How Zach Joy Became a Free Man
By Robert Hull
The 700 Club
“When I was coming to school stoned and wasted and the principal was making me go home, I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t know that people didn’t get high. That’s all I’d been shown.”
Zach Joy grew up in a home where drug use was common. He started smoking marijuana when he was just seven years old.
“My mom and dad partied, and so I was raised around people who used drugs,” Zach tells The 700 Club. “At a very young age, we were able to get drugs.”
When he was in high school, Zach felt sorry for a homeless classmate and invited him to stay at his house.
“There was a senior at our school that lived out of his car, and I invited him into my house. He was staying there a little while. He ended up molesting me in the middle of the night when I was sleeping. I was teased a lot when I went back to school about it. They printed in the paper that that man had taken indecent liberties upon a youth at my address. So they knew that it was me. It led to me getting into a fight, and then I was kicked out of high school. It destroyed my life, broke my heart.”
By the time he was 18, Zach was kicked out of his parents’ house and homeless. His drug use became a full-fledged addiction.
“It started with marijuana then proceeded to crank and coke, and then worked its way into heroin. I needed a crutch, because I was homeless. I needed something to take away the pain that I was feeling. I still felt the pain of being kicked out of school, being molested and all the things that had happened to me from the time I was growing up.”
To support himself, Zach turned to robbery as well as manufacturing and selling meth.
“I was locked up on a regular basis, in and out of county for years and years. There was much more time that I was in jail then ever out of jail.”
Zach’s anger grew. He was often locked in solitary confinement for fighting.
“My compassion turned to hate. I got racist; I hated everybody. It’s so hard to be locked up. You got to smell things you don’t want to smell. You got to eat things you don’t want to eat. You can’t get away from it. I blamed everybody else for my stuff, and I took it out on everybody else.”
Zach decided something had to change.
“I was so tired of being dishonest. It had ruined all of my relationships with the people that I loved and cared most about. That’s when I decided I had to do something different. I started reading the Bible; it’s the only thing they’d give me in there. The Word was speaking to me. I was able to start going to some Bible studies.”
Zack had a running feud with some of the Hispanic inmates. One day, they turned up in the Bible study. Tensions ran high. Zach says, “I didn’t want to fight anymore, but I could feel in this Bible study that there was going to be a fight.”
Bob Ekblad is the jail chaplain and led the Bible study. He recalls, “Zach spoke up, ‘I realize that I’m a racist, and I just want to learn how to get along.’ The tension dissipated, and at the end, I said, ‘How do you think we should respond to this?’ Zach said, ‘I think we got to pray for Fabiano that God would heal his liver.’ It was extraordinary that Zach would want to pray for Fabiano.”
Zach had been touched by what he saw in the chaplain.
“He came in there to love us and that was his focus,” says Zach. “That was really appealing to me, and that fed the part of me that was hungry. It changed me. I was hungry for somebody to love me. God’s spirit touched me. God’s love moved me, and God’s love changed me.”
Zach’s life changed dramatically.
“I had 17 years that I woke up every day with a needle in me. I am free of that. It’s only through Jesus that that happened. It took a personal relationship. It took me saying, 'Yes, I want something different.'”
Zach is now a free man. He works alongside the prison chaplain in efforts to support ex-convicts as they re-enter society.
The chaplain says, “As Zach has given God permission to move in his life, Zach has been able to see something that I think is possible for everybody. God is able to come in and bring in deep healing to every area of our lives. God can meet that deepest longing that drugs, alcohol, money and power can never meet.”
“Love is what heals sickness. Love is what sets prisoners free, and love is what tears down walls. Love is what gave me my life back,” Zach says. “It’s not just a ticket out of misery. It’s a life that’s got goodness, freedom and gifts instead of curses, bondage and chains. My life today is everything that I could have hoped for and wanted then. God has added all of that stuff to me that I would hope for, my deepest dreams. He’s got more for me than I even knew I wanted.”
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