A man who was wrongly convicted of murder and spent 24 years in a Missouri prison has embraced God and is now serving as an associate pastor in Kansas.
The 22,000-member Church of Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, hired Darryl Burton after he completed seminary last December, according to the Christian Post.
Burton grew up as a Baptist but stopped going to church when he was a teen as he became disillusioned with religion.
His grandmother told him, "One of these days, boy, you are going to need Jesus. I hope you remember to call on Him."
He remembered those words when he was serving his sentence after he was convicted in 1985 for murder for the 1984 shooting of Donald Ball at a gas station in St. Louis.
Burton said it took over 15 years in prison before he opened his heart to God.
"For the first 15 years or so I was just trying to do everything in my own abilities. Of course, I was really angry and upset and really frustrated about my situation and being wrongfully imprisoned," he said. "I said, 'Well, I have tried everything but God, what do I have to lose.' I just challenged Jesus — 'If you're real, show me. If you help me, I will serve you and tell the world about you.'"
He was found guilty based on the accounts of two prosecution witnesses who lied in their testimonies. Burton then wrote 700 letters to lawmakers, attorneys and activities who were known to helping wrongly convicted prisoners.
It was New Jersey-based Centurion Ministries, which takes cases of the wrongly convicted, who helped him in his eight-year legal battle that resulted in his conviction being reversed by a judge in 2008 as his trial was deemed constitutionally flawed.
Despite being in prison for more than two decades, Burton said he never blamed God.
"I think God used the situation the same way with Joseph when Joseph was thrown in the prison and treated by his brothers in a way that was not right. I never blamed God," he said.
Following his release from prison in 2008, he said it took him years before he realised that he was called to become a pastor.
"I tried to live without God before in my young life and now when I hear people talk about God, I am going to pay attention now. I said, 'Let me learn what pastors do' and I enrolled in seminary. I said, 'I am called to ministry and I better just obey God because not obeying God can really be costly,'" he said.
He started taking classes at St. Paul School of Theology in 2012 and graduated last December. He was then offered to be an associate pastor at the Church of Resurrection.
"Of course, I wanted to tell the world about God but only God could write up a script like this," Burton said.
His interest is prison ministry and re-entry ministries for the exonerated and youth.
"My role is just to be a humble servant and do whatever I am asked and whatever I am allowed to do," Burton said.