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Changed Hearts, Changed Lives - The Daniel Crocker Story

By Chuck Colson You can hardly turn on the television these days without hearing the word repentance. It’s become, thanks to the Washington scandal, a hot topic. And pastors all over the country are being asked, "How do you know when someone is truly repentant?"

A few months ago, a Virginia man answered that question more eloquently than all the pastors combined.

On the surface, Daniel Crocker was the typical suburbanite. He had a wife and two kids and a good job as a warehouse manager. But Crocker had a dark secret: Nineteen years ago, he took the life of a Kansas woman named Tracy Fresquez.

Over the years, the burden of this secret became intolerable. Eventually, Daniel Crocker turned to God for forgiveness, became a Christian, became active in an evangelical church, and he and his family grew wonderfully in their faith. But he could not bring himself to tell the police about his terrible crime.

It was when Daniel began ministering to a prison inmate that he came under conviction. One day after Daniel returned home from a prison visit, he prayed with his wife, Nicolette.

Daniel then began planning how to go about surrendering to the authorities. For assistance, he turned to the Rev. Al Lawrence, a Prison Fellowship staff member and assistant pastor of a local church. Lawrence is an ex-offender himself, and he counseled Crocker and helped prepare him for prison life.

Lawrence told the Washington Post why Crocker was taking this extraordinary step: "(Crocker’s) faith," he said, "told him he had to deal with that part of his life that he’s been skirting over the years."

For Crocker, the hardest part was telling his children, nine-year-old Isaac and eight-year old Analiese, why he had to leave them. As the children tearfully begged him not to go, Crocker, himself in tears told them: "I have to do this. I’d be a hypocrite if I raised you by the Word of God and I didn’t (turn myself in)."

So last week Crocker boarded a plane for Kansas, where he was met by startled prosecutors and charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutor Paul Morrison says that while Crocker will receive credit for turning himself in, "he also did a horrible thing" for which he ought to be held accountable.

The apostle Paul writes that "godly sorrow leads to salvation and brings no regret." By contrast there’s "worldly sorrow": grief over being caught, not over having sinned. Paul warns that this kind of sorrow "produces death."

The Crockers’ remarkable story is a timely lesson in what it means to repent. The kind of repentance Paul describes produces changed hearts and changed lives. It doesn’t ask, "what can I get away with?" but rather "how do I make things right?" I talked with Nicolette, and her faith is rock-solid. She will hold that family together while Daniel’s away.

But they need our prayers and support.

You might want to share this extraordinary story with your neighbors. At a time when words no longer seem to mean what they used to, the Daniel Crocker story will help people understand the difference between bogus repentance and the real thing.