A disadvantaged childhood marred by drugs and alcohol set Josh Durrin on a path of destruction in his hometown of Vancouver, Washington, leading to stints of incarceration, divorce and hopelessness. But an encounter with God in a prison cell became the catalyst for an epic life change while still in his 30s.
“I rebelled at a really young age and ended up following my mother’s footsteps of substance abuse,” Durrin said. “I never met my dad, and her boyfriends weren’t good role models. Because the income we had was spent on drugs and alcohol, I grew up poor, wore hand-me-down clothes and caused a lot of problems because I was the kid nobody liked. This affected how I viewed life.”
Durrin had an older brother who was the “good kid” and a younger brother who came along when he was 9 years old, who then became his “job” to care for. Skipping school became a regular habit so that he could have free time without responsibility.
‘Really messed up’
“I first began drinking at 12 years old with older kids and I felt accepted,” Durrin stated. “I fell into that lifestyle and kept running. I then turned to drugs which led to some popularity and started to sell drugs at 16 so that I always had them for myself. People wanted to be around me.”
Durrin’s mother sent the boys to church on occasion to get them out of the house, but he never saw how he could fit into God’s plan. A few jobs in his late teens never lasted because of drug usage impaired his ability to function at work.
“I was really messed up,” Durrin said. “I went to school throughout high school but did not graduate and already had my first drug charge. My mom tried to be there but was addicted herself.”
During the summer Durrin’s mother worked in the ticket box for a carnival, and the family traveled throughout the Northwest during those months. Those experiences were also drug riddled, even as he worked in the game booths at the carnival. He one time consumed a large amount of drugs as he was being pursued by the police rather than be caught in possession once again, which led to the ICU in a medical induced coma.
“A possession charge got me probation, which I never got off of, as it was always extended by a lack of following through and with the cops always looking for me,” Durrin stated. “Half of the Vancouver police knew me by sight and name and I was always paranoid, which was a really low point in my life. I spent half of every year in jail due to charges and probation violations all during my 20s and early 30s.”
Durrin married his wife, whom he met at 15 years old, but their mutual addiction to drugs doomed their marriage and she initiated divorce proceedings during his second stint in prison.
“I wasn’t a good husband in any sense, and had always been in love with her, but didn’t know how to love her or myself,” Durrin said. “While sitting in my cell cut off from all my ‘friends’ and looking at divorce papers, I was just lost. I began reading the Bible and God told me he could make me whole. I knew I couldn’t continue that lifestyle or I would die by the time I was 40.”
After committing to a new life in Christ, Durrin began attending weekly prison church services, reading the Bible and praying. His 90-month sentence was reduced to 30 months due to good behavior.
“I felt prepared spiritually when I left,” Durrin said. “A friend I kept in touch with called me every week in prison and encouraged me by telling me about his church — Project Truth Community Church in Vancouver. He invited me and I went right after leaving prison and it was such a loving and welcoming experience. I knew I’d join after the first visit, and when Pastor (Marcus) Shambry mentioned membership class I went and started getting involved.”
Shambry noticed Durrin’s genuine love for God immediately and how infectious his love and gratitude were to those around him. Also supportive of Durrin were his former in-laws, who provided him housing when he completed his prison sentence. While his wife held him at arm’s length for an extended period, she began to see the changed man during time spent at her parents. The two eventually reunited in a changed marriage.
“It was around five or six years ago when Josh first stepped foot into Project Truth, and I have seen God do some pretty amazing things in Josh’s life over the years that I’ve had the privilege of being his pastor,” Shambry said. “God has changed his life from one of crime and drug addiction, restored his marriage and completely changed Josh’s life with the transforming power of the gospel.”
From an unchurched background, Durrin allowed leaders to disciple him in the faith. He began by helping reset the rented facility following services and becoming a faithful member and advocate for Project Truth. Soon he began bringing his friends and family to church while becoming a member of a home Bible study group and then leading the group. He has also helped host online campus services and lead men’s ministry.
“Pastor Shambry shares in a beautiful and amazing way,” Durrin noted. “I was encouraged by all the members and never felt sucked back into the old lifestyle. I still have friends in it and am able to share with them and some are open and some are not. God has used me in that aspect.”
“Josh has shown not only a heart for God but also a heart for God’s word,” Shambry said. “As a result he has exemplified an ability to communicate God’s word effectively and is in our elder training at Project Truth. We will be ordaining Josh as an elder in the near future. God has done such an amazing work in Josh over the last six years.”