Once a reputed and feared prison thug, Reggie Longcrier now carries a Bible and takes the love of God behind bars
There was a time when Reggie Longcrier’s prayer to God was that he would be faithful to serve Him for the rest of his life if God would deliver him from prison and his drug addiction.
“I said I’ll hold my foot in the door for anybody that will come through and have a mind and will to serve the Lord,” he recalls praying so often while incarcerated 14 years ago in North Carolina’s Catawba Correctional Center.
More than a decade later, Longcrier has kept his promise after his 14 years-to-life sentence was inexplicably reduced to a little more than a year. Today, Longcrier shows former inmates that a door of opportunity exists for them.
Inmates get another chance through Longcrier’s Exodus Homes and Exodus Missionary Outreach Center Church in Hickory, N.C., a community known for its furniture-outlet stores located about an hour northwest of Charlotte, N.C.
“The biggest challenge is having more people who have been in prison or have been where these guys have been and can emulate and model a transformed life, having had the Holy Spirit upon their lives,” said Longcrier, who formed both ministries in November 1998.
“When Moses commissioned the spies to go over in the land of Canaan and come back with a report, it was to let others know that it is good and that God has promised us the land. This is what ex-offenders can do…bring back a good report that you can make it, and you can take the land.”
Longcrier, 52, considers himself a prison “alumnus,” having spent most of his youth and adult life in and out of trouble. By the time he turned 11, he had served time in the youth reformatories in New Jersey, earning the reputation of a prison thug, and by the time he reached 30 he had served time in New Jersey’s most notorious maximum-
“I was real wild as a boy. I stayed in trouble in prison for busting people in the head. I was young and foolish. At that time life was cheap in prison. You’d only get seven more years if you killed somebody in prison,” he said. “You really didn’t think you’d get out alive.”
Longcrier’s opportunity for redemption started in 1986. After being convicted for swindling some people out of their life savings, he was facing a 14- years-to-life sentence to be served at North Carolina’s Catawba Correctional Center as a habitual offender. It was during this prison experience that Longcrier came to Christ.
“I just about asked God to take my life. He said, ‘No, I’m going to make you do something you’ve never done before.’ And that was to ask Him to help me.”
Having found true peace in his life, Longcrier began telling other inmates about Jesus. Things also began working in his favor.
Longcrier was assigned a new judge and prosecutor, respectively, to his case. They offered him a reduced sentence of two years because the money had been returned.
“They said this was [my] lucky day. As a result, I knew the Lord had moved in my life,” recalled Longcrier, who ironically serves as a full-time chaplain at Catawba Correctional Center. “In six months I was called to the programmer’s office and was told my term had been terminated without parole or supervision.”
Robert Schoffner, senior pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hickory, said it has been very inspiring to see someone like Longcrier succeed. “You hear stories about that, but few of us encounter and meet somebody, and it’s genuine, and they do something about it,” he said.
“That’s unique in Reggie’s case. It’s exciting to see how God’s Word grabbed hold of somebody. He’s a proud example of that.”
Longrcrier’s Exodus Homes comprise two renovated apartment complexes in Hickory’s inner city that provide 51 beds for former inmates and residents of treatment centers in the state. A resident’s average stay is six months to two years.
Church attendance is mandatory. Each resident who attends the Exodus Church receives a Bible and Sunday school book. The church currently meets in the chapel adjacent to Schoffner’s church.
Schoffner said the prevailing reason his congregation chose to support Exodus Church amid some concerns voiced by members was that there had been a call of God to explore outreach opportunities.
“It presented itself very forcefully to let this congregation come in and use the facilities–and it’s gone well,” said Schoffner, who oversees a 1,700-member congregation.