In his eighteenth year, Richie Cook’s life took a radical turn from the days growing up at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. During his freshman year at Texas Tech, he received word that his uncle, his mother’s twin, had died. Richie’s mom, dad and family dog took to the road the following day to be with out-of-town family members. While on the way, all three perished in a car wreck — and so did Richie’s faith in God.
“God took my entire family,” said Richie. Angry at God, he traded the life he had known for a party lifestyle. “I never grieved. Instead, I held it in,” he said. “Drugs numbed my pain.”
Richie finished college as a functioning addict, but his life was spiraling quickly out of control. “If it felt good, I did it,” he said. Buying and selling drugs became part of a cycle of using and getting clean. Even after a five-and-a-half-year break from drugs, he relapsed.
“I became suicidal,” said Richie. “I made a plan to kill myself on Christmas Eve 2011, but a childhood friend invited me to attend Celebration at Houston’s First. After attending that night, I changed my mind about dying.”
Richie went back to Dallas and was arrested on drug charges. Spending time in a jail cell was a turning point. Confined, and with no place to run, he was forced to face his demons — and to grieve his losses. In the cell, he spewed venom that eventually turned into repentance and confession. He was sentenced to three years and sent to the Carol Vance Unit in Fort Bend County, where he found God waiting to comfort him.
At the Vance Unit Richie met David and Kaye Trickett, founders of C.H.A.R.M. Prison Ministry. Richie knew enough about God to know that prison was right where he was supposed to be. “C.H.A.R.M. pours into the lives of men in prison who are hungry for something different in their lives,” said Richie. “With their encouragement, the person God created us to be emerges. We found that our pain has a purpose.”
The Holy Spirit began to “clean house” in Richie’s life and soon truth began replacing lies that he had believed. Music had always been important to Richie. Just prior to being released from prison, he heard the Houston’s First choir and orchestra when John Bolin took them and other church leaders to the Vance Unit to minister to the incarcerated men. After that experience, Richie knew he had to be part of a group like that.
[Watch video of the Choir & Orchestra's visit to the Vance Unit.]
Richie was released on the Monday before Easter this year. That week he visited the choir’s Rehearsal Hall on Wednesday and joined Houston’s First on Easter Sunday. “This is where I’m supposed to be,” said Richie. “I need to be with people who will walk this Christian life with me. I’ve found a new family and a place to belong.”
Visit the First|Worship page to discover how you can be a part of the Choir & Orchestra, Bands & Singers, Elevate Student Worship, or High 5 Kids' Choir.
Visit the C.H.A.R.M. Prison Ministry website to learn how they are sharing the love and truth of Jesus Christ with prisoners and their families.