Saved from the pit

Sheila Raye Charles
Sheila Raye Charles, the daughter of legendary singer Ray Charles, says her father was amazing – but he couldn’t save her from a life that took her to federal prison. That took someone with more power.

Sheila was in her own pit of hell in a Texas when her life changed dramatically. Her journey to that point had included sexual abuse as a child, a 15-year crack cocaine addiction, losing custody of all five of her children and the depths of physical violence.

And her father couldn’t help her, Sheila Ray says. “He couldn’t even accept a collect call from me. When I was on the concrete floor of a federal prison cell, I called out to Jesus, and he saved me.”

With Jesus, Sheila found peace, joy, forgiveness and freedom from the pain of her past. But there was a problem: Jesus wanted Sheila to return to prison¾not as an inmate, but as someone bringing a lifesaving message.  “I didn’t want to go. I’d spent four years in prison just thinking about getting out and I didn’t want to go back. But the Lord told me, ‘I didn’t save you for you. I saved you for my glory.’”

So in 2007, Sheila used her talent as a singer/songwriter and her story about Jesus to bring hope to women behind bars.

“When we minister at prisons, we get to see God’s transforming power,” Sheila Ray says with obvious joy. “In Indianapolis we were ministering to some women who were so broken. They were 18 or 19 and in prison. One girl had been sexually molested by her brothers, her brother’s boyfriends, and her biological mother. Then the one man she trusted tried to rape her, and she fought back and ended up killing him.”

That young woman had been sentenced to life in prison. She had such a fear of being a woman that she had tried transforming herself into a man.  After Sheila shared her story at the prison, this woman told her, “I don’t want to live like a man anymore.”

“We prayed, and God’s Holy Spirit came upon her and she spoke in tongues. The Holy Spirit moved through the prison, and one lady there broke out into a spirit of laughter,” Sheila says.  That lady’s roommate heard the laughter and was astounded.  In six years, she had never seen her roommate smile, much less laugh.

“It doesn’t matter what pit of hell you are in,” Sheila says.  “God can pull you out.”

Sheila tells the complete story of how God saved her from a life of destruction in her biography, “Behind The Shades, the Sheila Jean Robinson Story.” To learn more about her ministry or order her book and CDs, visit

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalm 40:2

“He leads forth the prisoners with singing…” Psalm 68:6b

To share a story about how Jesus Christ has changed your life, e-mail God Tracks author Julie Holmquist at

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One Response to Saved from the pit

  1. Dawn says:

    What an amazing story!

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