March 11, 2003
MT. VERNON – Jesus told three parables in Luke 15. One was about a lost sheep, another about a lost coin and the third about a wayward son.
All we know about the prodigal son was that he was in the pig pen when he came to himself and decided to go home. The Bible doesn’t tell us how deep into sin he went or how "dirty" he became because of the pig pen.
That’s the story about the prodigal son.
And then there’s the story about the prodigal daughter.
It’s not in the Bible.
It comes out of southwest Missouri where Miranda Conway lives.
"Miranda Conway as she looks today and as she appeared in a Lawrence County Jail photo while immersed in the drug world in southwest Missouri. Miranda is now telling her story in Missouri Baptist churches across the state. Any church interested in having Miranda can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Conway, 26, now lives with her parents at Mt. Vernon. Her grandpa, Hu Conway, is director of missions for the Lawrence County Association. Meet her today and you would never guess that just a short time ago she was "wallowing" with the hogs.
Today, she’s a member of Halltown Baptist Church, located just off I-44 west of Springfield, and loves to tell others about Jesus and what He’s done in her life. The most noticeable sign from the past is a scar that runs down the left side of her face beside her nose.
But let’s go back a few months and meet the prodigal Miranda, the Miranda of the pig pen. Space will not permit the full story, so let’s examine a few snippets from the dark days of her life.
It started in the mid-1980s after the Conway family moved from Texas back home to Missouri. "I was already rebelling against my parents when we moved back," Conway remembers "I was active for God in Texas and was even selected as a statewide Acteens missions director.
"I moved out of the house when I was 17 and walked away from the call to be a missionary.
"I started hanging out with a bunch of people I shouldn’t have been with. I started doing a few drugs – actually, quite a few drugs. I started smoking cigarettes, drinking and got into some of the deeper stuff. When I was 19, I got pregnant and moved back home. But when my son was about a month old, I started partying again."
A few months later, Conway began experimenting with methamphetamines (meth) and moved in with a man 20 years her senior. Everybody called him "Snake." It was a drug-infested household, and Miranda ended up pregnant. Snake was the father.
Randy Conway, Miranda’s dad, still finds it hard to believe what happened to his daughter.
"Absolutely not," Randy said. "I never dreamed Miranda would get mixed up in all that. I can remember when she began to develop a personality that she was very charismatic and very sure of herself. She was very interested in the theater arts. I remember telling her that she could be anything she wanted to be.
"I was sure Miranda would be a go getter for the Lord. I knew God had his hand on her. But never in my wildest dreams did I think she would be in the big trouble she got into."
It was almost like Hell on earth for the Conways as Miranda went deeper and deeper into drugs.
"There were times when she was running off the meth that she wouldn’t go to bed for 30 days," Randy said. "Then she would come home, go to bed and not wake up for three days. I remember when Blaine (Miranda’s oldest son) got leukemia, she came home and stayed four days. She slept the first three, got up and was on the bus back to Snake."
Randy said Snake even broke his daughter’s nose on one occasion, but she insisted on going back to him again.
Miranda’s drug usage seemed to grow worse and worse. It was so bad that she began developing big sores on her body as the meth worked its way out of her system.
Miranda’s mom and dad kept her two boys most of the time during her drug years. But there came a time when she decided that she was going to take the two boys with her. The Conways decided they didn’t want their grandsons to be a part of the drug culture, so they went to court.
The deciding factor was to be a drug test for Miranda.
"She failed it big time," Randy said. "She went on a big drug binge, so we went to Branson for the weekend. When we came home we stopped by my wife’s folks. While we were there, Miranda stopped by. She was higher than a kite and hell-bent to take her boys.
"She picked up a yard ornament and threw it through a glass door. We had to tackle her and hold her down until the police came. She was searing, ranting and raving. While we were holding her down, she was blowing in our face like she was trying to blow a demon into us.
"I believe now that when a person like Miranda allows their mind to be taken over by a drug, it’s like opening the door for Satan to come in and take over."
The spring of 2000 marked Miranda’s sixth anniversary in the drug world. It is memorable for Miranda because that’s when "Snake" tried to kill himself with a huge overdose of pills. Events surrounding the suicide attempt almost cost Miranda her life.
"When the ambulance got there, they pumped charcoal into his stomach to force him to vomit," she said. "I remember seeing the ambulance rock from side to side because he was vomiting so violently."
It had been a nasty 24 hours for Miranda, but the days following would be worse.
"When I came home, he was so angry at me because I had called the ambulance. He said that was his way out of this mess. I was scared. Two days later he got mad again and scattered the guns all over the living room floor. It was 11:30 at night when he asked me to go pick up a bag of marijuana. He wanted to get high."
It was a road Miranda had driven many times.
"I remember heading home and approaching the two 90-degree curves that head around the river. I remember thinking that I had lost my home, my job, my kids and all that was left for me was to die. They said I was going at least 50 miles an hour, drove off the road and straight into a tree.
"My face exploded," she said. "My nose and mouth were hanging to the side of my face."
As badly as Miranda was hurt, her first thoughts were the drugs.
"There was a cell phone in the car. I called my boyfriend and told him to come down and take care of the drugs and paraphernalia … I looked in a mirror and my nose was gone. You could see my teeth as they went into my jawbone."
