Daryl and I moved into a new home in the late 1970’s. Across the street lived a teenage boy named Bob Anderson. He came over one day while I was washing my car, because he had heard that I was in a band. He got me talking about the band, but then after a few minutes, he asked what I used to get high. I told him I used a ladder! He laughed, and then he asked his question again. It turned out that he already had quite a history with drugs. He had even been shot at over drugs and had lived quite a wild and tough life for such a young man. His parents, hoping to remove him and his brother from their past environment, had purchased a nice home in a new neighborhood in Camarillo. And here he was, already seeking out the bad stuff. Over the course of several weeks, I proceeded to share the Good News of Christ with Bob. Soon he started attending the Bible study that I had just begun teaching in the home of Chuck and Jill Diacono, who lived a couple of streets over.
God had used Daryl and me in the lives of Chuck and Jill, and as a result they had recently committed their lives to Christ. They asked if I would teach them in their home, and I consented. Then they invited their neighbors, Grant and Phyllis Witherspoon, to join us. Soon, all six of us were fully committed to Christ and growing together. Others started showing up, and in no time we had a living room packed every week with up to 40 people. Chuck and Jill were great hosts. They always made everyone feel welcome and they were good listeners. God was able to use them in a great way as they ministered to everyone who walked in their doors.
It wasn’t long after Bob Anderson started attending the Bible study until he gave his heart to Christ, choosing to start the journey of walking daily with Jesus. God had orchestrated the events of his life so that we could help him’ as he grew in Christ. Bob attended the Bible study regularly, and a few times he brought some of his old friends who would come to town to visit him from time to time. One such guy was Randy Chastain.
I didn’t know much about Randy, only that he seemed lost and confused. He attended just one Bible study. That night, the Witherspoons reached out to him. They invited Bob and Randy over for dinner the next day. As it turned out, I spent a good part of that next day with Randy. But until I received the attached letter, I had all but forgotten about the events of that week.
Ten years after the Bible study had ended and my family had moved out of that neighborhood, I received a letter from Randy. I didn’t even remember who he was until he mentioned the two of us driving a Porsche. Then I remembered that the day after that particular Bible study, Chuck had loaned me his red Porsche because my pick-up truck had to go in for service. I had offered to take Randy for a drive in Chuck’s car. It was when he mentioned the Porsche that I remembered that day and who Randy Chastain was.
I have included Randy’s letter from prison below. The amazing part about my getting the letter was that it came at a time when I was feeling really down about my own usefulness to the Kingdom of God. As I read the letter, I began to tear up. Since then, I have not wearied so much in doing God’s work.
This is a copy of a hand-written letter from Randy Chastain, received by Jim Rice on August 29, 1991.
Dear Mr. Rice:
I hope this letter finds you and your family at peace and in good health.
Before I begin, I’ll apologize for the numerous errors you will incur as you read this. My grammatical skills are poor at best.
My name is Randy Chastain. I am writing to you from the U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth. I’m also in the hole and have been in solitary confinement for about 150 days. I’m not real sure why I’m writing to you, other than the fact that you seem to be on my mind quite a bit. Or maybe it’s the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure.
I met you about 10 years ago while I spent a few days with Bobby Anderson. What I’ve been through since then is unbelievable!
Now, let me get back to why it is that I think about you. As I remember, we spent one day together. I rode around with you one day. We went all over. I think we were in a Porsche. I remember we were going down the freeway and the car stalled. We coasted off the freeway and parked. You tried to start the car a few times to no avail, then turned and said to me, “You know, I was just thinking to myself that I wish I had the time to just sit and talk with you. Isn’t it great how God has given me the time?” I thought to myself, “This guy is nuts!” There we were broken down off the freeway, and instead of worrying about the car, you were thanking God for making the car stall so we could talk. So, we sat there about 45 minutes and you told me about Jesus, and then you prayed for me. It seemed like you really cared. I was touched to say the least. I might add that at the time I was addicted to cocaine, and emotionally and spiritually dead. So when I say I was touched, that’s saying something! Anyway, after we prayed, we talked a little more and then you prayed again, thanking God for giving us this time to share. And you asked God to fix the car so you could get on with your business. Sure enough, the car started first try.
I’ll never forget that day so long as I live. I had never had anyone pray for me, nor had I ever talked with anyone who seemed so concerned for my salvation. I guess what you did was plant a seed. Then the next day Grant and Phyllis watered the seed. They showed me love that I felt unworthy to receive.
It’s unfortunate that the thorns in my life choked the seed and kept it from growing, but never killed it. I know this because I carried that seed for years.
Even though I turned into a notorious criminal and did, you name it, for drugs, I always had that seed with me, or a ray of hope.
To give you an idea of how far out I was, I’ve been arrested 31 times; went to prison; have escaped twice; and am now doing time for 33 bank robberies. I could go on and on. I’ve been shot at, stabbed, beat up, kidnapped, all behind drugs. I thought that life without drugs would not be worth living. Satan had me for real! Like I said, I could go on and on.
What I really want to tell you is that I am now a Christian. Even though I’ve made hundreds of thousands of dollars in crime, today I don’t have a dime. But I feel so rich! Today I’m sitting in solitary inside a maximum security penitentiary and I’ve never been so free! Praise God!!! If I live to see freedom again, I will have one heck of a testimony to share.
I’m sure God wants me to write to you. You would not believe how many times I’ve thought of you throughout the years. Well, Mr. Rice, that seed you planted years ago has finally started to grow. It now has good soil to grow in and is producing fruit every day. Thanks for caring. I’d love to hear from you. If you have time, drop me a line.
God bless you,
Randall Chastain 11382-198
PO. Box 1000
Leavenworth, KS 66048-1000
Taken from A View of God From My Rearview Mirror, by Jim Rice.
This has been Part 1 of the Randy Chastain Story. Continue reading Part 2, featuring a personal letter from Jim to Randy written February 2016.