Alan’s Incredible Story.
A young man named Alan, whom I met on a recent trip to Cuba, has one of the most remarkable stories I have ever encountered. Alan was a powerful, athletic-looking guy and it was a bit of a shock to learn that he couldn’t walk. When I first saw him in his wheelchair, I couldn’t believe a guy that looked so physically strong and healthy was paralyzed! Turns out that he has not been paralyzed from the waist down for all that long.
I was told that Alan was once one of the top three criminals in all of Cuba. His temper and violence gave him the respect and fear of the people who knew him – and the dread and fear of the police. Whenever police patrols came upon him, Alan would fight back and seize control. He wasn’t afraid to attack three or four officers, taking their weapons. One time he even overturned a police car – all on his own!
The condition that controlled Alan’s behavior was even worse than his rebellion. He was clinically defined as a sadomasochist. This mindset derives pleasure from giving, and even receiving, pain. It means that Alan was getting his thrills from making others suffer, and when there were no others to abuse, he attacked himself! His arms are full of scars from attempted suicides; distorted where he tore chunks of flesh from his arm during fits of rage.
Most People Thought Alan Was Either Crazy or Demon Possessed
Eventually Alan was arrested and thrown in prison, where he was isolated because of his frequent attacks on other prisoners. So when he couldn’t attack others, he turned his rage on himself.
As I sat and talked with Alan, I was continually amazed by the bizarre chapters of his life. After hearing the high points – or more accurately, the low points – I asked him how he viewed the Gospel in his former life. Alan explained that he had a worldview that was closed and sealed off from the Gospel. His uncle – ironically, our representative in Eastern Cuba – would talk to him about Jesus, but God was an absolutely absurd thought to him. He told me, “My ears were closed” to the Gospel.
Alan ridiculed his uncle – who he considered crazy for believing in Jesus – again and again: “How can you believe in someone you have never seen? Those stories,” Alan would say in mocking tones, “if they even happened, were in such a different time of history that they have no meaning today!” To Alan, his uncle was absolutely and hopelessly out of touch with the real world.
Alan’s “closed ears” heard that a true friend was someone who gave you a cigarette, a drink, drugs – or drugs and a girl– so you could do to her whatever you wanted to make yourself feel good. His friends had a violent criminal mindset that only fed his fury!
The Unbelievable Event that God Used to Open Alan’s “Closed Ears”
I asked Alan, “What event helped open your closed ears?” He told me that he had been sentenced to thirty years in jail for murder. He was getting his thrills terrorizing and abusing prisoners, but got more and more angry at the thought of being in jail for the best years of his life. When it became obvious that he was stuck in jail, he decided to kill himself. “Death,” he told me, “was better than living in that hell hole.” He planned what he thought was “the perfect suicide.” He would jump off the roof of a five-story building in the jail complex. He planned it all very carefully. If he jumped into the courtyard, the other prisoners would abuse him – even in death. They would rape his dead body just as he had raped them in life. No, he would jump toward the fence so the guards would see him and quickly take his dead body away. Just to be absolutely certain that his suicide would succeed, Alan would put a noose around his neck. That way he had two ways to die. First, his neck would be broken, and then the fall would finish him off for certain.
With the details in place, Alan climbed to the top of the prison building. As he looked toward the courtyard, everyone was there just like he expected. He walked toward the fence and made sure the guards were watching. He fastened the noose around his neck, tied it to the wall, and jumped!
When the “Perfect Suicide” Failed, God Got Alan's Attention!
A second later he was on the ground – but he was fully conscious! The noose broke too soon, and he landed in a sitting position. He was alive. Soon a guard turned his face with his boot and said, “This one is dead.” Alan calmly answered, “No, I am alive.” The stunned guards rushed Alan to the infirmary. His back was broken.
Alan was dazed and amazed to be alive. He had been sure that there would not be a single conscious thought after his jump. Suddenly Alan realized he was not in control – even of his own life. What little control he had in jail was now gone; he was paralyzed. As incredible as it may seem, a profound conviction came over Alan: “God exists and He is aware and mindful of me!”
Alan says, “Then my ears got sweet! I would hear someone say God and it sounded special. A person would say Bible, or Jesus, and I WANTED them to tell me all they knew.” So Alan put his trust in Jesus as the Spirit of God reached out to save him from utter despair and hopelessness. The amazement of it all began to unfold and settle in Alan’s heart and mind while he was still in the infirmary. It was like waking up from a very bad dream and finding yourself in a much better place.
Alan Is Now Living a Life Almost No One Thought Possible
These days Alan is serving his prison sentence at home. He is allowed to go to church and watches the world go by from his porch. Other criminals come by once in a while to verify what they hear of his conversion. Alan shares with them the reality of what transformed him.
A hardened criminal acquaintance of Alan’s challenged the possibility of such a “conversion.” He said, “It’s not possible. I have killed seven different people and I KNOW I can’t be forgiven. Everyone knows you are much worse than I am.” Alan replied with serenity and conviction, “I know how you feel. I am telling you He is not just ‘much bigger.’ He is infinite. His life is also infinite. If He can forgive me, then He can forgive you.”
Alan is thrilled to be able to go to church and sing the praises of a God who overruled his decision to leave this world, a hardened criminal at the end of his rope. God broke the rope and Alan landed into a new and eternal life.
I praise God for His marvelous and boundless grace! We will never know this side of heaven just how many thousands of lives are being transformed and saved by the Gospel.