BC inmate's redemption found through faith

Nathan Hendrix/Burnet Bulletin
Ron Johnson and Randy Wayne Johns start and end each of their meetings on Tuesdays with a prayer. Ron inspired Randy to make significant changes in his life, and now Randy tries to do the same for other inmates at the Burnet County Jail.





By Nathan Hendrix

Staff Writer

The Highlander

Everyone can be redeemed. This is the belief of one Burnet County inmate after he found his personal redemption through faith and self-reflection and now works to share that belief with other inmates.

Randy Wayne Johns, 46, is currently serving a five-year sentence for evading arrest with a vehicle and theft of up to $30,000, but relationships he never would have made outside of prison have helped him begin to turn his life around.

“I don't want to be locked up, but being here has opened a lot of doors for me,” he said.

The most pivotal relationship Randy made was with Ron Johnson.

Ron works with a group of men who visit the Burnet County Jail once a week for “prison ministry.” Ron has been making the voluntary visits on Tuesdays for more than year and said that Randy's reaction is unique.

“Everyone we talk to is receptive to the message because they know they're talking with another believer,” Ron said. “But no one has ever responded like Randy did.”

Randy got married at 15 years old to the mother of his three children. Everything was going exactly the way he planned. He was a licensed plumber, electrician and carpenter and worked on several prominent buildings in Austin and other places.

“I was on top; I had everything a grown man could possibly ever want,” he said. “I had a wife, kids, a house. I had it all.”

His father was a plumber and Randy said he learned everything he knows about maintenance and repair from him. When his father passed away, Randy not only lost his mentor, but he also lost sight of what he was living for.

“I was angry with the world; I was angry with myself,” he said. “I was a lost little boy in a big world. I never lost my faith in God, but I was angry with Him.”

Randy said he still gets angry at himself at times, but he no longer blames anyone else. He acknowledged that it was his own choices – not God's or another person's – that created the situation he finds himself in today. That's the first step to redemption, he said.

“Even though I'm locked up, I'm finally free of the bondage of all that,” he said. “No matter how far down you go, don't give up. You can come back.”

Randy took that first step after years of being angry. Prior to embracing prison ministry, he heard about His Joshua House, and he decided to write a letter to one of the directors, Norman Leftwich.

His Joshua House is a faith-based recovery facility for men “whose lives have been separated from God through addictive behaviors and destructive life choices.”

Through correspondence with Leftwich, Randy was introduced to Ron.

“I wrote a heartfelt letter. I don't know what inspired me to write it,” Randy said. “I met the guys the following Tuesday, and it's been amazing since that time.”

Even with the newfound support, Randy knew he had a long path to becoming a different person. He acknowledged he is embarrassed by the person he was just a short time ago. His most significant regret is the stress he put on his family.

“It's tough to live with [the kids] growing up without me in the home,” he said. “[My wife] had to do it by herself, and that gives me that much more respect for her.”

The crimes that Randy committed garnered attention from several media outlets. The coverage it received was enough to make him infamous when he arrived at the Burnet County Jail to begin his sentence. Johns admitted that at first he enjoyed the recognition.

“I was like a Robin Hood figure,” he said. “It made me feel like I was important.”

Now, he's recognized throughout the jailhouse for other reasons.

“Randy does an awful lot for the jail, as far as maintenance goes,” Ron said. “I've told them if he gets out, they're going to have to arrest three people just to replace the work he does.”

Through his work with Ron and the other prison ministers, Randy said he now feels important for the right reasons.

“The population here circulates,” he said. “When I first got here, I didn't know anyone, but they knew who I was. It's the same way now but on the opposite end of the spectrum. It's a positive thing.”

Johns is two years through his sentence and is eligible for parole in July, but he said he's taking it “one day at a time” rather than setting long-term goals. The only two things that he's determined to accomplish with his eventual freedom is reconnecting with his children and continuing to work with inmates.

Randy expressed his respect and gratitude to the staff at the Burnet County Jail for allowing him to meet with Ron and the other prison ministers and allowing him the opportunities to speak with the other inmates.

He said the real challenge begins when he is released. He said plenty of inmates turn to God while they're in prison, but they turn away once they're released. Randy strives to be one who doesn't.

“I want to be Ron one day,” he said. “I want to be someone else's Tuesday.”

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