About 25 years ago, Larry Price's life hinged on one phone call.
With jailers looking on at the McDuffie County jail in Thomson, he used his call to the outside to reach a drug rehab counselor, the only man he knew living in the town.
Instead of the man, he got the man's parents. The couple drove to the jail to talk to him. Face to face, he wondered what was wrong with them - surely they had better things to do, he said. "But they came down there and visited me and told me about the Lord Jesus and they left me a little New Testament to read along with some other things. And they didn't stop coming."
It changed his life.
Mr. Price, an itinerant Bible teacher based in Orlando, Fla., has preached in Africa, Barbados, South America and the United States since he went into full-time ministry in 1980. He will be the guest speaker at 11:15 a.m. Sunday at nondenominational Bethany Chapel, 401 Milledge Road.
The story of his conversion was broadcast in September on Unshackled, a radio program produced by Chicago-based Pacific Garden Mission for 1,400 stations around the world. It is listed as No. 2,700 on Unshackled's online archives at www.unshackled.org.
He packs CDs or typed transcripts of his life story to give away to whomever asks. He tells parents with a troubled son or daughter that the Lord "can do it with your child just like he did it with me," said Mr. Price.
A life of public speaking or preaching never crossed his mind growing up in the 1960s, he said. "All we wanted to do was get high and party the rest of our life ... that was our highest ambition."
Living at home didn't suit him, so he ran away for months at a time. His mother flew to Atlanta more than once to bring him back to Jacksonville. "I could have done anything I'd wanted to do if I hadn't lived the life I did," he said. "But once I got wrapped up in that lifestyle that was all I wanted to do ... I had jobs but I messed up the opportunities."
He was a drug abuser who at times was a burglar, a thief and a drug dealer. He ended up in the state prison in Hardwick, Ga., south of Milledgeville.
Mr. Price signed up for an in-house drug rehabilitation program. As inmate head of the program, he had easier access to drugs in prison, he said. "I was still doing (drugs) while I was telling other people how to stop."
He was released to a halfway house and enrolled at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Ga. Partway into the semester, he was arrested in Thomson after he snatched money from a gas station till.
Sitting in a dark cell, he knew he couldn't run away any more and his thoughts turned to suicide. "If this is all life is about, if I have to go from one drunk to the next, one high to the next, one jail sentence to the next and I have to go to prison again - and there is nothing else - well, I might as well just end it all right here," he said.
The Lord had other plans - there was one more phone call to make - it was a divine appointment, he said.
Few of his friends followed his choice to live a life of faith. His six closest ones died from drug-related accidents or overdoses. With the police closing in, one friend holed up in a closet shot himself, Mr. Price said. "It was the first funeral I ever preached."
For more information, call 733-7127 or see Unshackled's Web site, www.unshackled.org.
Larry Price, a former inmate turned Bible teacher, will preach at 11:15 a.m. Sunday at nondenominational Bethany Chapel, 401 Milledge Road. For more information, call 733-7127.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.