After relapsing from a faith-based recovery program, Brenton Winn broke into Central Baptist Church of Conway, Arkansas on February 28, 2019. He was high on methamphetamines and furious at God for his relapse into addiction when he started his rampage, destroying $100,000 of church property.
The 23-year-old shattered cameras, laptops, and anything else of value he could get his hands on. He didn’t even know anything about the church he had entered, but to Winn, any building that represented the God who let him down was a good place to take out his anger and desperation.
Though Winn grew up in a “God-fearing” home, he was troubled as a teen and turned to drugs as a coping mechanism at an early age.
“Before I knew it, I had a full-blown drug addiction,” said Winn. “From the time I was 16 until a few months ago, my life was nothing but chaos, suicide attempts and brokenness.”
But what started as one of the worst nights of his life was actually the turning point in God’s redemptive plan for Winn.
It all started when the senior pastor of Central Baptist, Don Chandler, decided to extend grace and forgiveness instead of judgment to the recovering addict.
“You can’t preach something for 50 years without practicing it, especially in front of your whole church,” said Chandler. “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.”
Though Winn was facing up to 20 years in jail for his crime, Chandler proposed to the prosecutor that he be offered the alternative to stay at Renewal Ranch. The 12-month program based on biblical principles seemed like a much more feasible way to help the 23-year-old, as what he really needed was a relationship with God.