Freed prison inmate who spent 30 years behind bars is made a pastor at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church

Saddleback Church

After more than three decades in prison, Danny Duchene is ready to start afresh, this time to play a role in the spiritual renewal at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest California where he will lead the Mercy Ministry for those who are behind bars.

Warren, bestselling author of the "The Purpose Driven Life", was instrumental in Duchene's release and his new role as he appointed the former inmate to his new position.

According to a report by CBN News, Duchene, who was meted a double life sentence at the age of 19 and was incarcerated for killing two men, said that he first encountered the pastor through the book.

When he read the book in 2003, he said that his life changed. Warren's second book "The Purpose Driven Church" also served as the inspiration for their establishment of the "Sierra Christian Center", a small nondenominational church at the California's Sierra Prison.

"In prison, I read Pastor Rick's bestseller Purpose Driven Life, and wrote to him. The prison soon started buzzing with cell groups to study the book. Inmates were baptised inside the prison campus. Saddleback's Celebrate Recovery programme began in the prison, and gave an opportunity to prisoners to have support to now do the right thing for the first time in their lives," he said

"At first, this Good News seemed over my head. It seemed unbelievable and too good to be true that God loved me and that He wanted to show me mercy after all I had done to hurt others. From growing up, I honestly didn't know how to trust," he confided.

With Warren's Saddleback Church supporting the Sierra Christian Center through the correctional recovery programme, the small ministry started to grow.

Sierra's example served as the inspiration for prisons across the country who followed suit and has been transforming inmates for the last 13 years.

"I trust him...and we are extremely grateful," Warren said during Duchene's commissioning ceremony. His trust and faith in Duchene was so great that he wrote a letter to the California governor and the parole board to facilitate his release so that Duchene could be hired as a pastor for the Saddleback Church.

Said Duchene: "You cannot be what God wants you to be on your own. You need support, you need a small group. I'm sure my life would have been very different if I had the support of a godly small group as a teenager."