Rolando Cisneros shot his first robbery victim when he was just nine years old. “I wanted respect, and I used the power of the gun to get it. My opinion was my gun.” he said.
Growing up was “pretty rough.” “My mother was an alcoholic. I had no father.” By the time he was nine, the streets of Houston were his home.
At age seven, his mom sent her kids to a local church “because we got fed a good meal.” Rolando remembered the stories about Jesus. “I believed everything that I heard of him, and I did accept him as my Lord and Savior at that time.” But without the proper guidance, Rolando continued down the “wrong route.”
A Teen in Prison
At seventeen, he tried to steal drugs from a dealer, which resulted in the man’s death and his first incarceration. Prior to that, Rolando met a girl who became the mother of his daughter. Little did he know that her mother would be the woman that he would call mom. “She became my mother, and has shown me unconditional love, regardless of everything.” She also kept his new daughter in his life.
Thirty days after his release, Rolando was back in prison for ten more years. Six months after that release, he landed a 25-year sentence, but later it was reduced. Twenty-nine of his 47 years have been spent behind bars.
“In prison,” Rolando said, “you are either the hunter, or the hunted.” His third time in prison, Rolando’s reputation preceded him and he was left alone. He had more time to study and learn, and not to fight to defend himself. In 2019 he attended a Malachi Dads class where the influence of those volunteers made a huge impact on his life, but the control issue still remained.
A Solitary Encounter
It was only after an unprovoked incident that landed him in solitary confinement that the Lord “really got my attention.” The week before, the wife of one of the Malachi Dad facilitators wrote this prayer about him: “Lord, you know this man is a good man and you know that he’s seeking you, so Lord, I’m asking you to shake him up, to do what you got to do for him because he needs you.”
When Rolando landed in solitary the following week he said, “I started crying. And I prayed. ‘Lord, please, I’m asking you,if you’re real, if you really are real, I need you to help me here. I need you to show me who you are in my life.’ Then I heard a voice say, ‘Hey, I got you.’ I looked up, and it was dark in the cell, but I saw his hand—vividly—and I stood up. That’s when I knew He was real.”
God was still pursuing Rolando, ever since that Sunday School class.
The next day the prison warden came to talk to Rolando, to hear his side of the story, and within a week, he was released from solitary confinement. He was paroled that same year.
Rolando had two boys from another relationship and even though they’ve never reconnected, he is at peace that they were raised by stepfathers that cared for them. The mother from his first relationship has allowed Rolando to reconcile with her and his daughter.
“I didn’t know how to be a dad because I didn’t have a dad. I didn’t know how to show love. Malachi Dads gave me the structure where, even now, I can be an awesome grandfather to my four grandchildren.”