Ronnie Pope: Criminal on the Cross
By Raquel Dunn
The 700 Club
Ronnie Pope spent his most of his life in prison for dealing drugs.
This is Ronnie's story in his own words:
"My name is Ronnie Pope. My friends and family call me 'Rip.' My dad was a police officer. My mother works at a nuclear plant on the outskirts of Amarillo. I was raised right. I have a grandmother who, she's a prayer warrior; she's a witness for Jesus."
"I didn't just wake up one day and decide that I wanted to be or do drugs or live in the drug world or be a criminal. There were some things that happened in succession in my family, some pretty traumatic deals. Our house burned down. My grandmother passed away. I had a really bad motorcycle accident that required months of hospitalization. Because of all that stress, I just made some really poor decisions, the people that I ran around with. I began smoking marijuana and drinking and doing drugs. When I was 16-years-old, I tried meth for the first time. After that, it was too late. It turned me into a thief immediately. I'd break into people's houses; break into businesses to steal to support my habit. I got into dealing drugs. I liked that. I liked the power that it gave me over people. I liked the money. I liked the girls. I liked vehicles. I liked all of that. But in spite of all that, I was still a drug addict."
The thrill of fast money kept Rip going, landing him behind bars at the age of 18.
"I had to be tough. I had to fight. I had to survive. Prison is a very racial place. It's a racial place by choice. It's almost like a race war everyday. I got introduced to an organization that was a prison gang, a criminal organization. It was also a white supremacists gang. It was a racially motivated gang that I got involved in and was eventually a ranking member."
Protection from the violence in prison was the only thing the gang could help guarantee Rip. So when his health failed him, he began looking for help somewhere else.
“I had a staph infection in my brain and it had eaten a large abscess in the frontal lobe of my brain. They told me later on that most people who get mersa in their brain die; and then if you live, you're pretty messed up. When they left my room, I was all by myself and nobody knew where I was. My family didn't know where I was. I was scared. I said, ‘God, I’m scared to death and I don't want to die.’ I said, ‘if you save me, if you save my life, then I will dedicate the rest of my life doing you're will; whatever it is you want, I’ll do it.”
Eventually Rip recovered and got out of prison. He forgot his promise and returned to a life of crime. Before long, he was back in the penitentiary. During his second prison term, Rip was constantly reminded of the promise he made to God.
“I would see Christian guys with their Bibles; and they would have stacks of Bibles. I used to call them super Christians. And this guy that was across from me, he was obviously a super Christian and he was preaching to me. Later that night, this nurse came into my room giving me medication. She said, ‘I heard you talking to that boy across the hall.’ And I was like, ‘yes ma'am.’ And she said, ‘whew, I wished you could come preach at my church.’ And I said, ‘no, you must be talking about that guy across the hall.’ And she said, ‘no son, I’m talking about you. The Lord is all over you and He has a powerful call on your life; and about that time I thought that lady was crazy.”
Rip had another glimpse of freedom before he was imprisoned for a third time. It had been ten years since his threatening illness and promise to God.
“I was locked away 23 hours a day by myself. I was miserable. I was just miserable and I carried that Bible because it had all my addresses in it. That's one thing they can't take from you in prison is your Bible. I opened it up and I started reading it: Numbers, chapter 30, verse 2, basically paraphrasing. He said, ‘if a man makes an oath or promise to God, he's going to do exactly what he said he was going to do. I hadn't thought about that prayer in I don't know how long. But when I read that verse, I remembered. The only way I can describe it is that the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Holy Spirit just filled that cell and it just broke me. I’ve never been the same since. For the first time, I saw things clearly. I saw that I didn't have anybody to blame for where I was.”
Rip knew the first step was to cut his ties with the prison gang.
“I told them, ‘I’m going to get the chance to get out one more time and I’m living for the Lord. This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to do my best to make it this time, and so I can't be a part of that anymore.’ The way I look at it today, the racial deal, I treat everybody - I treat them all with the same courtesy and respect because God died for all of us. I don't get caught up; I just don't do it anymore.”
Today Rip is a free man. He was released from prison just a few months ago; and now works to reach others who are going down the same path he was.
“That day that He was crucified, there were three crosses up there: the cross he was on and two condemned criminals. One chose him and He saved him; and to me that's pretty significant. The guy was being executed - even him, He saved him.”
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