VALPARAISO | Delwyn Gring is using music and a microphone to help change lives.
But before helping others, the first life he had to change was his own.
Gring, 52, likes to perform at 8 p.m. Thursday nights at Cornucopia Coffee Co., 210 Lincolnway, in Valparaiso to share his songs and life lessons as part of his music ministry. When able, he participates at the venue's Thursday Open Mic Night, where guests are allowed to perform sets of 15 minutes or less.
Gring, of Valparaiso, was convicted of armed robbery in 2007 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
"At that low point in my life, I struggled with an addiction to narcotic pain medications, and it was something that haunted me for about 30 years," he said.
"I was twice divorced, and it was serving my prison sentence that led me to a light at the end of the tunnel, which was finding my faith."
Gring said before he served time, he was "a man of faith," but describes himself as "a luke-warm Christian."
"While in prison, I found comfort in writing music, but was constantly struggling to write something meaningful," he said.
"You've heard of the term starving artist? Well, that was me before I decided to dedicate my life to serving God by music ministry and telling others about life's mistakes."
He still remembers his Indiana Department of Correction-assigned prison No. 935020.
"That number changed my life forever," he said.
After serving time in the Westville Correctional Facility, Gring was granted work release. He found his first job at Lambs Chapel in Galena, Ind., as a guitar player.
"I was on work release for one year and 9 months until June 26, 2011," he said.
"After a total of three years and four months, I could finally call myself a free man. I say it was my faith and music that helped set me free."
Gring performs with his band called Psalm of Sevens, and plays at Praise Tabernacle Church in LaPorte. In June, Gring celebrates his seven-year anniversary with his wife, Patty. The two were married for only six months when Gring was convicted, and she remained at his side.
"Patty is the best part of me," he said. "She sings background vocals in our band and supports the same passion for God and music."
His message to others is to look to the future, but also learn from the past, rather than trying to forget stumbles in life.
"Prison was a good thing, because it saved my life," he said.
"While sharing my message, it's not only from the coffeehouse stage in Valparaiso, but also via the Internet. I have a new music video called 'Greatful Del Gring' on YouTube. I want to be the proof that it is never too late to turn over a new leaf and begin life anew."