Miranda said she hadn’t prayed in five or six years but, on the ride to the hospital, she asked a girl in the ambulance to pray for her. X-rays revealed no broken bones, but it required 156 stitches in and around the mouth and nose area to put Miranda’s face back together.
"I didn’t recognize it at the time," Miranda said, "but it was a miracle."
During the healing process, Miranda’s urge for drugs didn’t vanish. "I was addicted to meth. I couldn’t hold a straw in my mouth to snort a line, but I couldn’t wait. Drugs had complete control of my life. I was willing to die for that stuff."
The drug usage escalated after she healed, but God was not finished in the process of bringing Miranda back.
"It was the summer of 2001," she said. "A young girl (Danielle), her boyfriend and her 9-month-old baby moved into the house next door. One night I heard my dogs barking in the yard and went out to see what it was. I heard the girl sobbing from her gut, and I knew something terrible was going on."
Miranda offered help, but Danielle refused.
"I tried to get her to come to my house, but she wouldn’t," Miranda said. "It wasn’t long before I heard them leave in their car. About an hour later, a young man was knocking on my door, knocking and yelling. ‘She’s dead, I think she’s dead.’
"She and her husband were fighting, she fell out of the car and a wheel ran over her head. Like me, her husband had to take care of the drugs before he called for help. By the time help arrived, Danielle had bled to death," Miranda said.
Miranda took it upon herself to find Danielle’s family. A call to a phone number in Florida located her father.
"I left a message on an answering machine. It wasn’t long before my phone was ringing. The man was sobbing. He told me he was her daddy and hadn’t seen Danielle for about six years," Miranda said.
"He went on to tell me that he received a letter from Danielle only the day before. He said his daughter was asking him to come and pick her up because she wasn’t going to live very long in this lifestyle."
God appeared to be speaking to Miranda through this incident. But she continued to rebel.
It was now nearing Christmas 2001.
"I was dying," she said. I had moved out of my boyfriend’s house and moved in with a friend. I saw my grandfather one day and he told me I needed to go to the hospital and be checked for hepatitis. My skin color was yellow, but it wasn’t jaundice. My liver was dying. The chemicals from the meth were eating my body from the inside out. I had open sores, and the meth was leaking out of them.
"It was Christmas and I asked Snake to come over and stay with me. I really thought I was dying, but I didn’t want to die alone like Danielle had to die. He came over but left sometime in the night after I fell asleep. It was about 3 in the morning when I woke up and he was gone."
What Miranda didn’t know when she woke was that her drug world was about to crash.
"Snake had gone to cook some meth, but the police caught him. The police had been watching him ever since my car wreck. They tried to arrest Snake, but he ran. He ran about 25 feet and dropped dead. His heart ruptured."
After hearing about Snake’s death, Miranda decided to go home.
"I went to mom and dad’s house. They said ‘You can’t live here,’" Miranda said. "I told them I had come home to get off drugs. I can understand now why they didn’t want me. I had spent time in jail for gun theft, assault, burglary … I was a scary person to have in the house.
"I remember dad telling me that if I was just wanting to have a change of address, he couldn’t help. But if I was looking for a change of heart, they were interested. I was so interested, but I was also angry. He gave me $75 when I left because he didn’t want me to sleep in the street.
"I used the money to buy some meth. With the $25 of $30 I had left, I went to Joplin and got a cheap motel room for the night. I was scared to death, but I knew I had to do something.
"I called dad from the motel room. It was 3 a.m. I told him I was ready to do whatever it takes to get off this stuff."
He drove her to Tulsa and put her on a flight to Grand Rapids, Mich., where she entered Teen Challenge, Miranda explained. Teen Challenge offers Jesus as the means to break the drug addiction. But three weeks was all Miranda could last at Teen Challenge. She left and returned to Mt. Vernon.
Miranda’s dad was ready to call it quits. But her mom suggested that she be given one more chance.
Covenant Baptist Church at Mt. Vernon was scheduled to take a mission trip to Mexico for one week. They agreed to let Miranda go.
It was in Mexico on a prayer walk that she came upon a cross along the path.
"When I saw that, I began to weep," Miranda said. "I thought about how He carried His cross and how He had made it all the way up to Calvary. I thought about how He was beaten, bloodied and hurting but finished what He set out to do.
"I fell on the ground and admitted to God that I was a bad mother, a drug addict and was living an immoral life style. I told Him that I was a piece of junk and couldn’t fix myself. I told Him that if He would forgive me and use me, I would give Him myself. It was then that I realized that all He ever wanted was me."
Miranda says the power of addiction was broken when she walked away from that cross. God broke the addiction and filled me with deliverance."
Since the trip to Mexico, Miranda has spoken to drug addicts in Hong Kong, on mainland China and in the Philippines.
Like an alcoholic, Miranda says she is still a drug addict.
"I just take it a day at a time," she said. "I know I can’t do it on my own, but Jesus has restored my hope, my joy and my faith. If somebody were to put some meth in front of me and say do it, I know my flesh probably would crawl. But I also know the Sprit is so big inside me that I could look at it and say ‘no.’"