God’s Love Revealed to Convicted Murderer Through a “Little Old Lady”
But God was watching over him…
“I had every demon in the world in me,” Damascus Way resident, Allan Howe*
Nearly forty years ago, Allan was living in a dark place. He was a mid-level drug dealer doing $25,000 to $50,000 deals. Even though Al was experienced and should have known when to walk away, his last exchange went tragically wrong. The sellers he was meeting with tried passing off “garbage” instead of the drugs he was supposed to pick up. Al’s accomplice grew angry. Fists flew, gunfire erupted, and when it was all over, three people lay dead. Allan was sent to prison – for life.
Al says there’s two kinds of prisoners: those who just give up mentally and become institutionalized; and those who don’t. While anticipating spending the rest of his life in prison, Al remembers thinking, “I’m not made for prison, I would rather have been executed than stay in prison.” But since Minnesota does not have the death penalty, he did what seemed to him to be the next logical thing – Al escaped during his first year.
While on the run, he decided to lay low at a friend’s house. That evening he turned on the television and saw his face flash across the screen with the caption ‘Serial Killer on the Loose’. Something happened in that moment. Some kind of reality sunk in that hadn’t been there before. Al says it’s hard to describe but the seriousness of his situation was staring him in the face.
As a SWAT team was closing in on his hide-out, Allan decided to surrender. He was put into solitary confinement for one year. And it was during this time, in segregation, isolated from human contact, that things finally began to change.
The Love of God Through MetaIn solitary, Al started getting letters in the mail from one “little old lady” as he refers to her, named Meta.
Meta’s words spoke to him as she wrote about God. Al says, “Although many people tried to engage me with letters, I ignored them all but there was something about this lady. I wrote her back, asked who she was, and why she was writing me.”
Amazingly, Meta had briefly encountered Allan before he was locked-up. While seeing his story unfold in the news, she remembered shooing him away years ago, from a park filled with children where he had been dealing drugs. Meta now told Allan that God had told her to write, a memory that is still so deeply emotional Al can barely speak of it,
“All my life I was told that if I didn’t change, bad things were going to happen to me. I would not take the advice of many. But along came a fragile, elderly woman and she changed my behavior and actually saved my life with the Word of God. It just goes to show the power and strength this elderly woman had as she walked with God. Thank you Meta for giving me a second chance on life.”
Meta and Al corresponded for decades before Meta passed away in 2000; writing about the Bible, Jesus, and God’s plan for his life. “Jesus showed me what it was to be a decent human being. To be compassionate, to be kind, to reach out to people if you see someone that’s not only hungry but hurting mentally. I got rid of the demons,” says Allan.
The shame he once felt for being labeled a “serial killer” no longer haunts him. “Because of Meta, I tried to commit my life to doing good. For the rest of my time in prison, I participated in every program available that allowed me to give back: The Scared Straight program speaking into the lives of youth, Restorative Justice programs which focus on victim healing. I even helped to train service dogs for the disabled while doing my time,” says Allan.
From Life in Prison to Damascus WayThirty-nine years after entering prison, Allan Howe was released.
In Minnesota, some life sentences become eligible for parole and Al may be a good example of why. But it has still been a long journey. “When it came time to go to Damascus Way, I didn’t have any idea about life here in the outside world,” says Al. “The electronics part is what I’m having trouble with, I’m not interested in all these gadgets on the phones.”
In spite of all the catching up he has to do, Al has transitioned into working a full-time job, is moving into permanent housing, and is trying to make peace with the new technology. When asked about what’s ahead for him, Al says he has some ideas but is not exactly sure yet. Just getting settled into his new home and hooking up his first computer might be enough for now but he says, “I don’t worry about my future because He has a plan for me. I just need to stay on God’s path.”
One last note, soon after arriving at Damascus Way, Allan went to visit his friend Meta. He bought some flowers, took some time, and paid his respects at her grave. He wanted to be near her and to thank this beautiful woman of God who had loved and understood a man who didn’t even understand himself. Although it was a rather one-sided conversation, he knows that soon enough they will see each other for only the second time in their lives – but this time it will be forever, in the presence of their Savior.
*Not his real name
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Damascus Way Reentry Center Serves Ex-Offenders, offering hope for freedom and change. The program is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Corrections and holds Supervised Release and Work Release Contracts.