God's Timing Is Perfect

Mike Swiger got a frantic call from his brother. “I got in a fight with my best friend, and I killed him!” Mike jumped in his car and drove the several hours to the college where his brother was attending. “What are we going to do?!” Mike knew what the right thing to do was, but his love for his brother clouded his sense of right and wrong. He helped his brother cover up the crime. They lied to the police.

For a year and a half, Michael lived with the guilt and secrecy of what he was covering up. Then one day the police knocked on his door. He was arrested for complicity to aggravated murder. He pled guilty. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

I met Michael at Lorain Correctional shortly after he was sentenced (1990?). We got to be good friends over the 16 years he was incarcerated. He was released from prison in 2006 and not long after that he spoke at our Common Ground Ministries Annual Banquet in Walnut Creek. He eventually became the pastor of Gospel House Church in Walton Hills, Ohio and is now executive director of a prison ministry called True Freedom Ministries (Cleveland) with fellow ex-convict minister, Gary Koly.

Several weeks ago I was singing at an event in Middlefield, Ohio and Mike was in the audience. I had called him to let him know that I would be in his neck of the woods. When I was done singing we talked over coffee and ribs and he told me the following story:

You came to Lorain Correctional sometime around 1999, and you preached about Barabbas. Remember? I took notes in the margin of my Bible. The next Easter as I read the story I saw the notes. I couldn't remember where they came from, but I wrote an article about Barabbas and sent it to several magazines and church publications. I got no reply. Not a thank you, no acknowledgement, not even a rejection notice.

When I got out of prison in 2006 I applied for a job in many places, but as you know, it's not easy for an ex convict to get hired. One of the places I applied was The Salvation Army in Cleveland. As I was filling out the application, I was chatting with the guard in the lobby. He was very friendly. He noticed that I checked the box, “Were you ever convicted of a felony?” All of a sudden the atmosphere changed. His demeanor was no longer friendly. I could feel the tension and a spirit of depression began to come over me.

I completed the application and slid it under the window to the lady on the other side and sat down in the lobby. To calm my shaky nerves I picked up the Salvation Army publication, War Cry, and there on the front cover was my name! The lead story this month was “Barabbas” by Mike Swiger! I couldn't believe it!

I went in to the interview and the lady had obviously noticed that I was a felon. She was professional and cold.
“How can you get a college degree while in prison...”
“It says here that you are a writer...”
“Do you have any examples of your writing..?”
I held up the magazine and showed her the lead article in the current issue of War Cry.

The lady's face showed amazement mixed with disbelief. She took the magazine from me and looked at it and looked back at me and then back at the magazine. I got the job!

Mike went on to thank me for coming to prison and for the story of Barabbas that God used to not only give him a job, but give him hope and encouragement right when he needed it most. God's timing is perfect. Mike sent that article six years ago. He never heard a word. Right when he was being questioned about his ability (and his integrity) the article showed up in the very place it needed to be for him!

To know more about this amazingly redeemed inmate visit: www.MichaelSwiger.com. To know more about our amazing God, read the Bible ;-)

Common Ground Ministries

John was singing in a country western band at the time of his conversion in 1972. God changed his desire for stardom in Nashville to minitstry.

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