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The Extraordinary Journey of a Criminal to Freedom, May 17 2009
Ken Cooper is Co founder of Prisoners of Christ, Jacksonville Florida, and House of Hope, Gainesville, Florida. His ministry involves offering a short ' term care for prisoners with addiction problems.The Ken Cooper Ministry (KCPM) evangelism and discipleship teams share the good news of freedom through Jesus with thousands of men and women in prison. Cooper has been featured in numerous media outlets including Time, the Christian Science Monitor, Atlanta Journal-Consultation and the Associated Press. He and his wife June live in Jacksonville Florida.
What happen? Why a man who was handed a 99-year sentence will serve only three and a half years?
In 315 pages, comprise of 35 small chapters (average 5 pages each), Held Hostage: A Serial bank Robber's Road to Redemption is an extraordinary journey of man who lived a double life. Born near Sharples, West Virginia in a coal camp being somebody demanded breaking out of the mold, and that meant rebellion. As a child Ken Cooper was known as a rebellious child and always enjoyed imagining himself as a Jesse James, his rebel hero. By his 10th birthday he had become quite a 'man' who will not conform to family values and rules.
This spirit of rebellion eventually led him into a life of crime. The adrenaline in defying the rules was stronger than the fear of punishment and other consequences. Sneaking snacks at local stores first kicked in that adrenaline rush, which eventually stoked a shoplifting habit.
Despite his wayward ways, Cooper knew the way to get ahead was to do well in school, and by the time he reached high school. He was an honor student motivated to attend college. No one guessed that an inner darkness held his future captive and already threatened to destroy him. The turning point came at age 31 when both his wife and his father died. Angry, despondent and restless, he blamed God for his agony. Though he had managed to control the compulsion, at this point anger sank deep into the gut. The spirit of rebellion took over his life, and Ken Cooper began living out his childhood dream of a professional bank robber, Jesse James 'style-without the horse but always toting a six gun.
More than a journey of life, Held Hostage is an inductive story of fear, anger, hatred, and the tastes of quick and easy money. As matter of fact the starvation as a child created a desperate animal within him that shaped his perspective of and approach to life: the uncontrollable craving to repeat and enhance these 'adrenaline events', greater the risk the greater the impression of power and invincibility.
The man Cooper people respected as a caring husband, father, son and neighbor was, in reality, nothing more than a self-centered hypocrite and criminal. This will however come to a near tragic end. The bank robbery was over when a straight bullet from an officer slammed into him. Confronted with the reality of death, Cooper will finally realize that not his life but his sinful way he had been living in has come to an end. The second test on the horizon came on the day of reckoning. There he stood before the Judge to receive his sentence. The Judge ruled, 'Kenneth L. Cooper, I sentence you to serve ninety-nine years in the Florida State Prison System' and I retain the court's jurisdiction over you for one third of the sentence' (33 years!).
Crime does not pay. Criminal pursuits are extremely costly. From the hospital to prison, Ken Cooper will embrace another life he had never imagined: the absolute darkness of prison, the darkness of human heart, the horror and despair of prison life as well as the power of God's gentle love, and the power of his word to change a criminal mind. Without embellishment, Cooper openly shares the darkest moments in his life. Yet in these moments he finally meets God, becoming a bright light in a horrific prison system.
Mine is an advance reading copy. Perhaps more details will be added to the forth coming book in August, 2009. Be that as it may, this book is for every audience. I guess my long review will tell the joy I've had reading this breath taking story.
No matter what is one's thoughts and views on religion particularly Christianity, no reader will be able to put down this gripping memoir of transformation and God's grace. Those who have been in prison, who have suffered addictions, abuse, torment, intimidation and suffering, could identify themselves with the extraordinary story of Cooper. We are all hostages of something in life and reading this book with an open mind will help cure what many will think incurable. The story of Ken Cooper is a true personification of the word 'Redemption', a heavy price paid for the freedom of whoever believes.
It is also a challenge for those who are Christians to watch their attitude towards those who might not have the same views they hold, to share their faith, the unconditional love of God to sinners in a nonjudgmental attitude, more than through words. Moreover it is the challenge to governments to really step in and deal with the horror and corruption that are taking place in prisons.
Despite growing up in Christian home, marrying a Christian girl and attending church at times, Ken Cooper did not become a Christian in the true meaning of the term until he ended in a maximum security prison. During his bank robberies he took many hostages, but Ken Cooper himself was a hostage of his addictions, hostage to evil. God moves in mysterious ways and speaking of miracle this story is an example.
How Ken Cooper was released from prison in less than four years on a 99-year sentence will be yours to discover, to enjoy and perhaps to share.