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Jonah33: A Modern Day Prodigal Son

By Jennifer E. Jones
CBNmusic Producer

CBN.comVince Linchlyter grew up as a simple kid in Seattle who loved Johnny Cash. Today, he fronts the Christian rock band Jonah33 and tours all over the country. Yet in between those bookends of his life is the story of a teenage runaway strung out on drugs.

So what made this seemingly happy kid leave home?

“I was busted by my dad when I was 13 for smoking pot. He told me, ‘[It's] gotta work like this. It’s my way or the highway...’ I tend to say [I left home because] I wanted drugs more than I wanted parents,” Vince tells CBNmusic. “An element of that is true but I’m not really sure what brought that desire about. I wasn’t addicted to them at the time. Maybe I was addicted to having fun…”

At 13, Vince ran away from home for the first time. He stayed with friends nearby. He tried to come back, but the fighting between him and his mother pushed him back out the door. The second time he left, he was gone for good.

“I had defiance for all authority,” Vince recalls. “Especially when I started getting into drugs, I despised authority. I think that got me into a lot of problems.”

Drugs became Vince’s way of life, and what started as drinking and smoking pot turned into dropping acid and doing crank. Vince found a home with different drug dealers, and their products kept him high for what seemed like years on end.

“Every crowd just got worse and worse,” he says. “As you grow up, your circle of friends change, and it’s supposed to get better. Mine got worse. I started hanging out with some really trashy people.”

Vince dropped in and out of his parents' house a few times over the course of his six years away. He describes himself then as a “punk” who stole from his parents to support his drug habit. He eventually went to court and got emancipated from his mother and father. “I burned all my bridges,” he says.

By the time he was 18, Vince was a full-blown drug addict. He says, “I was completely lost. I had no real grip on what life was.”

His rock bottom moment came in a small house where he lived with a crank dealer named Bobby. Vince was 19 years old, and he and Bobby had built up a successful drug-dealing business. But then one day...

"His drug dealer called up and blamed us for losing a lot of money. She said she was going to send somebody over to kill him and anybody who lived in his house. That would have been me.”

Bobby left Vince with a shotgun and some dope. Vince used the dope to stay high for two weeks straight.

“You stay up for two weeks, your mind starts to play tricks on you,” Vince says. “I became really suicidal. I turned the gun to my head three differen times in those two weeks. At this point I was completely alone, totally isolated.”

Vince found out his parents moved to Arkansas and found their number. The next thing he remembers is calling home and telling his father everything except for his attempts at suicide. His father was hesitatant at first.

Vince says, “I remember telling my Dad that I need to come home, and I was in a bad spot. He told me he would have to think about it and talk to his wife. I said, ‘What are you talking about. Your wife? Don’t you mean Mom?’ He stops for a second and says, ‘The fact is, Vince, you’ve abandonded our trust so many times. You’ve used us and walked on us. You’re supposed to be a man and be out on your own. We just don’t know if we can open up our home to somebody who’s just going to abuse our trust again.’ He said he’d call me back and let me know.

“I thought, if he calls back and says no, I’m going to blow my head off. Then I thought, Man, I’ve really screwed up here. For me to call my parents and tell them everything -- except for my life is in danger – and for them to say, ‘We have to think about it because of the way you’ve treated us in the past…' That was the first time I’d had remorse for any of the decisions I’d made.”

Vince’s parents called back and said yes. They bought him a round-trip ticket to fly back home for Christmas.

After weeks of being awake and high on crank, Vince’s return mostly involved getting one thing he desperately needed – sleep. “When we got to my parents house, I saw my mom for the first time in two years. I hugged her neck, put my stuff down, went into the guest bedroom and crashed for two or three days.”

It was peace at last, but Vince’s sleeping was more than just rest. During his first few days home, God performed a miracle in Vince’s body.

“A lot of people pay big, big money to go into rehab and detox. They have muscle spasms, and it’s real painful when they have migraines. When I crashed for those two or three days, God totally let me detox in my sleep,” Vince says. “When I woke up, my sheets were stained yellow. I had sweat all the toxins out of my body while I was asleep. From that point on, I never had another desire to do crank or acid again.”

God delivered Vince from not only drugs but the painful side effects of detoxing. After the restoration of his body, Vince was ready to find Jesus, and he saw his first glimpse of Christ in his parents.

“When I woke up, I took a shower. I walked out into the living room, and my dad was sitting in a chair reading the paper. He dipped the top of the paper down and said, ‘Morning. Your mom’s in the kitchen making breakfast.’

“I’m full on expecting at any minute for them to just ream me – to totally get on me for the lifestyle that I lived.

“I walk into the kitchen, and Mom says, ‘Hey, you want some breakfast?’ I say, “Yeah, that would be great.’ So we just chit-chatted. Dad joined in. There was absolutely no yelling, no fighting, no screaming. There never was ever. It never came back up.”

What Vince didn’t know at the time was that his parents had become Christians since moving to Arkansas. They wanted to show forgiveness to their prodigal son.

“That was the first time I met Jesus, and I didn’t know it but I recognized it,” Vince says. “You know that difference that Jesus makes in people’s life? It was so bold that I was freaked out.”

One day the daughter of his parents’ pastor invited Vince to a church function. That’s where he met youth pastor Rob. Rob grew up in a Christian home but his wife, Rhonda, had a different story that touched Vince’s heart.

“His wife grew up in the club scene in the ‘80s. She was on cocaine one night, and she saw demons come out of the speakers and morph into people’s bodies. She ran home and had her mom call the preacher. That’s how she got saved,” Vince recalls.

After hearing Rhonda’s testimony, Vince went over Rob’s house. That night he had a determination to figure out if this Christianity thing was for real.

“I told him, ‘All right, dude. You better throw some coffee on. We’re about to get down to some business. I got some questions.’ I went over to his house that night and from 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. I asked him every question in the book.”

Deep inside, Vince wanted to believe in Jesus Christ because of the change he’d seen in his parents. However, he kept up his guard with the youth pastor. “I just wanted to see if it was true. I told myself that I was going over there to prove this guy to be a liar. Obviously I was terribly mistaken.”

In the early morning hours, Vince gave in. Rob and Rhonda answered every one of his questions, and Vince heard the Holy Spirit through them.

“Next thing I know, I’m on my knees,” Vince says. “The cool thing was that Rob made me pray… I surrendered everything over. Ever since then it’s been a completely different story.”

Vince takes his testimony of divine deliverance and amazing grace to young people all across the globe with his band Jonah33. God also blessed him with a beautiful wife and four-year-old son.

No matter how far he’s come, Vince will never forget how God gave him a second chance.

“I was 21 when I gave my life to Christ,” Vince says. “Looking back through all the stuff that He brought me out of, it’s absolutely amazing the depth of His love for me. It’s astounding.”

Got comments? Drop me a line.

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