‘I was down, broken and messed right up’

Turnaround: Raymond Symonds was serving time behind bars for smuggling drugs into Bermuda. But after hearing the word of God and taking part in the Prison Fellowship Bermuda, he has turned his life around. Photo by Tamell Simons
By Nadia Arandjelovic
Five years ago, Raymond Symonds had lost his job and was desperate for money when he got lured into a spate of crime.
Some negative influences “dangled the carrot” of drug smuggling to him and he accepted it; bringing $500,000 worth of cocaine into the Island, concealed in shampoo bottles.
He was caught by Customs officers in March 2007; after coming off of an American Airlines flight from New York.
“I was messed right up. I was like ‘oh man I’m going to jail’,” Mr Symonds said of that time. “They gave me a bail [period] from March until October. That whole time I was nervous, messed up and broken and I remember praying and the Lord sent this woman to me.
“She was actually on the jury of the people that convicted me, but God led her to invite me to church.
“I went to church and got saved. I remember how much the pastor said ‘Jesus loves me and even if I mess up God will accept me as long as I trust in him’.”
A week after getting saved he began his ten year jail sentence; for which he served three years and six months behind bars.
Shortly after his arrival at Westgate Correctional Facility he learned of the spiritual counselling sessions offered by Prison Fellowship Bermuda (PFB).
Mr Symonds said: “It was easy for me to come out because I was hungry anyway, so when I found they had a ministry in jail I was eager to get involved because I wanted to stay in my path.
“I was down and broken and I was just messed right up, but I heard God’s voice and that led me to being saved.
“But I was still a babe [in Christ] so it was not like I knew everything. I was fresh. When I found out about the ministry that let me know this is where you are going to learn more.”
According to PFB Chairman Edward (Ice Water) Smith, the now 33-year-old didn’t miss any sessions and even encouraged others to come.
The spiritual guidance he was given “changed his life,” Mr Symonds said.
“When I needed encouragement, love and to hear about God’s word and learn more about it they were there. That was definitely my lowest point so I needed that.”
He said the church that he found God in before starting his jail sentence was also supportive throughout his jail term and welcomed him back “with open arms”.
“I have become part of the Ministry [at my church] and all these things because I stuck with it.” Many others in prison try to walk a straight path, but eventually fall off when they encounter challenges, he said.
“I said ‘I am sticking through it’. I grew spiritually. My faith grew and I just tried my best to obey God’s word overall. This is the outcome of all that and it’s still going on.”
He said he also ignored negative stereotypes suggesting he wouldn’t get a job or live a clean life. He has since found steady employment and remains an active member of the church community. “I just had faith,” he added.