during a Wednesday night service in September.Central Baptist Church/Baptist Press
Churchgoers were left praising God after a former drug addict was baptised at a church he broke into and vandalised just six months earlier.
Brenton Winn, 23, caused $100,000 worth of property damage at Central Baptist Church in Conway, Arkansas, and was arrested in February.
Winn is described to have destroyed everything in sight at the church when he broke in, smashing laptops, cameras and various other pieces of expensive electrical equipment used by the church. He also vandalised an area of the church with a racial slur, and set fire to the church's family centre.
Senior pastor of the church, Don Chandler, told KTHV: "I really don't know what would possess a person to do this — maybe anger with God, maybe we were just too near to him at a point in time when he decided to break in and do something."
It was revealed that at the time of the break-in, Winn was homeless and high on methamphetamines.
He has since admitted he was angry at God after he relapsed in his addiction to methamphetamines despite attending a faith-based addiction recovery program.
Following his arrest, Winn was facing a list of criminal charges, however, Pastor Chandler spoke to prosecutors and requested the man be shown grace and forgiveness rather than be judged or prosecuted.
Chandler told the Baptist Press: "You can't preach something for 50 years without practicing it, especially in front of your whole church. Had we not shown some grace to him, everything we've talked about and encouraged, would have gone by the wayside. It was simply the right thing to do.
"This was not a hardened criminal. This was a young man who had made some mistakes. He was on drugs and alcohol when he did what he did. But he was redeemable."
The judge took the pastor's request into account and opted to offer Winn a choice; to either spend the next 20 years in prison, or to voluntarily attend a 12-month rehab and recovery program operated by Renewal Ranch, which is a Christian-based ministry.
Winn embraced the opportunity awarded to him, and after spending time on the course, he came to accept Jesus Christ as his saviour and redeemer.
The young man has spoken of his wayward past, and even though he grew up in a Christian household, he came to struggle with drug addiction. He has said, "My life was nothing but chaos, suicide attempts and brokenness."
Six months after he had broken in and vandalised Central Baptist Church, Winn returned to be baptised and to dedicate his life to the Lord.
He has testified: "As I'm starting to understand how God works, I've realized I didn't pick the church that night. God picked me. If it had been any other church, I think I'd be sitting in prison right now.
"I used to think it was a coincidence [that I chose to break into the church that night], but now I call it confirmation that God is real, and He answers prayers. What was weighing on my heart was that I needed a relationship with Jesus Christ."