Brenton Winn is a 23-year-old recovering drug-addict who had an unfortunate relapse back in February of this year. Although he was attending a faith-based recovery program at the time, he took a step backward and started using methamphetamines again.
Angry with God for allowing his relapse to occur, he decided to get even.
On the evening of February 28, 2019, Brenton Winn got high and broke into the Central Baptist Church of Conway, Arkansas. Winn went berserk and demolished $100,000 worth of church equipment such as laptops, cameras, and other electronics. He also wrote a racial slur on a wall in the breakroom and then set fire to the family life center.
Because portions of his outrage were caught on surveillance cameras, it didn’t take authorities long to track him down. Winn was looking at several serious charges as a result of his robbery before the pastor of the Arkansas church, Don Chandler, stepped in and made a suggestion.
Three days after the incident, pastor Don Chandler spoke with the prosecutor about extending forgiveness to Winn rather than casting judgment upon the young man. “You can’t preach something for 50 years without practicing it, especially in front of your whole church,” the pastor said.
“Had we not shown some grace to him, everything we’ve talked about and encouraged, would have gone by the wayside. This was a young man who had made some mistakes. But he was redeemable.”
Pastor Chandler really wanted to get Winn some help and give him an opportunity to fully kick his drug addiction. Renewal Ranch, a faith-based recovery program that Central Baptist Church partnered with, was started by former drug-addict James Loy in 2011.
Winn was given one of two options; he could either go to jail and possibly spent 20 years behind bars, or he could voluntarily enroll in Renewal Ranch’s 12-month recovery program. Winn chose to get the help he needed at the ranch.
Approximately six months into the program, Winn decided to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior after one of the Bible studies at Renewal Ranch. On a Wednesday night soon after his decision, he was baptized by associate pastor Mike Lefler at Central Baptist Church, the very church he broke into.
“I used to think it was a coincidence,” Winn said in reference to breaking into the church, “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.”