On April 17th, Mary Kay Beard passed into the presence of the Lord. As a frequent speaker at events of The Gideons International, she shared the powerful testimony of how Jesus changed her life. And there’s no doubt her story will continue to inspire those who hear it.
As a notorious safecracker and bank robber, Mary was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list by the age of 27.
On September 22, 1972, the law caught up with Mary and she was arrested. While awaiting trial from her Alabama jail cell, she noticed one of the Bibles placed there by Gideons.
When Mary opened that Bible, she read the following passage:
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” – Ezekiel 36:26-27
Lying restless in her bunk in the middle of the night, Mary began reviewing her life. The memories were painful.
She had left home at the age of 15 after suffering a nervous breakdown brought about by her intense hatred of her alcoholic father. A few years later, she married a man she had only known for nine days. She later discovered he was a criminal and eventually she became one, too.
Reflecting on her poor choices while behind those prison bars, the passage from Ezekiel echoed in her mind.
Desperate and broken, Mary slid down from the metal bunk and onto the cold, cement floor. Kneeling she prayed, “Lord help me. I’ve made such a mess of everything. If your promise is true, and if You love me as John 3:16 says, then take my life and make it whatever You want it to be.”
Mary later recalled what happened after that prayer. “As tears streamed unchecked down my face, a flood of joy filled my whole being. I felt light, as though I’d been loosed from a mighty anchor.”
“Since becoming a child of God, I have learned that many people out there in the free world are prisoners in way that is worse than my confinement,” Mary wrote from her prison cell in 1978. “They’re prisoners of lust and greed, of drink and drugs, of hatred and selfishness, and of a thousand other things. They are slaves of their own passions, neither happy nor free. I know because I have been one.”
Mary’s experience behind bars also helped her to understand the loneliness of those in confinement. After she was released from prison, she founded the Angel Tree ministry to help prisoners and their families draw closer together by drawing them to Jesus. For more than 25 years, she served in ministry, reaching the lost by showing God’s love.
As we praise God for Mary Kay Beard’s testimony, our thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family.