I had always been a good kid, but in high school my course changed drastically. I began drinking, doing drugs and partying. This lifestyle consumed me. After I graduated in 2004, I didn’t make it a month in college. By January of 2005 I found myself smoking meth in a rundown trailer with no heat or running water. Within a month, I was sitting in jail facing the rest of my life in prison.
My story really starts on February 10, 2005. A friend of mine and I were on our way home from committing armed robbery, and about two miles from our home we were pulled over for invalid license plates. By the end of February I was a complete mess. Sitting in jail, I realized my life was totally ruined and I had no hope of fixing it. The last week in February, thanks to some of the books I was reading and a pastor who ministered to us in jail, I surrendered my heart and will to Jesus Christ. Just a few months went by and my parents’ pastor got us some information about the Heartland Men’s Recovery Center. After weighing my options—a life in prison or 18 months at a recovery center—I decided to give Heartland a chance.
Heartland for me was a life changing experience. While going through the program, my court case was constantly hanging over my head. After I had surrendered myself to Christ, I had to learn what that meant in a practical way. In the 16 months I walked through the program, God showed me what it means to serve Him and love other people. Then, about one month before my program graduation, the bottom fell out for me. The court decided to bring me back to jail to do a pre-sentence evaluation. I was devastated! In my eyes that meant I was going to have to face up to my crime and do the time. BUT GOD! I only had to spend two more months in jail to complete the pre-sentence evaluation.
Then we went to court. The day of trial, Charlie Sharpe, my mother, my parents’ pastor, and the director of the Recovery Center got up to testify on my behalf. The deck was totally stacked against us; the decision was based upon my drug use and other areas of my life. Yet when Charlie took the stand he mentioned one major thing. The prosecutor asked Charlie, “What is different about this young man?” Charlie said, “He has had a heart change.” You could almost hear the prosecutor laugh. However, that is what set the tone for the rest of the day. At the close of all the testimonies, the judge got up to make his decision in his chambers and the prosecutor stopped and asked if he could make a comment. He stated, “Your Honor, in my time as a prosecutor I’ve sent many young men to prison. My view of prison has changed. It doesn’t help or rehabilitate anyone. Call it a heart change, call it a spiritual awakening, but something is different about this young man. It is seen by the testimonies given here today and I’m willing to give Mr. Dombrowski a chance.” The judge agreed and released me that same day.
I came back to Heartland. Since being released, I have graduated from Heartland Christian College and have married the love of my life. Right now God has me in an awesome place. God has taken my life and the mess that I had created and uses it to pour into people who came from my same background, or worse than mine. I have opportunities every day to encourage other men to make “heart changes” of their own, through the power of Jesus Christ.