While in prison for murder, Raynard Dugger remembers the day he planned to commit suicide from in his cell like it was yesterday. He also remembers how the voice of God stopped him.
"My cell was rigged a certain way so that ... it would close, but won't lock. And then, when the officer made his last rounds, I was going to leave out and go hang myself. I had everything prepared. I was sitting on my bunk and I started just contemplating, seeing it in my head," Dugger recounted in a recent episode of Delafé Testimonies on YouTube.
"There was something inside [of me] that was not convinced. ... I just felt inside there has to be another way. I don't even know where that came from at the time. But, I promise, the moment I said that, I heard the voice of God in my cell [say], 'try me.'"
Years later, Dugger reflectc on where he has come from and how he believes God saved him.
Dugger shared his Christian testimony with Delafé Testimonies, a YouTube channel with a following of 171,000 subscribers that highlights powerful testimonies of Christ's followers. The channel is described as a "global project with a mission to save souls, build community and set people free" through sharing testimonies to Christ.
Dugger said if he could use two words to describe that time in his life before he found Christ, it would be: "not Jesus."
Dugger grew up in a crime-ridden Washington, D.C. neighborhood ironically called "Paradise." Although raised in a church-going family with both parents and two sisters, Dugger said he didn't know anything about Jesus and did not have "a desire for God [or] anything spiritual."
"We had struggles. My dad was the only one working. My mom [had hearing] complications. So she couldn't work a lot [or] get certain jobs," Dugger described of the time.
"In my house, nobody really cared for each other that much or showed that they did. It was always about my dad trying to survive, my mom trying to be content with her situation, my sisters trying to make it out here as females, and me, now I'm in the streets."
Dugger said he became a drug dealer at the age of 12, with "some of my friends' parents" being among his customers. He eventually recruited his friends to help.
"When you grow up in an environment that's kind of rocky and shaky, ... you want something you can call your own. You want something that nobody can take from you, that you can make for yourself and survive. So I thought that being a drug dealer, I would make a name for myself," Dugger detailed.
Early on, he started carrying a gun, sneaking the weapon into school.
"When you're carrying guns, you either get locked up with it, or you have to use it," Dugger said. "And in my case, there was a situation where I used it."
At age 22, Dugger shot someone to death.
"I look back now. I regret that situation with everything that I have in me. I see so many ways it could have went. But it happened. I understand now that everybody has a decision to make. You're not forced to do anything," Dugger said.
"In those times and in those moments, where you feel like I just have to do this, I wish somebody would have told me, 'no, you don't.'"
When Dugger stood in front of a judge to have his murder case evaluated, he felt called to take a plea deal, noting, "I told God that whatever I'm going to have to say, I'm just going, to tell the truth."
Dugger recalled the first day he was shut into the mechanical cell doors and realized he couldn't "pry this open" or "wiggle" his way out. Stuck behind bars, Dugger said he contemplated suicide to avoid a 20-year sentence, thinking that suicide was "how I could win."
"It made sense because I still wanted to be in control to the point where I was willing to take my own life just so I could still stay in control of my destiny," Dugger said.
Looking back, he finds it strange that he thought "winning was taking my life."
Moments before he was to attempt suicide, Dugger said he heard God's voice and suddenly began to think about other people, such as his then 2-year-old son.
"This was literally the first time I had ever decided to change my mind on something that I wanted to do," he explained, noting that he "heard the voice of God in my cell."
"And it wasn't like spooky or like the movies or like I had to look up or try to figure out where this voice is coming from. … I knew that it was God. … It was a knowing."
"This voice was so familiar. I just knew it. And it brought so much freedom and joy to me in that moment. [I remember] literally transitioning from crying to about to take my life to hearing God's voice and just immediately feeling loved."
Dugger went on to actively preach the Gospel while in jail, saying he was "on fire" for God.
Duggar said his sentence was later reduced by the grace of God, spending six years and eight months in prison before his release.
"Everyone at that time knew me for serving the Lord," he said. "They knew me for praising God. They knew me for being a witness for Jesus, even around the whole entire jail."
After jail, Duggar found a job, got married and had a child.
"Coming home, I realize its time to run for Jesus out here," he said. "I'm going to link up with people, going to link up with church, and we are going to be on fire for God. In prison, the reason God had his name spread throughout the jail using my life is because the fire of God that was in that place. ... People don't play about God in prison because that is really all you got."
Not everything was easy after Duggar's release from prison. He recalled times when he was turned down for jobs because of his criminal background, even though he was fasting and praying for employment.
"Now, living for the lord, I have been home six years," he said. "I have been home for more days than I was in, and God has continued to be faithful. I realize that when you are called by God and when He calls you, it don't matter what nobody got to say. It's His voice that matters. Sometimes I look back and think, 'Somebody lost their life so I could be saved.' I don't get that. But it's not really for me to get because I'm here, and it happened. I accept it. I pray for everyone that I have ever crossed paths with. But I know God called."
Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.