Solitary confinement set inmate on road to Christ, theology

KATY?For six and a half years, Deric Torrent spent 23 hours a day in a cell with nothing but a collection of books, a radio, and a hot pot. He had one hour a day for a shower and recreation before returning to solitary confinement. In this cell, he lost years of his life, but he found Christ.

On Feb. 21, Torrent walked on stage to tell his unique story to the congregation of First Baptist Church of Katy in suburban Houston. Pastor Randy White decided to forgo the Sunday morning sermon. Instead, he used the time to ask Torrent questions about his life and his transformation.

“Deric has a vivid testimony that even in a jail cell, God changes lives?purely, completely, and dramatically like the apostle Paul.” White said. “He will probably be one of the most-used instruments in the church today.”

God radically transformed Torrent’s life. He transitioned from a prisoner in solitary confinement to a Criswell College student in a matter of months. His spiritual transition had taken a little longer.

Torrent grew up in Carrollton. Dealing with fights at home and struggles in school, he went looking for trouble. At age 12, he discovered marijuana. By his sophomore year, one high school had kicked him out for fighting and another for drug possession. He decided to drop out of school completely.

“That’s when I started getting into even more trouble,” he said. “A lot of my friends were gang members. One day they asked me why I wasn’t officially a member since I spent so much time with them. I said, ‘I don’t know.’ So I jumped in.”

Gang-related violence landed him in jail at age 17. He served 150 days before receiving parole. He failed two drug tests and violated house arrest 63 times. The court revoked his parole and sentenced him to 15 years.

The first two and a half years in prison, Torrent got involved in a “prison family.” “It’s not really a gang, but more of an organization, kind of like a mafia.”

Torrent attacked a member of a rival organization in the cafeteria. The prison’s gang intelligence officer placed him in solitary confinement for the remainder of his sentence.

“In solitary confinement God totally transformed his life,” Andrew Hebert, Criswell College director of enrollment services, said. “God gave him a new passion and desire to follow him.”

God began to reveal himself to Torrent and used the people in his life as tools to bring him to Christ.

“My dad sent me a study Bible, but I never used it,” Torrent said. “I just set it on my table and used it to hold up my radio. He sent me tracts and cards. He sent me one picture of Jesus holding up a sinner. That one struck me the most, so I kept it.”

One day Torrent read an article about a mother who lost her son to leukemia. The article highlighted her faith in letting her son go. Torrent couldn’t understand the woman’s response to her son’s death and her certainty that he would go to heaven. The story made Torrent think about his own faith.

He shared his thoughts with his neighbor. They discussed what they knew about the Bible.

“I asked him, ‘Do you think Jesus is real?’ He stopped and thought about it for a minute. Then he said, ‘yeah.’ And I said, ‘yeah, he’s real.’ Then I got on my knees. I’d never done that before. I knew what to pray. I knew the gospel; I had just never given myself to it. I felt like I needed to get on my knees and pray to God and confess my sins to him and tell him that I chose to follow him.”

After that prayer, Torrent’s life drastically changed. He began studying the Bible his dad had given him and gained an unquenchable desire to know more.

He said, “I wasn’t satisfied with a minimal understanding of the Scripture.” He devoted himself to biblical study.

He found a Christian Book Distributor catalog and built a theological library in his cell. Every chance he got, he wrote home, asking his family for a book from his wish list. He began with apologetics, afraid to get into anything too deep before he had built a strong foundation.

“At first I was really wary of theology. I knew there were so many different views and I didn’t want to study the wrong thing. I didn’t want to pick up a book by somebody really liberal and read his stuff and get taken away with it. God really led me in my stages of learning.”

His initial study grounded him and prepared him to think critically about what he read. He progressed to theology, textual criticism, and even began teaching himself Greek.

“He had systematic theology books,” Hebert said. “He got Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. He got a Greek New Testament and a Strong’s Concordance. He built this library and just started reading and getting grounded in his faith. So all he did for those remaining years of prison was study and read.”

As his biblical foundation grew, so did his library.

“I had a lot of apologetic references,” Torrent said. He loved apologetics because of its basis in logic. He followed Norman Geisler’s classic

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