By: Musu Bangura
March 21, 2019
Joshua Proby is a man of many dimensions. Coming from a background of pain, abuse, crime and resiliency, he finds himself in a position to lend a helping hand to those in need. Joshua has learned from his life that pain can make one passive instead of just angry. He has learned that adversity isn’t the end all when it comes to trying to make it in life. When he was in solitary confinement for 2 years, he only received one letter from the outside world. So, what did he do? He started writing his own letters; journals that started drawing a path to his freedom and destiny. He shares important points from his amazing journey with the Urban Sentinel.
MB: What is your definition of purpose?
JP: Being able to fulfill the need of someone else besides yourself. That’s what purpose is to me because I model the walk of Christ with what I do. So my purpose is to fulfill someone other than myself.
MB: Having to go to church with the same person that abused you…what was that like?
JP: At that time I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling. At that point I had been through so much pain that I thought it was just normal. So, by seeing that, I didn’t have a voice. But in hindsight I see how different people in my family had overcome so much, like my mother, who’s a minister now and my grandmother. People in my family only knew how to express themselves through pain, even when it came to showing love. So, I don’t fault them for that. These people were hurt and at the end of the day in order for me to be free, have focus and enjoy every single day, I had to realize what they were going through and let it go so that God’s destiny can manifest in me.
MB: Why have you chosen to tell your story?
JP: I’ve chosen to tell my story to first, release myself. I can’t help anyone become free if I haven’t been freed myself. So first, it’s for me to say “hey, you are worth something. You are peculiar.” Now that people see that I’ve made it over, it can only be encouraging to them vs. listening to someone who is still going through those things. My story allows me to be free, but most importantly, it allows others to be free as well. When I stand up and speak to people, they can walk away with something they can apply to their life. They can go from prison to peace. And it’s not just a story for me. It’s a way of life.
MB: After getting out from prison, what was life like, transitioning back into society?
JP: When I got out of prison, there was anxiety. But I was studying the word as well and I learned to re-center myself and not let the anxiety take over me. For example, I had a hard time dealing with large crowds – being around a lot of people at one time. Being imprisoned, you become so used to being isolated. When people would walk past me in public I would cling to my wife’s arm because I wasn’t accustomed to being around large groups. And while in prison, you hear a lot of oppressing things, like how people won’t accept you once you get out, no one will want to give you a job…all of those things were in my mind so in a way, I came out expecting those things to happen. I had to prepare myself for those types of reactions.
That’s why I didn’t hold back on sharing these experiences online. I share the positive and the negative and I think people appreciate that honesty. If I feel let down because I didn’t get approved for a loan or application, I would talk about it on Facebook. You will see it through my timeline how I’m honest, despite the book or speaking engagements. Facebook is a façade, but I chose to share my honesty on there.
Even when I go back to the prison to speak to the inmates, it is still challenging for me to hear some of the negative comments all over again. Speaking to imprisoned people is one of the hardest things to do because you’re speaking to a group of broken men. It’s not easy to gain respect from people who are locked up.
At the end of the day, when people see your strength to keep going, it does things to them. With all the negative comments I heard while imprisoned and when I got out, I kept writing. It was a form of therapy for me.
MB: With everything that you’ve been through, were you ever angry at God?
JP: I never got angry, I just set out to do what I wanted to do. I had this “I’ll do what I want to do” type attitude. So my first two years in prison were in solitary confinement. That whole time I only got one letter from my family. No phone calls, no windows. I only got to come out of that room for one hour a day. The only way I could tell it was night time was when the lights went out. In that room is where I learned to be still and know that God was God. I went through some things in that room. I thought I would never make it out of there, I was losing my mind and I thought the enemy would just destroy me in there through bitterness, resentment and frustration. I realized that was God dealing with me because at the point, I had no idea who I was. I prayed to Him to take everyone out of my life that meant no good and keep the people who meant good close to me. He took everybody out of my life. Everybody to where I had to be still and know that He was God.
MB: Having a spiritual advisor or leader is definitely important. What was special about the person who helped you?
JP: He gave me the platform to understand that it first starts with Christ. My grandfather was a minister, well-known in the Colorado Springs area. Meeting Pastor Barnes kind of reminded me of my grandfather; the impact he had was something because he was also imprisoned at some point. He stayed in contact with me after meeting me while I was imprisoned. I never saw that type of love from any other man in my life.
MB: What would you say to the young man who is out from prison and looking to re-establish himself?
JP: It’s not about the job, it’s about what you can create. Sure, you have to pay the bills and take care of things, but when you get caught up in chasing the job, you get caught up in the frustration and you may find yourself in the same situation again. When I got out, I took advantage of things that happened to me in prison. I got certified in welding, I used the classes they helped us take in prison and I built a solid network.
To those that are still locked up, focus not on the release date, but the point that allows you to be released before you are released. That’s very vital in order to sustain your freedom.
Joshua is getting ready to launch Peace4Poverty, an organization that helps individuals who have dealt with deprivation, neglect and other adverse situations. He is working to make his content a part of school curriculums. His 19th book, the 30-Day Journey from Prison to Spiritual Peace was released on March 14th.
Please note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
For information on Joshua and his work, visit his website here.