Articles

Ricky Leonard

A high speed police chase disrupted the peace on a hot August night in Clearwater, Florida. The car being pursued came to a screeching halt and the young suspect jumped out blasting the police cruiser with buckshot.

After blasting the passenger side of the car, the suspect turned to flee. The next bullets fired were by the police officer hitting the young man square in the back of the head!

That young man was me, Ricky Leonard. The officer was using a .38 caliber, police special, with hollow-tip bullets. In his report, the officer stated his 4th or 5th shot struck me in the back of the head from about 30 feet away. Transported to Morton F. Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Dr. R, Clinton Pittman was the neurosurgeon on duty that evening, where I underwent surgery for over 7 hours. The doctor removed lead and bone fragments imbedded in my brain up to 3 inches deep! Later, the doctor told my mother, that "if" I recovered I would be paralyzed, have severe brain damage, grand mal epilepsy (characterized by violent seizures), loss of motor skills, balance and coordination. After I awoke from coma, all of these afflictions did exist, and much more. I could barely move or walk, the police had me under a 24-hour guard in the hospital. Twenty days later I was placed in a wheelchair and taken to the county jail. In January of 1975 I was sentenced to 30 years in prison; my release date was 2004!

While in the county jail I learned how to pull myself up and shuffle back and forth along the bars of my cell. The jail issued me a special type of crutches and shipped me off to the state prison. Medication was given to me for severe headaches, synthetic cocaine, synthetic morphine, plus 300 mg. of Dilantin with Phenobarbital, an anti-blood clotting agent, medication for asthma and more, (the doctor gave me that same medication for more than 4 years).

About six months later, at D.C.I. prison in Arcadia, Florida, a man came up to me who had become a Christian just a week before. He was overcome with his new found joy and greatly excited about how God had transformed his life. As I was trying to open my wall locker he grabbed me by the front of my shirt. He said that I needed to know the Lord as he did, and he wanted to take me to chapel on Sunday! I said, "Sure, ok, ok!" The way this guy came on so bold, I thought I was dead meat! What kind of crazy guy was this? On Sunday he came and took me to the prison chapel. Then, every time the doors of the church were opened he brought me to church! He did not give up. About 3 weeks later I had gone to a special bible study meeting, but only to get the homemade cookies! As we drooled over all those goodies, the chaplain said they would have a testimony time first. These men who lived their life for God, began to tell how they had been changed by the power of God. Their hatred, bitterness, hopelessness and fears were all removed by the transforming power of God when they invited Jesus into their heart. The Bible says," the Word of God is quick and powerful...". After several men told of their conversion, a strange thing happened. Before I realized what was going on, I was on my feet with tears in my eyes. I said, "Men, I don't know what this Jesus stuff is all about, but if He can change your life . . . I need Jesus." That night things began to turn around; a change began to take place on the inside of me, in my spirit.

There was such a hunger for God in me and a desire to know Him. As I prayed and talked with God everyday, the change became evident. Even with 30 years hanging over my head, and being without hope physically, I too had peace and joy. All my hatred and bitterness were gone!

Four and a half years later, while working as a Chaplains' assistant in Zephyrhills prison, God moved in my life in a phenomenal way. One evening two men met me as I was leaving the chapel. One said he had a vision of a crippled man being healed; the other had told him of me.  That day during lunch the man fasted and prayed, "Lord, is this the man you showed me in that vision?" The Lord said to him, "Yes, go and tell him I am going to heal him and that revival will break out here because of it."

"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities (sins); the chastisement of our well-being was upon Him; and with His stripes (wounds) we are healed."

At 4:50 p.m. on March 10, 1979 Lou told me what the Lord had spoken to him that day. He asked if I knew any Bible verses that promised my healing. I quoted Exodus 15:26, "for I am the Lord that heals you", and Isaiah 53:5, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." Also read Matthew 8:17; 1 Peter 2:24. According to St. Matthew 18:19 we agreed together in prayer. I prayed, "Lord I am sick of being sick, I am sick of taking pills, you foul spirit of epilepsy I bind you in Jesus' name,  get out! Father I believe that I am healed from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, In Jesus' name, Amen."

At 5:00 p.m. as I said "amen", the whistle sounded which is a call to return to our dorms. Each day I was the last one in the dorm due to my being crippled and physically wracked. But that day, I ran! I ran from the front of that prison to the rear, up the stairs of the dormitory and down the hall to my room. Healed! No more paralysis, brain damage, epilepsy. loss of equilibrium or asthma!

Not long after, I realized that a girl I had been writing to in Riverside, California, had fallen in love with me and I with her through the mail. In October of that year she came to Florida to visit me in prison. God confirmed that love to us on her visit. A few months later Mary O'Brien moved to Florida to be near the prison to visit me and pray me out of that place. The Lord intervened on my behalf; my sentence was changed from 30 years to 15, then it was reduced further! Then a third time while I was on a work release program in Tampa, Florida to just two weeks! One week before being released, as I was in prayer, the Lord said, "Ricky I want you to preach the gospel around the world and share your testimony".

The Lord released me in March of 1981. Mary and I were married in May. Today we have three great children, all serving the Lord. Mary and I are still very, very, very in love and happily married.

Since 1981 I have ministered as an Evangelist, traveling to dozens of countries with the "good news" of Jesus Christ. In 1983 and 1984 I was part of teams backpacking Bibles in Nepal, in the Himalayas. Since then God has blessed me to minister on almost every continent in the world! The Lord has opened doors of opportunity for me to appear on many national & International television programs, on radio, in churches, camp meetings, crusades, conventions, in prisons, Full Gospel Businessmen's meetings, Women's Aglow and so many more. Praise God!

I am ordained with Christ for the Nations in Dallas, Texas, and our ministry is based in Wilmington, N.C.

I am totally sold out to Jesus Christ! My desire is to please the Lord and never stop praising Him for what He has done. We have never had so much fun in all our lives! Every day is a new adventure. It is awesome serving Jesus!

Let me end here with this thought; Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and forever."  He never changes. He still loves you and has a awesome plan for your life!

What He has done for me, He will also do for you, and, even greater things than that.

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