That new heart can lead to life-long transformation. It has for me and a few months ago I met another man, with a much rougher background, who also has been transformed. We talked over lunch after he returned from a four-week mission trip to India.
Jeff Elkins grew up in church before falling away as a teen-ager into a life of drugs, alcohol and gangs. It caught up with him when he murdered a guy for money and drugs when he was 20. He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. During that time behind bars he came to know Jesus and his life started to be transformed.
He took quite a journey behind bars, spending 15 years as the tough guy that nobody wanted to mess with before coming to know Jesus through the prison chaplain, Earl Jones (also the Golden State Warrior chaplain). It was more than 12 years before he was released after the law had changed to allow parole boards flexibility in shortening life sentences. He had been denied a few times, had sued the governor to be able to pursue his release and then finally was granted it after serving 27 ½ years.
That came after he was a married man. He connected with a pen pal, Angela who lived in India. After a courtship by mail, she came here and married him while he was still behind bars. Cornerstone Fellowship Pastor Steve Madsen married them at San Quentin.
One of his duties at San Quentin was to work in the chapel and pray for people. He was praying one night with two other inmates and one started to prophesy that Elkins would have a ministry in India. Mind you, this was before he had even started writing to Angela.
When he was released and working in prison ministry for Cornerstone in 2010 he needed to get both a passport and visa to fulfill this calling for a Christmas season mission trip to India. Both came through in record time. His plans for a month off didn’t match with Cornerstone’s vacation policy so he moved on. They travel for a month because the air fare costs so much.
Elkins and his wife returned to India for the first time in three years last December after borders were closed because of Covid-19. The trip got off to a rough start with delays in San Francisco causing them to miss their connection in India and putting the trip behind schedule. They moved ahead and returned to a home for lepers that’s been a regular stop on the nine trips they’ve made, but the population had dropped because men had died. They took care of each guy with new shirts, shorts and Crocs as well as bandages and other supplies for the next year.
Then it was off to other cities. Elkins has became known for the miracles that have happened when he’s done prayer walks through the slums so people line up for prayer. He prays for everyone who asks and often sees God move.
After returning from the trip and a bout with Covid, Elkins lost his job in Livermore (he lives in San Joaquin County). During his San Quentin sentence, he spent years in the workshop and became a skilled handyman. At 63, he is well-suited to teach a younger person working side-by-side. He’s still looking for a job.
If you want to learn more about the San Quentin days, see “Jeff Elkins: from prisoner to pastor" on YouTube.