Out of the Darkness


Out of the Darkness
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“I committed my first crime when I was 6 years old.”

As Doug Parrett recounted the story of his life, he made some startling remarks. It was evident that four decades of pain, abuse, and addiction had shaped his perspective of the world.

When Doug was 2, his father—under the influence of drugs—killed his mother. It was the first domino to fall in a dark series of events.

Following his mother’s death, Doug and his sisters spent the majority of their childhood bouncing from one foster home to the next. If he wasn’t already convinced that he was a “bad” kid who didn’t belong, others pitched in to drive the idea deeper into his soul. One woman invited Doug’s sister into her home, but she refused to take him. The woman, however, didn’t leave Doug without a reason: “You can’t stay with me because you’re too bad.”

Doug’s story was riddled with rejection. He eventually found acceptance among the members of a gang and some comfort in an assortment of drugs. A few visits to a juvenile detention center and a behavioral boot camp served as his primary high school experience.

On his 18th birthday, Doug was surprised, not by his friends at a restaurant with streamers, noisemakers, and cake, but by a group of officers, the sound of sirens, and a pair of cuffs. Unbeknownst to him, there was a warrant for his arrest. That would be the first of his many trips to jail.

“My record was already so dirty,” he said. “So, I went right back to the same stuff that I had been doing before.”

In detailing the difficult moments of his past, Doug was really just describing darkness. However, every sad and sobering chapter was leading up to his favorite section of his story, one that he won’t allow anyone who hears his story to miss: the Jesus part.

Growing up, Doug’s interaction with Christ and his exposure to church were limited. Nonetheless, even through the painful moments of his past, he sensed that Jesus was pursuing his heart. Doug recalled from his childhood several unique interactions with Jesus that provided an inexplicable peace for his soul.

“I’ve chased that feeling with every drug imaginable,” he said. “There’s nothing like it.”

This subtle sense of Jesus pursuing him laid the foundation for the not-so-subtle transformation that would begin in Doug’s lowest moment.

Having just been released from a 5-year stint in prison, Doug had no money, vehicle, job, or friends as he sat at Waterfront Park, nestled between the Ohio River and the Louisville skyline. He was assessing which bridge he could jump from to most easily end his life.

But as Doug pondered taking his life, he was about to experience a new beginning. He was met by a couple of random men who struck up a conversation about Jesus. They sat with Doug, listening and engaging, for a few hours. They did the same the following week, as well as the week after, eventually inviting him to their church.

“When I walked in, I could see how big it was, but it felt so intimate,” Doug said of his first visit to Southeast. “There was something spiritual about it. I don’t remember what Kyle (Idleman, Senior Pastor at Southeast) was talking about, but it felt like he was talking to me. It felt like he was looking right at me.”

In the following months, Doug discovered what true belonging looked like. Spending Christmas outside of prison for the first time in years, he wanted to buy gifts for his twin daughters—Amiah and Arianah—who lived with their mother, but he didn’t have the financial means. Doug asked the church for assistance and was connected with Ronnie Cordrey, the Men’s Ministry Leader at the Blankenbaker Campus. Not only did Doug receive help buying presents for his girls, but he encountered the loving heart, listening ears, and generous hands of Jesus.

“They’re not trying to just do me a favor,” he said.

Doug was met with a love that wouldn’t rest until he found full restoration. Ronnie rallied a group of men who raised the funds to buy Doug a vehicle, enabling him to more easily earn a job.

“This isn’t from me—I’m just a conduit—but I have the pleasure of handing you the keys,” Ronnie told Doug.

Witnessing the love of Jesus through His people has drawn Doug deeper into Christ-like community. For a man who dealt with rejection and lack of belonging throughout much of his life, he can easily rattle off a list of names of people he now considers friends and brothers.

Doug recently committed his life to Jesus, being baptized on Easter Sunday. The heartache of his past is now mirrored by the hope of his present. His addiction has turned to freedom, loneliness to belonging, and darkness to light.

“I’ve been in some really dark places, but I’ve been brought out of the darkness,” he said.

What makes Doug’s story so symmetrical? What provides the pivot point in his life? It’s the most important part and one he urges no one to miss.

“Don’t forget the Jesus part,” he said.