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A Man’s Journey to Freedom, Forgiveness and Redemption

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“I’m on the road to Angola,” Ronald Olivier said thinking on his bus ride to one of the most infamous prisons in the United States.  ‘Man, what did I get myself into?’ I heard all the stories of Angola, I know they prey upon the young. My mindset is this, ‘I’m going through these gates a man, I’m going to leave out a man, whether I walk out or in a box – if I have to die.’”
Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, added Ronald Olivier as an inmate at just 18-years-old. Looking back, it was his father leaving home that set the stage for what was to come.
“My father was everything to me,” Ronald said. “I was really hurt, and I felt abandoned, and that turned into anger. When I really needed a man to guide me and navigate me through what was happening in the neighborhood, I had none. It was the beginning of the crack epidemic. Me and my friends, that's when we veered towards selling drugs, stealing cars, anything that was going on in the neighborhood we was doing it. We became a part of it.”
But this new lifestyle would soon catch up with him. On Christmas Day, 1991, Ronald was confronted by a gang of young men, one of whom he’d recently had a fight with. Afraid, Ronald tried to get away, but then he felt someone grab his jacket from behind – he pulled out his gun.
“It was two guys that I shot, pools of blood,” Ronald said. “Two days later, I found myself arrested.”
One of Ronald’s victims would recover, but the other died. Only 16-years-old, the extent of the consequences he was facing didn’t fully set in until he found himself being tried as an adult for first-degree murder – the death penalty on the table.
“I didn't want to die,” Ronald said. “That's when I heard my mother's voice, so loud in my ear, ‘If you’re ever in trouble that I can’t get you out of, you call on Jesus.’ So, that’s what I did in that cell. A lot of people say, ‘Don’t make a deal with God.’ Well I made a deal with Him. I said, ‘Lord, if you don’t let them kill me, I promise I’ll serve you the rest of my life. For the first time in my life, there was a peace that I couldn't explain. It was this inward calmness that gave me an assurance that I was going to be okay.”
And then the verdict came – guilty of second-degree murder, life in prison without the chance for parole. But something inside kept telling Ronald not to lose hope, even as he was being sent to Angola. There, he soon started meeting Christians who helped guide him in the right direction.
“They was walking out their faith in the midst of all the chaos,” Ronald said. “I was amazed. I found out how important it was to get in the Word and study, to develop a prayer life. How important it is to fellowship with other believers. Guys who mentored me, came to fill that void in me of being a father figure. And of course, God stepped in and was that figure also. He's the greatest father of all. He began to change my heart from the inside out.”
Ronald took Bible college courses and received a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry. He began ministering to fellow inmates, and then was given the opportunity to go to other prisons as a missionary. 
“When I got to share my faith, or share the Word, and see God change other people lives, I was so full of joy,” Ronald said. “I felt fulfilled, because here it is, I'm operating in purpose. I’m getting the sense of this is what I was born to do. That's how I kept hope and kept faith. I kept His Word in my mouth. I spoke that I was going home, I always said that I'll be going home.”
Years later, the Supreme Court ruled that minors could not be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Ronald found himself back in court for a re-sentencing. He was excited for a possible chance to get out, but there was someone in the room that he first needed to make peace with.
“I was very, very remorseful and sorry, and I thought about the victim's mother,” Ronald said. So, we had this conversation. I said, “Ma’am, I take full responsibility for the life of your son. I just pray you’ll find it somewhere in your heart to forgive me.’ She said, ‘I don’t hate you, I forgive you. I believe you deserve a second chance.’ That was more important than me getting home. For her to say that it was like even though I was handcuffed and shackled, I felt them come off of me. It was another level of freedom I have just went to. That’s something supernatural, beyond me or anyone. It was only God there.”
His parole granted, Ronald was unanimously voted for release in 2018. After twenty-seven years of incarceration, he was finally going home. He has since started a family and reconciled with his father. He now works for the Louisiana Parole Project where he continues to minister and encourage former inmates as he helps to rebuild their lives. He also recently wrote a book: 27 Summers – My Journey to Freedom, Forgiveness and Redemption.
“I wrote it for hopeless people, anybody who is down and out and feels like their life will never change,” Ronald said. “God can do anything at any time through anybody. If He did it for me, He can do it for you. He’s just looking for somebody to believe Him.”


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About The Author

Isaac Gwin

Isaac Gwin joined Operation Blessing in 2013 as a National Media Liaison producing domestic hunger relief stories. He then moved to Israel in 2015 where he spent the next six years as a CBN Features Producer developing stories throughout the Middle East. Now back in the U.S., Isaac continues to produce inspiring, true life stories for The 700 Club.