Brenton Winn didn’t think twice when he broke into Central Baptist Church of Conway, Arkansas and vandalized $100,000 worth of property. Fueled by prohibited drugs, the 23-year-old ransacked the place of worship into a horrendous state.
Winn lit a fire on part of the family center, threw the soundboard over the balcony, and destroyed laptops. He ripped through photos and wall decors, ransacked a staff member’s office, flipped over appliances, and attempted to break into a church bus. Senior Pastor Don Chandler said the aftermath 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 told KTHV.
Unbeknownst to Winn, security cameras captured everything which showed he was intoxicated and high on drugs when he acted in a “very unusual and random way.” It took several days for church members to restore the church back to its former glory.
As for the homeless Winn, the footage led to his arrest. However, instead of facing 20 years in prison, Pastor Chandler practiced what he preached and asked the prosecutor to give the young man the chance to turn around. He said Winn is “already forgiven” and even invited him to come to church and hear the Gospel.
“You can’t preach something for 50 years without practicing it, especially in front of your whole church. 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,” Chandler said.
It turns out Winn was frustrated at God when he acted out. He relapsed from addiction to methamphetamines despite having spent time at a faith-based recovery program. He then became homeless. Winn chose to go to Renewal Ranch, a 12-month program based on biblical principles instead of prison to get help.
Six months later, he surrendered himself to the Lord and asked to be baptized at the church he vandalized.
“I gave my heart to Christ that night. I used to think it was a coincidence [that I chose to break into the church that night], but now I call it confirmation that God is real, and He answers prayers. What was weighing on my heart was that I needed a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Winn told Baptist Press.
“As I’m starting to understand how God works, I’ve realized I didn’t pick the church that night. God picked me. If it had been any other church, I think I’d be sitting in prison right now,” he added.
Winn opened his heart to Jesus and accepted Him as his Savior. He still has six more months before he finishes the program and avoid going to prison.