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Fairfax County Adult Detention Center inmate Richard Han Kim, 25--currently serving time on multiple robbery and weapons charges--says he remembers the exact date he first felt the light of the Holy Spirit enter his body.

“It was Sept. 6, 2012 and I had been put into a holding cell for suicidal prisoners called S1,” he said. “I entered that dark room and saw only three things: a toilet, feces on the walls and a camera in the ceiling. It was humiliating.”

Kim said it was at that low point in his life that he pledged his loyalty to Jesus Christ and felt God’s spirit enter him and take over his life.

“I felt it and I said ‘I know you, Holy Spirit. I know you, and I pledge my loyalty to you. You know that in the past I gave my loyalty to the streets and to man, but from now on it will only be to you.’”

Kim said he later felt the true measure of God’s power in a Fairfax County courtroom when after a rousing speech on his own behalf, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Robert J. Smith sentenced him to a total of only eight years for his multiple combined charges. “I was originally looking at 16 charges and a potential 73 years in prison,” he said. “To receive only eight was nothing short of a miracle. I felt the Holy Spirit take over my tongue in that courtroom and people in there were crying. Afterwards a sheriff’s deputy led me out and said to me ‘If that wasn’t God in there, I don’t know what is.’”

After that experience, Kim decided he would not only pledge his loyalty to God, but spread the Supreme Being’s word to others.

On Wednesday, he and fellow Fairfax County Adult Detention Center inmate William Kistler, 54, received diplomas from the detention center’s first-ever college-level theology course.

“It is a one-year diploma for 30 hours of college-level coursework from Life Christian University,” said course instructor Dr. H. Pitts Evans, a pastor at the non-denominational Whole Word Fellowship church in Oakton. “Both these men graduated with honors, achieving 4.0 averages and are now a quarter of the way toward achieving a Bachelor of Biblical Studies degree in theology.”

Kistler, who still has six years to serve on a bank robbery charge, says the course changed his life.

“I gave my heart to God in 2005 but then I lapsed,” he said. “My three years here in jail, and specifically the year-and-a-half taking this course, have been the best and most productive of my life. The judicial system is set up to get people on the path to Heaven. Many people do not realize that man’s laws and God’s laws are not two different things. They are both set up as a way to guide you, and get you back on the right path to eternal life.”

Kistler too, said he plans on starting his own local ministry when his sentence is complete.

The detention center’s one-year academic diploma course began with 15 enrollees, which over a year and a half whittled down to four students who stuck with it, and graduated.

“It took us a year-and-a-half to complete what is designed as a one-year course because of the logistics of doing it in an incarcerated environment,” said Evans. “Every step of the process, from getting books approved and delivered, to getting the inmates access to computers, takes much more time than it would on the outside. And then of course there are the time constraints. The other two students who stuck through and completed the course, Thomas Kim and Michael Reusswig, have already been transferred to a state facility,” he said.

At the graduation ceremony Wednesday, Lt. Kevin Smith of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office gave praise to the inmates’ accomplishments. “I understand the hard work you have put into this,” said Smith, “And I appreciate where you will go from here.”

Bob Milne, the detention center’s chaplain, finished the graduation ceremony with a prayer.

“These men have received a pardon in Heaven although they still have some issues on Earth,” he said. “Dear Lord, may you continue to release in them a special anointment that they may teach others the word of the Lord.”

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com