Bryan, what brought you to the Star Gospel Mission?
In a word, hope brought me here. I’d just turned 40, had just been released from prison, and I was lost. I could have gone home to Mom and Dad, but I had pride and worth and decided it was time for me to become the man that I was supposed to be. So, on Sept 9, 2008, I knocked on your door at the Star Gospel Mission. Lots of guys come to SGM for a hand out but I was there asking for a hand up.
What do you mean by a hand up?
I wanted to learn more about who Jesus Christ was and how He was starting to work in my life. I couldn’t understand it and I wanted to make Him the focal point of my life and begin to learn some new life skills, like how to be a productive citizen, how to budget money, how to deal with my mental disability (bi-polar type 1), how to be responsible, how to get up and go to work everyday and enjoy what I do. These are all skills that my parents instilled in me, yet somewhere along the line I forgot them. I felt that with hard work and dedication I could learn these skills and apply them to my everyday life.
Tell me a little about your past and how you came to this realization.
It began when I stopped taking my medications. Each time I stopped I ended up in prison. I’ve been in prison 7 times for the same crime, writing bad checks. Part of being bipolar and not taking my medication meant that I needed something to soothe the depression. I would go to the store and write checks for whatever I wanted, with no limits. For me, it was always, I’m not out of money until I’m out of checks. Because I knew the consequences of what I was doing I would then get more depressed. I knew what was going to happen. I knew that I was going to get locked up. That’s how I was incarcerated 7 times over a 20 year period 16 out of 40 years of my life have been behind bars.
When did all of this start?
Actually, it all started when I was14 years old living in a military family in Saratoga Springs, NY. When my father was transferred to a base in Charleston, my mother told me that he was not my real father and that my last name was not Sessions. My real father had divorced my mother and was living in Ohio. I even went to visit him, but returned to Charleston to live with my mother and step father. When I was 21 I started writing bad checks and began running from the police. I went to visit my father for a second time. While I was there, we got into a bad argument, he took out a pistol, a 44 magnum, and shot me in the leg. Following two surgeries I went back to South Carolina.
Since then Bryan and his mother and step father have resolved their differences. Through the grace of God, their relationship has been restored.
I asked Bryan if he had ever forgiven his real father for shooting him. He said: I forgave my father for shooting me the day he died. I even went to Ohio for his funeral; it was a real experience. He was the Chapter President of the Outlaws, a biker gang that were rivals with the Hells Angels. Even though he was dead, I thought that my saying I was sorry would bring closure to me, which it did.
When did your life of crime come to an end?
On April 5th, 2008, my 41st birthday, I said enough is enough! I was in Dorchester County jail. I got up, I looked at myself in the mirror, and for a good two hours I just stood there. At that moment I felt peace. I literally felt God touch me and say to me, you’re going to be OK. I got tired of being alone. I don’t have to be alone anymore be- cause I know He’s there. Beginning that day it was a gradual movement toward God. It didn’t happen overnight, it’s been an on-going experience. I felt Jesus was just knocking on the door of my heart, but I didn’t know if I had enough guts to answer the door, because I knew that I had to surrender all.
What did that turn around look like?
I got out of prison in September of 2008 with no money, no clothes, and no worldly belongings. My parents paid for the first two weeks rent at the Mission. I found a job on a construction site. Right now I’m in training to be an assistant Superintendent for KBR Construction Company. Over the past year I’ve purchased a used truck, moved out of the Mission, rented an apartment, left the apartment to rent a house, and just bought a new truck.
Where do you hope this amazing journey will take you?
I want to give back what was given to me. I have higher goals; I can feel that God is wanting me to help people, but He just hasn’t made it crystal clear as to what He wants me to do. He keeps telling me the same thing, to have patience. I’m waiting for God’s plan for my life to unfold. Whatever it is, it’s going to be to serve God.
Bryan, if you had to summarize your goals, what would they be?
I have three clear goals: to let Jesus shine through me; to prove to myself that I am somebody; and to show my Mom and Dad that I’m a changed man, one they can be proud of!
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I want the men at the Mission to say, if Bryan can do it, so can I. What I would really like in life is for one person to say, he made a difference in my life, then I will feel as though my life was well lived!
Based on an interview conducted by Pastor Christian with a former resident, Bryan Sessions.