Editor's Note: Kirk Gormley (second from right) stands with Floyd Marshall, Washington Conference prison ministries coordinator (front center), and other former inmates Caleb Haney, Asa Henry and Daniel Houser. His words which follow here are a worthy testament to redemption.
I make no exaggerations when I declare to you that I deserve the second death, and only by the grace of God do I hold onto the promise that I will arise from the grave when Jesus comes for His church. You might be thinking we all deserve condemnation, and you would be right. And perhaps you would point out that Romans 8:1 promises us there is “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Again, you would be right. But when a human being commits a crime so heinous, so contrary to the laws of God and man, sometimes we’re left with a couple of difficult questions. Specifically, “If he says he’s saved, how could he do such a thing?” And, “Is there hope for this man?”
People no doubt once asked such questions about me, and it is my joy to affirm that Christ still changes lives. Hope reigns. Transformation is a reality.
I’m not going to horrify you with the details of the crime I committed in 2004, except to say it was violent, it was unspeakably cruel, and it was drunkenly and savagely perpetrated against a Christian woman whom I had once vowed to love, honor and cherish.
True to the coward I was that day, I fled the scene in our 1997 Honda Accord. A couple of hours later, unwilling to face the legal and personal consequences, I drove the car off a Mount Rainier cliff. I blasted through a wooden guardrail, unsure of my eternal destiny but certain that my wretched life on Earth would end in a few seconds. Much to my astonishment and chagrin, I survived.
Three days later I was transported from a Seattle hospital to the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma, where I began what turned out to be eight years and nine months of continuous incarceration.
Unbeknownst to me, a destiny-altering seven months were about to begin. I had begun to hear inmate reports of a unit within the jail that was referred to as the God Pod. I put in for a transfer, and within days I was in the midst of 29 other men who were seeking God to various extents. The ministry of Jesus Christ as manifested through the God Pod was a revelation. Pastors came in from the local community to preach and pray with us, group Bible studies were held throughout the days and evenings, and lives were transformed. After years of talking the Christian talk and putting on airs, I fully surrendered my life to the One who created it. Those seven months put me on firm spiritual footing. But I still had 98 months to serve in state prison. Would my spiritual awakening stick?
Yes, it would. And to ensure that it would, God soon brought the Seventh-day Adventist Church into my life. My first prison stop was a seven-week stay at Shelton, Washington, where one day I pulled a battered copy of The Desire of Ages from a small book box. I had never heard of this author, E.G. White, but was astonished by her spiritual and biblical depth.
By February 2005 I was at the Airway Heights facility in Spokane, Washington. One weekend afternoon, looking for something to do, I attended my first Adventist service. After six months in Spokane, I was transferred to a corporate-run prison in Appleton, Minnesota. Coinciding with my arrival, the tiny Artichoke Lake Church began to come behind the walls, bringing the gospel to inmates twice a week. As a result of the Lord working through faithful servants my faith and commitment deepened, and it was there that I joined the Adventist Church in 2006. As Paul implores, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” and I continued to experience a transformation of heart and thought that comes only through the Word of God and the cleansing power of the cross. Through the atoning death of Jesus, I was having life and having it abundantly, even in prison.
After 52 months in Minnesota, I said goodbye to my Adventist friends from Appleton and was transferred back to Washington. I spent 16 months at the Stafford Creek facility in Aberdeen, where I became involved in yet another Adventist ministry. Through the loving mentoring of people like Tom and Pam Stone, my relationship with Jesus continued to thrive. My final 23 months of prison were carried out at Monroe, where Charlie Williamson, Alice and Walt Renk, and many other Adventists brought the light of the gospel to an otherwise dark and dreary place. By virtue of the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as carried out by a multitude of Christian workers, Adventist and non-Adventist alike, my first days of incarceration as a lost soul were transformed into 3,201 days of walking with Jesus while in prison.
I was released to Seattle on Feb. 20, 2013, and through David Grams the Lord led me to Ballard Adventist Fellowship in Ballard, Washington, a friendly little church that worships and serves Jesus under the ministry of Jesse and Brenda Ferguson. My fellow members know I served time in prison, and many of them know the gruesome details.
They have welcomed me from the start, showing me nothing but love, acceptance and inclusion. I have been entrusted with teaching Sabbath School, and they have invited me into their homes. I even have a key to our church, which is open on Sunday afternoons to hold Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Praise be to God, the final time I drank was that dark and evil day of my crime in 2004.