
Slowly, Steve’s heart began to soften. “It showed me something different, and I knew the seeds that they were planting. And I would go back to my cell and I would think about the things that they would teach us. And I would begin to ponder, and get into the Bible, and go to the scriptures they gave us. I think these two women were placed in my life at that time by God for me.”
One night Steve was reading his Bible in his cell. “God opened my eyes and He showed me my sin against Him. He showed me who He was, and how much I needed Him. And that broke me. I fell on my knees and I asked Him to come into my life and change me.”
For over a decade, Steve shared his new faith in prison while Paula faithfully visited him. As he grew in his faith, so did she. He was released after serving 11 years and is now a free man. They are expecting their first child, and Steve continues to share Christ with inmates.
“Through Christ, and through His love and through His guidance, you have hope for a future. He’s everything to me. There’s not a day that I can get by without him. He’s my Redeemer. He’s saved me from a life of sin. He’s saved me from hell. He’s saved me from myself. He’s my hero.”
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