PARRAMORE – Eddie Walker remembers reading the Bible for the first time, and suddenly experiencing an overwhelming feeling that God had reached out to him in that moment, and touched his soul.
“I heard God say, ‘Here’s your Bible, here’s your college,’ “ Walker recalled. “And I got to know God a lot better.”
Then came the day when he was listening to his chaplain preach to a crowd, and a huge storm hit the area. It proved to be a life-changing moment for Walker.
“On that particular day, it was storming,” he said. “We had one of those lightning storms, and the chaplain went to find out what was going on.”
Several people in the crowd, knowing Walker’s deep sense of faith, had already nicknamed him “Rev.” A couple of them, Walker said, turned to him in the chaplain’s absense.
“They said, ‘Come on, Rev, sing a song,’ “ he said. So he got up and did just that.
“The chaplain hadn’t come back yet, and they said, ‘Sing another,’ and I said ‘You will have me preaching soon,’ and they said ‘Go ahead and preach,’ ” he recalled. So he did, and the crowd responded very positively. Walker said he knew at that point he had found his calling in life.
“When the Holy Spirit turned me loose, I went and sat down,” he said.
But it was almost impossible at that moment for Walker to pursue his new chosen path, ministering the word of the Lord. On that day when he stood up and preached to a crowd for the first time, he was incarcerated. He spent five years in a Florida prison for drug trafficking, and the pastor he briefly replaced was the prison chaplain. Nevertheless, it was the moment that first started to change his life, for the better.
“I was in a county jail in Pensacola,” he recalled. “That’s when I read the whole Bible. I was asking myself, ‘Why do I keep getting caught up in jail?’ “ He turned to the Bible for answers.
That was a decade ago. Walker was released from prison in 2001, and today he’s the pastor of In Gods Time Tabernacle of Jesus Christ church at 436A S. Parramore Ave. in the Parramore section of downtown Orlando. It’s a position he’s held since 2005.
Walker said he believes God can lead a man away from a life of crime, or from dependence on drugs – and he knows this first hand. God led him away from both, he said, “by His power. Only by His power and His spirit does He lead you from addiction.”
It wasn’t an easy transition, though, and Pastor Walker said he knows it can be a long, bumby road with a lot of setbacks.
He first got arrested in Orlando in 1995 for the sale and delivery of drugs, and spent two months at the Orange County Jail. After he got out of the jail, he found a full-time job, but the lure of easy money from dealing proved too tempting.
“After I got back into selling, I got pretty big,” he said. “Before I knew it, I was the man, making all kinds of money again.”
He got arrested a second time, at the Checker’s Restaurant on John Young Parkway. He spent six months in a county jail before he was transferred to the River Junction Work Camp, a Florida Department of Corrections prison at Chattahoochee on the Panhandle.
“When I got out of prison in 2001, I walked the straight and narrow for about a year,” he said. “I was all right for a while, but then I went back to my old ways. I got caught up in drugs again.” He lost several jobs, although this time law enforcement never caught up with him.
“I didn’t get arrested,” he said. But when he had the opportunity to use cocaine again, “I just snorted it back up. Little did I know that it was part of God’s training for me, when I think I’ve got it all down. God showed me I was headed back to prison.”
That was when someone suggested he visit In Gods Time Tabernacle, which was providing meals to the needy. Visiting the church, he said, completely changed his life.
“Eventually God led me here,” he said of the church that’s been his home for the past five years. “I was sent up to this ministry to get some sweets, and I got addicted to coming to this ministry.
“It was just a calling,” he added. “God called me to do this.”
He knew ministering to lost souls was his calling. He remembers that day in prison when the crowd of fellow inmates urged him to get up and start preaching. The prison chaplain came back and heard him, and later pulled him aside, Walker noted, to comment on what he had just done.
“He said to me, ‘In my 70 years of ministering, I have never heard a sermon that good before,’ “ Walker said. “It was just anointing this thing on me that said ‘You have to do this.’ “
Walker became an ordained minister, and the church hired him. But it wasn’t easy at first. His congregation was meeting in the parking lot. Today the church space has chairs, pews, and a podium for Pastor Walker to preach from, all under a well-shaded tent. Back in 2005, though, there were no chairs for anyone to sit on. The church had no money for that.
“We used milk cartons,” he said. “We had banana boxes stacked up as my podium. There were times when I’d say, ‘Lord, I don’t know how I can do this, I need you to help me.’ There were times I wanted to quit … but the Lord said no.“
One thing that convinced Walker to stick with it, he said, was when a parishioner came over to him right after the service.
“He said, ‘Pastor Walker, I just lost my condominium, my family, my job, and everything, and the Lord said to me, ‘What little you have left, give it to a ministry,’ “ Walker said.
The man pulled out a bag, and handed it to Walker. It was filled with money.
“It was a little more than my rent that month,” Walker said. “That man paid my rent.”
He knew at that point that he was on a long journey with In Gods Time Tabernacle.
“By faithfullness, God started sending people to help me,” he said. “They stuck with me.“
He also hopes to care for other ex-felons who are trying so hard to turn their lives around, but need help from their neighbors, community, and from their extended family – the family under God, Walker said.
“Let’s look at the majority of people who are incarcerated, who are black, and the population in the United States is 20 percent black,” he said. “And you’ve got 70 percent black in prison. That in and of itself says something. Let’s go to the problem itself, and solve it. We can solve these problems.”
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