After murdering five men, Jessie was freed from prison because of a technicality, or so he told Mark Oberkrom, a student at Southwestern Seminary.
“He murdered one person when he was younger, and I think he served 25 years for that. Then he got out, and he murdered four more people” and served another prison term, Oberkrom says. “And I didn’t ask him for details.
“He even said that he has got a good side, but when you make him angry, he snaps. Obviously my question to him was, ‘I’m not upsetting you, am I?’”
Oberkrom met Jessie while participating in Southwestern’s continuing effort to proclaim the Gospel to men and women who live within a one-mile radius of the school. After speaking with Oberkrom for more than an hour, Jessie prayed to receive Christ.
“God’s grace is amazing,” Oberkrom says, marveling that God would use him—despite his own sin and weakness—to lead others to Christ. “It is amazing to think that this is the same God who worked in Paul’s life. This is the same God who spoke to Abraham and spoke to Moses, … the same God who started it all, who was there with Adam and Eve. It blows my mind to think of that.”
Oberkrom has also shared the Gospel with family members, though he found this, at times, to be more intimidating than witnessing to a convicted murderer.
Ashley, Oberkrom’s 10-year-old daughter, came to faith through her dad’s witness. While waiting for a children’s program to begin one evening at church, he shared the Gospel with Ashley and one of her friends using an evangelism approach that Matt Queen, assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern, had shared with him. Both girls professed faith in Christ as Lord and Savior that night.
This summer, God continued to use Oberkrom to transform his family when he served as a team leader for Crossover Phoenix, an evangelistic initiative that coincided with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Before Oberkrom left Fort Worth, a sharp pain began to run through his leg. He could barely walk and considered cancelling his trip. Despite his pain, Oberkrom went to Phoenix. The pain soon subsided from his leg, but he then endured a barrage of other distractions.
First his wife called, and she was worried: A man broke into their van while it was parked outside their house, she said, and he was still roaming the neighborhood. Then Oberkrom’s mom called: A copperhead snake, had bitten Oberkrom’s brother. Also, Oberkrom’s dad and brother had a serious argument that threatened to break up their business partnership.
“I was physically and mentally exhausted because of all these attacks,” Oberkrom says. “The cumulative strain of Satan’s schemes literally brought me to my knees in tears and rendered me ineffective for witnessing that morning.”
At lunch Oberkrom shared his troubles with Pastor Dan Christian, his supervisor for Crossover Phoenix. The two men discussed the situation and prayed together, and Oberkrom wept. Immediately after they prayed, Oberkrom’s dad called him. As he spoke with his dad, Oberkrom realized the irony of his situation.
“You’re here in Arizona, sharing the Gospel with everybody,” he thought, “but you’re afraid to share the Gospel with your own father, whom you have been praying for since you were 13.”
At that moment, God gave him the courage to speak to his father about Christ.
“Have you ever thought about accepting Christ into your heart?” he asked. “It is not until you have Christ in your heart that you are going to be able to work through all these issues. You need to get yourself right with God.”
To Oberkrom’s surprise, his dad admitted his need and desired a right relationship with God. But at that point, the phone began to break up. So Oberkrom quickly told his dad how to surrender himself to Christ and confess his sin. The next morning Oberkrom’s dad called again and, praying, confessed faith in Christ as Oberkrom listened.
“God took a really bad situation and turned it around so that He may be glorified,” Oberkrom says.
According to Oberkrom, it is amazing that God would transform lives as His people simply heed His call to share the Gospel with all people—whether men or women, adults or children, family members or felons.