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A Life of Drugs, Prison and…Ministry?

Randy Rudder - 700 Club Producer

From a young age, Jim Harris had a rebellious streak and took no guff from anyone. “I got into quite a lot of fights as a kid,” Jim says. “I was told basically as a kid by my dad that it would be better for me to just get into that fight than to run from that fight. I had no tolerance for anyone who would try to pick on me or say something to me I didn't like.”

He also had issues with authority figures. “I hated anybody to tell me what to do. It was definitely a problem, that rebellious nature.”

Several people in Jim’s family, including his grandmother, were Christians, but he thought they were all phonies. “I grew up hearing about Christ. I thought Christians were squares and hypocrites, and other things I just didn't like, and didn't want anything to do with,” he says.  

Jim smoked pot for the first time when he was 12 when an older friend told him it would be cool. This continued throughout high school. “Drugs--they are a lot of fun. They make you feel good; they enhance things; they put you around a lot of other people who like to party and have a good time,” Jim asserts. “Now when you try to get off them, that’s when you realize they've got hooks in you.”

Jim joined the Navy after graduation, but received a medical discharge when he was injured. He returned to Texas, but with no skills no job prospects and no purpose in life, he turned to drugs again, working his way up to meth and heroine. He began dealing and soon it was consuming his life. “I was a smart junky. I knew I was going to overdose,” he says. “So I did things to prevent and to enhance and be able to get higher.”

Several stints in jail and rehab didn’t help Jim. “During those stays, you would get off the drugs, but they had such a really strong hold on you and when you would get back out on the street, there they were again, cause you were landing right on the same spots that you came out of,” Jim says. “I didn't like the fact that I was hooked. I didn't like the fact that something was controlling me-- any more than I liked people controlling me. Five rehabs didn't help. Two psychiatric institutions didn't help.”
One evening Jim and his girlfriend Frieda invited some friends over for a party—one that had an unexpected ending. “We partied and had a really good time for I have no idea how long, but I literally could not breathe. I called 911 and the police showed up, and looking around the house, they saw that I was messed up and this was a drug situation,” Jim recalls. “They stabilized me, and arrested me.”
Jim had a seizure and later coded at the hospital. When he came to, he knew he would be facing jail time. He pulled his IV’s out and ran from the hospital, but was eventually arrested on numerous counts of possession. The incident caused Frieda to turn back the faith of her childhood, and she later helped Jim get into the ‘God Pod’ at the Tarrant County jail, where he befriended a chaplain. “His name was Roger Hollar and I had been watching him and listening to him talk about his family and his kids and his military experience, and the things that he was involved in, and interested in, and he was real,” Jim says.  
Over time, Jim became good friends with Roger and grew to respect him. One evening, he was preaching a sermon at the prison and asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ. “I said yes, and I prayed the prayer of salvation. A bunch of the other guys gathered around me, and laid hands on me and prayed for me,” Jim remembers. “It was like I blushed from the top of my head all the way down to the bottom of my feet. It was just this sustained heat. I can’t really explain it. I’ve compared it to a gallon of hot 40-weight being poured all over you and flowing all over your body. And while this is happening, just this incredible sense of peace enveloped me, and I knew that something had changed.”    
After that encounter, Jim started studying the Bible and says God began to change his heart. “The realization that I was the problem came to me in an instant,” he says. “That’s the moment where I was able to change my mind about the things of the world and start looking at the things of God, which is repentance.”

As Jim served out his time, he says with God’s strength, he overcame his addictions. “I’ve never had a craving for the cocaine or the heroine or the methamphetamines again. The Word says that He that lives within you is stronger than he that lives in the world, and it also says that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, and I stand on those kinds of promises because I believe that is what set me completely free,” Jim says.

Jim and Frieda later married. He turned his interest in radio-controlled aircrafts into a ministry called “Fly Right Ministries.” Today he travels to prisons throughout Mississippi and Alabama, spreading the good news of the gospel. “I impact people I don't even know, because God lives in me, and people notice, especially when you’re out with a microphone in your hand, telling them how good God really is and how bad I really was, and what a difference He’s made,” Jim says. “It's not just a story; it’s not just a fairy tale. It’s real.”

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