Chris Rose was imprisoned three times. He has stayed in over 30 jails. He was admitted to three mental institutions. And he has completely turned his life around, spreading the word of Christ to other men and women who have walked his path.
“I spent the first 11 years of my life locked in a room and nobody had anything to do with me,” Rose said. “When I was 5 and 6 years old, my stepdad would take me out in front of the prison in McAlaster, Oklahoma, and tell me that’s where I was going.”
From 11 to 18 Rose spent time in juvenile facilities, and was in and out of jail for all of his young adult life.
“For 33 years I was the person nobody wanted to be around. I had been in trouble all my life. I got into everything you could possibly get into,” Rose said. “I was a drug addict for over 20 years. My mind was messed up more than anything.”
He left prison for the last time in 1993 with absolutely nothing to his name but a pending divorce.
“I met a young lady here in Claremore and she asked me to go to church. I thought ‘Ma’am you don’t want me going your church,’ but I went anyway,” Rose said. “My life was changed.”
It was no miraculous, overnight 180. It took place by fits and starts.
Rose recounted some of the critical decisions along the way, like the exact moment when he stopped doing drugs.
“I did a shot of dope and I asked the Lord, ‘I don’t know who I’m talking to, but if you get this off of me I will live for you like I live for it,’” Rose said. Now, “I don’t spend five minutes with somebody without talking about God, because used to, I didn’t spend five minutes with somebody without talking about dope.”
He also knows the exact moment when he came to terms with true personal responsibility.
Rose said he was watching the news on TV in 1994 and he saw a lady who put a brick on the accelerater and drove herself and two children into a pond, and the woman told police she did it because of her mother.
“Right then I realized you can’t look backwards and say it’s somebody else’s fault for your situation today. You’ve got to make a choice to say ‘I don’t need drugs, I don’t need alcohol, I don’t need to gamble, I don’t need any of that.’ What I need is a relationship with somebody who cares about me.”
“I met the lord in 1993, but my mind was still messed up and I still had addictions to different things that we’re not supposed to be messing with,” Rose said. Within the next few years people started to encourage him to tell his story of redemption to others stuck in the criminal justice system, but Rose knew he wasn’t quite ready.
“It took 20 years for me to get to a place where I wouldn’t be going into prisons and jails and be lying to people,” Rose said. “You have to be free for yourself in order to show someone else how to be free.”
“Now I can go in and I can stand before these men and women and I can say ‘You can be free from everything,’ because today I have no issue with the things that wrapped me up before,” Rose said.
“It’s unreal my life today considering where I came from,” Rose said. “We have a nice home. I’ve got two wonderful children today that are a blessing. I’m a member of a wonderful church here in town. I get to do things that you wouldn’t have thought possible if you’d looked at me as a child.”
Rose took all of that personal growth and he started a ministry.
“Don’t Look Back,” operated out of Destiny Life Church in Claremore, is a ministry that reachs people trapped in the criminal justice system to help them find God's love and lasting freedom from their struggles and past mistakes.
“We try to go in and form relationships,” Rose explained.
“The only reason I’m changed today is because I had people around me for years that didn’t give up on me, even in my struggles,” Rose said. He and his volunteers try to stand by and support people through all of theirs too. “It’s hard to come out of that lifestyle. We’ve had people come live in our home for eight or nine months then one day they just snap and go back to what they were doing before. Our enemy is large and he wants to destroy anybody he can and he is doing a pretty good job of it.”
Still, the ministry has seen some success. “I have guys outside now that are teaching the program I took to them,” Rose said. “It’s amazing what gets to happen when you turn somebodies life around.’
Volunteers visit the Rogers County Jail every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30 to 11 a.m.. They teach a program called Christianity 101 and share their life stories, hope and the love of Christ. Men minister to men and women to women.
Currently there are 28 volunteers and the ministry conducted 90 baptisms last year.
The ministry is also working to build a transitional house for men coming out of prison so that they have somewhere to go once they’ve been released and are less likely to return to crime.
“We have a wonderful community. I’ve been in Claremore since 1987,” Rose said. Although his life in Claremore started as a pessimistic drug addict, “I look at Claremore today and I see it’s something totally different. There is such a good community, and really all we need to reach out and help one another.”
A lot of people think you can’t change, but we believe you can. We’ve seen it happen. We’ve had people who have been in jail who are now out of jail and living productive lives.
Today Rose has been out of the criminal justice system for 25 years. He is free from the struggles and addictions that held him back. And he is happily celebrating 24 years of marriage to his beautiful and supportive wife.
“At the end of the day all I want to do is help. I was helped, and in turn I got to do something to help somebody,” Rose said.
To learn more or to volunteer you can call or visit Destiny Life Church or the Don’t Look Back Facebook page and ask for Chris Rose.
In order to volunteer, anyone interested needs to pass a background check with the Rogers County jail, though people who have been in jail or prison before are not excluded. Interested parties also have to interview with Rose.