What You Believe

What you believe about God is the most important thing about you. 

In August 1996, Shawn Hagwood made a cross-country trip to visit a friend in Rochester, Minnesota.

One night, he and his friend accompanied a group of local guys to an apartment complex inhabited mostly by Somalian residents. They were headed there with baseball bats to settle a score with some of the residents for beating up one of their friends the night before.

When they arrived at the complex, things got out of control and a young Somalian kid from the apartments was seriously injured when someone in Shawn's group swung a baseball bat. 

Shawn never held a bat and was not the person who injured the kid. Still, when the authorities came knocking, the local guys Shawn had hung out with that night used him as an easy scapegoat, since he was from out of town.

When the police brought Shawn in for questioning a few days later, it would be his last day as a free man for the next eight years. After a short trial, the jury came back with the verdict: Guilty…

Shortly after entering prison life, Shawn got his first visitor -- one of the men from the jury. He thought maybe the man was there to help him get a new trial, but soon discovered he was simply there to be a friend. Though he initially put up a tough exterior, Shawn was happy to have company.

Shawn remembers, "He introduced himself as Dave Stensland, a clinical psychologist. He had driven four hours just to see me and to find out how I was doing. When he stood up to leave, I felt disappointed, but Dave promised to come again soon."

Dave began regular monthly visits. They talked about everything from Shawn's life goals after prison, to Dave's faith in God, to how Shawn could cope with the sometimes paralyzing stresses of prison life.

By far Dave's most important influence on Shawn was his faith. Shawn said, "He showed me the peace of someone who is close to God, but in everything he did and said he was gentle. Because he shared Christ's love with me consistently through the years, I began to open up more to the Lord.”

As Shawn studied the Bible with Dave, his life began to change. Through Dave's example and guidance, Shawn finally found peace and purpose. He prayed to receive Jesus Christ into his life.

In the summer of 2003, after seven years of monthly visits, Dave's wife Sandy called Shawn with the sudden and shocking news – Dave was dying of cancer. Shawn recalls, "Although I didn't want to live without Dave, I was so thankful that I had a chance to have him in my life for so long."

A few weeks later, Shawn called Dave to see how he was doing. Sandy told him he was just in time to say goodbye. Dave was so weak that Sandy had to hold the phone up to his ear. 

"He couldn't respond much, but I knew he could hear me," Shawn says. "I thanked him for everything that he had done and for being such a good friend to me. I told him, ‘I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for you.' And then we said goodbye."

A year later Shawn was released from prison three years early for good behavior, and Sandy Stensland was there to give him a big sendoff. With tears of happiness, she hugged him tightly. 

"Shawn, I know Dave would be so proud of you -- and I'm proud of you, too," she said. “Your life is going to be different now. Just remember that God has great things in store for you and He's giving you another chance."

Why did Dave go to see Shawn in prison?

Because of what he believed about God.

Why did Shawn's life change?

Because of what he believed about God.

Why could Dave face death with hope? 

Because of what he believed about God.

What you believe about God is the most important thing about you. 

Have a great day, and keep moving forward!

Suggested Bible Reading

Acts 17:22-32