The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Thank God for Prison!

By Annika Young
The 700 Club -Erik Tranum loves to ride.

“It's very serene.”

He got it from his father. They didn’t spend much time together, but he managed to pick up a few more of his interests.

“I drive a Monte Carlo. My Dad drove a Monte Carlo. I’m an electrician. My Dad was an electrician. He was a Vietnam vet and he drank a lot to deal with a lot of the stuff that he was trying to process. He would come home and he would be angry. He would take it out on us sometimes.”

He also knew his dad as someone who never backed down. And one day Erik decided he wouldn’t either.

“A bunch of guys from high school circled around me. One of them was like, ‘Can I look at your necklace, like up close?’ Then it just got passed around and all of a sudden everybody was acting like they didn’t know where it went. At that moment I knew I had a decision. I either try to fight seven or eight guys and, you know, lose or just walk away and learn from that. So that's what I did. I felt defeated, I felt, you know, embarrassed. I said, from this point on, I'm going to never be a victim again and I’m going to do whatever I've got to do.”

By that time his parents were divorced. His dad remarried and didn’t come around as much. His mother struggled to keep Erik in line.

“I was out and drinking and stealing and doing all kinds of bad stuff already at 12 years-old. I mean, sometimes I was doing it for the rush. Sometimes I was doing it because I wanted some money or whatever. We stole clothes, we stole alcohol, and basically anything we wanted we tried to steal it.”

His anger was violent and he often got into fights. One night at party, Erik and a friend exchanged words with another boy. A fight broke out. One of the boys was killed. Erik was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter. He was only 16.

“In my brain I just kept thinking, ‘somehow this is going to work out.’ And then like about a year was when court was done. That's when I knew concrete, I'm doing time. I'm not going home for a while.”

Erik was sentenced to 11 years. He spent the first nine months in a juvenile facility.

“This is the crazy thing. I felt better in jail than I did on the street because in jail there was structure.”

And for the first time someone encouraged him to get to know God.

“I really wasn't raised with anybody that was speaking into my life on a religious level or any other level, really. When I was in Juvenile Hall a guy started visiting me once a week named Reverend Tinsley. And he started sharing his faith with me. You know, he listened to me. I had so many questions - critical questions -about the whole idea of Christianity. And the guy was just like BAM every time. I got this answer; boom, boom, boom, boom every time. And I mean, he left me thinking, ‘you know what? This stuff makes sense.’ The way he was explaining it, I was like, ‘That makes sense, man.’" 

It was more than just finding answers that began to soften Erik’s heart.

“Reverend Tinsley was the first man beside my father, that I ever let hug me, ever. And that was – that in itself, just the act, him wanting to just give me a hug had a huge impact on me at that age. All the stuff that I had been through and just feeling a physical touch of someone that was a man that actually cared about my welfare genuinely. It was amazing, you know? I mean it really set me in a different direction.”

Erik says he felt like God was speaking to him through his reading. He asked a prison chaplain what it meant.

“I remember him smiling, he's like, ‘Erik, God's calling you. Jesus wants you to accept Him into your life.’ And at that point I was so like touched on an emotional like deep-soul level by the whole idea. I was on board in my heart I was just like, ‘Yes, I'll do it!’"

At 17 Erik was transferred to a state penitentiary. He admits keeping his faith was hard.

“I was a Christian in prison. I still was in an environment where people were getting stabbed, shot, beat up. You know, I was surrounded by guys that had done a lot of bad stuff.  And so, you know, this is just a real hostile environment.”

After his release, Erik devoted himself to strengthening his relationship with Christ.

“God loves me. That's what I'd been looking for the whole time. I needed somebody to just put me straight. “

He also joined a group of men who, like his dad, love to ride. They’re bikers for Christ. Like Erik, they want to do more than talk about God’s love, they want to show it.

“As soon as God got introduced to me and I started understanding how much He loved me and how much He had my best interest in mind, it was just an immediate reaction to go, ‘let’s roll. It's You and me.’" 

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