My story is much like Denny Woodard’s (see other life stories). I, Eric Hendrickson, was living a very successful life, at least by worldly standards. At age 26, I was the Superintendent for the nation’s largest Design-Builder of Hospitals on the largest project the company had on the east coast. I had a good income and a loving wife, getting ready to start a family.
On December 22, 2005, I flew back to Kansas, from Pennsylvania, to enjoy Christmas vacation with my family and friends. After being up too long and drinking too much alcohol with friends, I decided to get behind the wheel. Tragically, I hit and killed a pedestrian jogging in the roadway and that pedestrian was the father of a friend of mine.
After the accident, I was dealing with depression. Prescribed anti-depression and sleep pills were doing little to ease the pain. After about one month, I decided to take the advice of my uncle and talk to a pastor who he knew that lived close to me in Pennsylvania. This pastor, Dave, warmly welcomed me and my wife into his home, counseled me, and became one of my best friends and advocates. Although church (mass) was a part of my childhood, it never was a meaningful part. As an adult, I attended church services on rare occasions. However, following the accident and meeting Pastor Dave, church became important to me. Approximately 6 months following the accident, I had an encounter with Jesus Christ that changed my life. I asked Jesus to take my life, that I was his. Instantly, there was a heavy load lifted off my shoulders, a sense of peace in my life. The Lord was preparing me for what was to come.
The court dealings were very difficult. The family that I had known from my childhood, my neighbors 1/2 mile to the north, were grieving the loss of their father. Wanting and needing to hear, “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” from me, the man who hit and killed their father, instead were forced to be in my presence in my court ordered silence. As time elapsed, resentment within the family was evident. Some members were even angry. Finally, at my sentencing, 10 months following the accident, I was able to address the family. How difficult and at the same time, relieving, it was to tell the family, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
I was sentenced to 32 months in prison. I spent the first 6 months in the Norton Correctional Facilities, aka – Norton Christian facility. Although I dreaded first going there because it was 6 hours from my wife, I found that God had wonderful things in store for me. I spent my days working in a Christian Ministry called Wheels for the World and my evenings at Christian callout services. Norton was great, but I felt led by God to join the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) program, now called the Brothers in Blue Reentry (BIB) program.
Transitioning from one facility to the next is one of the most difficult times in prison. Going from the nice facilities of Norton, to the max facility at Lansing (aka – Behind the Walls) was a drastic change. The facilities harsh reputation put my family on edge, to the point that they pleaded for me to leave. However, I was comforted by God’s presence and I knew that He had led me there.
I am grateful for the BIB program. Being a college educated man; I compare the BIB curriculum to attending college courses. We had Bible versed inmates and local volunteers leading Bible studies. We had a trained counselor who led us in the core curriculum, which included classes dealing with substance abuse, behavioral issues, and growing in Christ. Many of us would often joke that we were in seminary. Although we were joking, there is much truth to that. There were great Christian men in the program. Some of whom are my best friends today.
Today, now over three years out of prison, I am working in the same industry and at the same level I was prior to my imprisonment. Now, instead of living life for myself, I live it for Christ. I put Him first and I resolve to be the man he wants me to be. It is quite a paradigm shift from the “me first” life I used to live; my life now has purpose and focus. I know why I exist and where I will be when I breathe my last. There is no uncertainty as I have the blessed assurances of God as found in His Word.
I would like to conclude by telling of some instances where God was at work in my life, specifically with forgiveness. Prior to my accident, I cannot recall ever knowing anyone who had been in a DUI accident that resulted in death, whether a driver or the victim. Now my life has been overwhelmed with people who have had this tragic experience. First, while at Norton Correctional Facility I became good friends with a guy who let me know that he had lost a sister to a drunk driver. Then, while I was being trained to work at Wheels for the World, the guy who was training me told me about a brother he lost to a drunk driver. Furthermore, I met a guy who had been the driver in an accident that happened to be on the same day and in the same town of my accident. A few months after meeting this man, I became his cellmate. This was all in the first few months of my incarceration.
While at Lansing, I met Denny Woodard. Like I said in the introduction, Denny and I share a very similar story. After talking with Denny about the accident, I found out that his realtor was the brother of my victim. Wow, God works in mysterious ways! This brother was quick to forgive me. From the start, he let me know this through letters. When I got to the Lansing Correctional Facility, he started visiting me. He was able to talk another brother into coming and visiting with him. I have learned much about forgiveness, especially about asking for forgiveness and being forgiven.
For anyone reading this I hope you can see how God can work miraculously through our worst times and that it often takes complete brokenness for us to realize that we need Him. Hopefully, you already have Him in your heart and are living your life for Him. What a life it is to live! I have been forgiven, I have been set free! Thank you Jesus!