Gorman Woodfin

CBN.com

“I was sent to a maximum security prison which housed about 1,100 convicts. I was at the time just 17.”

On November 16, 1989, in Miami, Florida, Matt Kern faced a 60-year prison sentence.  Even though he was a teenager, he was housed with career convicts – most, more than twice his age.

Violence ruled the prison yard.  Matt tells The 700 Club, “I was a 17-year-old kid that was trying to survive. So my reaction to that environment was to become as violent or more violent than they were.”

Until seventh grade, Matt had been a model student in school.  Then something happened, he started hanging around with a bad crowd.  He thought they were having more fun.

“Started with going to the classes late, hanging out in the halls a little too long. You know, then eventually it leads to skipping school altogether, then drinking and smoking cigarettes and it’s a slippery slope.”

Soon they wanted bigger thrills, and began stealing cars.

“We just used to break into the vehicles and then we’d have them for the rest of the weekend. Sunday we’d ditch them somewhere.”

Then one weekend, one of his friends decided to bring a gun.   Instead of stealing a car they were going to car-jack one.

“We didn’t think that the gun would be used. It was for a threat.  You expect that they would get away from their vehicle and you would just take their car. It was the first time we had done anything like this.”

Late that night, a teenage boy stopped on a dark, quiet roadway.  He thought was a going to help some guys with a broken down car.

“The friend that I was with pulled the gun on him and this other guy who stopped was a young kid as well, and he refused to give up his car. Came towards my friend who had the gun. At that point my friend shot him. The victim of the robbery, he died on the scene from the gunshot wound.”

Before the victim died, he gave a description to the police, and one month later they were arrested and charged with murder. 

“If you’re involved in a felony and somebody gets killed, everybody involved in that felony gets charged with the murder. So all of us were charged. So I realized then it was serious.”

Matt was sentenced to 60 years and was sent to a maximum security prison. For four years he lived in this jungle of violence, fighting at every turn to protect himself.

“So if I thought there was a problem, I would strike out. I would stab somebody. I would pipe somebody. I would hit somebody. Just to try to make a reputation for myself.”

Then after one fight, Matt had beaten the other inmate so severely he went into a coma.  He wound up in solitary confinement.  But for the first time—he felt guilty.  He started reading a Bible that his father had given him years before.

“I didn’t know what to do with that guilt. I wanted to address it somehow; I wanted to get rid of it. I picked up the Bible that my dad sent me and just started reading it. The guilt didn’t completely go away, but I felt like I was addressing it somehow. That this is what I needed to do.

Matt spent a year in solitary confinement, reading his Bible.  He says that’s when he became a new man.

“I could feel, like a fire within me. It was a change from my perspective of my surroundings and my world. I realized God had touched my heart. I understood from Scripture what that meant. I knew that from that day on, I was changed. I was still a sinner. I still had done a lot of things bad. I was still in prison, but I knew I was on the path of getting my life together, of committing my life to Christ. And trying to live a life that was going to glorify Him.

“The simplicity of it just amazed me. I can give God all of my brokenness and my sin and in return He gives me grace and peace and everlasting life.”

When he returned to the regular prison population from solitary confinement, Matt faced all the enemies he had made over the years.

“I’m saying to everyone, ‘I’m a Christian. I’m not going to react violently. I’m not going to be that person I was.’ And I received a lot of threats. But God was faithful in protecting me.”

Matt reconnected with his family and wrote them about the changes God had made in his life.  His father had been working on a campaign to get his son released from prison.

“They put together a clemency packet and submitted to the clemency board, which is the Florida cabinet and the governor. Before Governor Lawton Chiles passed away, he granted me clemency.”

After 10 years behind bars, Matt was released.  Years later, he shared his story at a meeting where he met Connie. They married and now have four children.

Connie says,  “None of us deserve what God’s grace is to us. I think just seeing what God has done in his life and continues to do, that’s amazing to me.”

