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Originally published Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Pastor Mark Driscoll

Convict finds salvation in prison cell, becomes pastor and counselor

Every time I see Pastor Scotty West I marvel at the powerful grace of God. Scotty pastors This Side of the Rock church in Fortuna, Calif...

Special to The Seattle Times

Every time I see Pastor Scotty West I marvel at the powerful grace of God.

Scotty pastors This Side of the Rock church in Fortuna, Calif. Last week, I taught at a pastors' conference he was hosting which is, perhaps, the last thing anyone ever thought he'd be doing. Scotty spent his early years in California with his mother and stepfather. In his teens, he moved to Texas to live with his biological father. There, Scotty was introduced to the Ku Klux Klan and began a descent into criminal behavior.

He became actively involved in many forms of white supremacy and spent the ensuing years fighting, gambling, stealing, cooking drugs, doing drugs and recruiting young people to join him.

Scotty later moved back to California where he founded a white-supremacist group called the National Social Movement. Through crime, his young male followers made him rich.

Scotty ended up spending the better part of seven years in California prisons for crimes such as assault, battery, attempted murder, possession of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance, and burglary.

In prison Scotty began another white-supremacist gang that caused one of the biggest prison riots in California history. Many men were beaten and stabbed before the prison guards regained control.

Then one day, in 1998, Scotty found salvation.

He was in prison, facing a possible life sentence, when, Scotty says, Jesus came to his cell and told him to read the Gideon's Bible on the shelf.

Picking it up, Scotty found the words of Jesus in John 10:10:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

In that moment, God changed Scotty West's heart.

Scotty realized his life was a battleground between God and Satan. "Satan had been chumping me but that Jesus wanted to give me a new life," he says.

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Scotty got on his knees and asked Jesus to forgive his sins and fix his life.

Scotty immediately felt deep remorse for his life of sin and stopped using drugs, believing racist dogma and acting violently.

Shortly thereafter, Scotty's possible life sentence was miraculously reduced to 26 months. He spent most of that time reading the Bible and teaching a Bible study for as many as 50 inmates, many of whom became Christians.

After being released from prison Scotty started teaching a Bible study which quickly outgrew his apartment. So, the Bible study morphed into a church meeting under a tree in a city park until they were forced to move because they did not have a permit.

A few years later, the church now meets in a rented school with a few hundred people in attendance on Sundays, including people of African, Mexican, Japanese and Lebanese descent who are all deeply loved by their pastor.

Scotty first took drugs at the age of 7, but he has now been clean for nearly eight years. For him every day is another gift of sobriety and grace. Scotty is director and founder of four drug- and alcohol-recovery rehabilitation homes called the Cornerstone Recovery Project. There, more than 50 people including women and children are currently getting free of their addictions to drugs and alcohol.

Scotty still spends time in prison — as a chaplain — and he visits the local county jail and juvenile hall. He has also preached to inmates at Pelican Bay, which is among the roughest prisons in America.

Scotty's world used to be filled with drugs and guns. Today, it is filled with the glory of God; his ministry; his delightful wife, who helps lead worship at his church; and his young daughter.

The hero of Scotty's story is not Scotty. He was an admittedly terrible guy, but he has been transformed by the powerful grace of a loving God.

Pastor Mark Driscoll is founder of the nondenominational Mars Hill Church in Ballard. He and four other columnists — the Rev. Patrick J. Howell, Rabbi Mark S. Glickman, the Rev. Patricia L. Hunter and Aziz Junejo — take turns writing for the Faith & Values page. Readers may send feedback to faithpage@seattletimes.com

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