– Former drug addict baptized in same church he vandalized 6 months earlier
He broke into an Arkansas church and vandalized $100,000 worth of property six months ago being a drug addict, now he just got baptized at the same church after the pastor and church members displayed grace and forgiveness.
Brenton Winn, 23, was arrested in February after breaking into Central Baptist Church of Conway, Arkansas, and destroying everything in sight, including laptops, cameras, and other electronics. He also wrote a racial slur on a breakroom wall and set the church’s family life center on fire.
At the time, the church’s senior pastor, Don Chandler, told KTHV it was “about as messy of vandalism as you could possibly imagine.”
“I really don’t know what would possess a person to do this — maybe anger with God, maybe we were just too near to him at a point in time when he decided to break in and do something,” Chandler said.
Homeless and high on methamphetamines at the time of the break-in, Winn was indeed angry with God after he relapsed from an addiction to methamphetamines despite spending time at a faith-based recovery program.
Portions of the incident were captured on surveillance cameras, and it wasn’t long before authorities caught up with the young man. Although Winn faced multiple charges as a result of the robbery, Chandler talked to the prosecutor and extended forgiveness rather than judgment.
“You can’t preach something for 50 years without practicing it, especially in front of your whole church,” Chandler told Baptist Press. “Had we not shown some grace to him, everything we’ve talked about and encouraged, would have gone by the wayside. It was simply the right thing to do. This was not a hardened criminal. This was a young man who had made some mistakes. He was on drugs and alcohol when he did what he did. But he was redeemable.”
The judge gave Winn a choice: Face up to 20 years in prison or voluntarily enter a 12-month rehab and recovery program run by a Christian-based ministry, Renewal Ranch. The young man chose the latter, and it was there that he accepted Christ.
He shared with Baptist Press that despite growing up in a God-fearing home, he had struggled with drug addiction. “My life was nothing but chaos, suicide attempts and brokenness,” Winn admitted.
In August – six months after his crime – Winn was baptized at Central Baptist Church, the same congregation he tried to destroy.
“As I’m starting to understand how God works, I’ve realized I didn’t pick the church that night. God picked me,” Winn told Baptist Press. “If it had been any other church, I think I’d be sitting in prison right now.”