“It  was almost too simple,” Matt says. “I’m reading these passages, these quotes from Jesus, that ‘if you believe in Me, and you confess My name, you will have everlasting life.’ It’s so simple a statement, yet so powerful.”

cbn.com

一個原本在校表現優異的模範生,甚麼原因讓他在17歲時就要面臨60年的刑囚?並在一千多名慣犯中求生?他沒有殺人,但在獄中他只能變得比別人更加兇惡才能立足。

「我被送到一個最嚴密的監獄,那裡關了1,100名罪犯,那時我才17歲。」麥特.柯恩(Matt Kern)透過CBN談到那段生命的改變。

1989年11月,住在美國佛羅里達邁阿密的麥特被判60年刑囚。即使他只是個17歲的孩子,在獄中,他必須周旋在上千個年紀都比他大上一倍的慣犯當中。

一個青少年,為了讓自己能在暴力橫行的監獄中生存,他必須比其他人更加暴力,這是麥特當時不得不的選擇。

不過,麥特以前卻不是這樣的。七年級以前,他一直都是學校的表現優異的學生,直到他認識了壞朋友,只因為他覺得他們比較有趣,愛玩與好奇心卻令麥特走偏了路。平日在校麥特是「最有價值球員」,到了周末,卻跟一群壞朋友偷車狂歡。

他說:「一開始先是遲到,在走廊跟朋友晃久一點。後來就乾脆集體翹課,喝酒、抽菸…然後愈來愈離譜。」

很快,他們追求更刺激的事物,開始偷車。麥特說,他們撬開車子,駕著車到處玩一個周末,等到星期天時再把車子隨便丟在一個地方。

某個周末,朋友帶了一把槍來,於是那天他們不偷車了,準備用那把槍搶劫車子。他們想用那把槍來威脅,以為亮出槍之後,別人就會嚇得棄車走人。

當天晚上,他們在一處漆黑寧靜的路上攔下一部車,拿出預備的槍,準備威脅駕駛。駕駛也是一個青少年,拒絕給他們車,走近拿槍的朋友,同夥朋友一慌,開了槍,對方當場死亡。

一個月之後,他們被起訴謀殺。在重大的謀殺案件,所有涉案的人都會被起訴。他因此被檢方起訴60年監禁,並在最嚴密的監獄受刑。起初他在少年監獄服刑四年,但為了自保與獲得尊重,他不斷與人逞兇鬥毆。「如果我認為那是個問題,我就會除掉它。用刀捅人、或打或揍,目的就是要在其中建立自己的地盤。」麥特說。

但是某次鬥毆,麥特下手太重,把一個囚犯打到昏迷,因此被關進了禁閉室。在禁閉室裡,突然間,麥特第一次,對那個被誤殺的人感到一股強烈的愧疚感,這些年在獄中打殺鬥狠,也從不為自己犯下的罪有任何感覺。一個人在禁閉室裡,他不知道該如何處理這股陌生卻難過的感覺,他想要抒發、想要除去這種難過的感覺,所以拿起父親在多年前帶過來的聖經,開始讀起來。愧疚感雖然沒有完全離開,但是他卻感到心中稍許釋懷。在禁閉室整整一年,麥特靠著聖經撐過來。他說,從此他變了一個人。

「我感受到,像有一把火在我裡面燒。我明白,神已經觸摸了我的心,因為我從經文中了解到,從那天開始,我就改變了。我是一個罪人,做了這麼多壞事,我還在監獄中,但是我知道我正走在一條找回自我的路上,我已將生命交託給基督,我應該活出榮耀祂的生命。」麥特說。

「我只要將自己的破碎與罪交給主,神就會給我恩典、平安與永恆的生命。這麼簡單的事讓我感到完全不可思議!」

但是當他關禁閉結束之後,回到原來的囚區,多年來所累積的仇家正虎視眈眈等著他…..。面對這樣的情況,他已改變了,麥特只對他們說:「我已經是基督徒了,不再暴力,我不再是以前那個我。雖然陸續仍威脅不斷,但是神真的是信實的,祂保護了我。」

麥特再度與家人取得聯繫,寫信回家中告訴父母自己的轉變,當時他父親一直持續不斷為兒子申冤,尋求兒子能無罪釋放的管道。麥特的父親於是將兒子的轉變,向佛羅里達州政府請願,當時參議員奇利斯(Lawton Chiles)為其周旋,麥特終於被無罪釋放了。

10年的牢獄之後,麥特終於自由了。多年之後,在一場見證分享中遇見柯妮(Connie),兩人一見傾心,攜手成立家庭,育有四子。

妻子因麥特的溫柔與謙卑而感動,婚後育有四名子女。

「當我認識他之後,才發現他的謙卑與慷慨,他是個非常溫柔的人。本來以為他應該會是個大老粗之類…」妻子柯妮說。「我們沒有任何一個人得得神的恩典。但是看見神在麥特身上所做所有的奇妙事,真的非常稀奇。­」

「這實在太簡單了。」麥特說。「我讀了聖經中耶穌所說的話,就是要相信祂,尊祂的名,就能擁有永生,如此簡單的宣言。然而,這力量卻是難以想像的大。」
翻譯:基督教今日報