“Thank God – I thank him for real” Curtis McDonald returns to home church after prison release

WATCH: Emotional Curtis McDonald returns to home church after prison release

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis man returned to his home church for the first time in 24 years after his release from prison.

President Donald Trump granted 70-year-old Curtis McDonald clemency last week and commuted the rest of his sentence.

McDonald told FOX13 he would go to church while he was in prison but because of COVID-19 he said hasn’t been to church in eight months and now his first service back is in the same church that prayed for his release.

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As he walked into the sanctuary of his brother’s church, McDonald said this moment is the miracle he prayed for over the last 20 years.

“I’m free at least, and I thank God that I’m free, free at last, Thank God! I thank President Trump - he set me free, that God touched his heart,” said McDonald.

McDonald was the only one of 16 suspects in the 1994 indictment of a drug ring who was still serving time in prison. He was convicted in 1996 and expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“Whole lot of folks didn’t make it but I wasn’t in that number, he saved me,” said McDonald. “Thank God, I thank him for real. Thank God.”

Inside First Baptist Church Bartlett Sunday morning the congregation celebrated this remarkable testimony.

Pastor Darryl McDonald, one of Curtis' brothers, dedicated the sermon to him and his good heart that stayed faithful for 24 years.

“That’s one of the biggest things you can learn from this situation and that’s God is real, and like my dad used to say, if you put your confidence in God you know he may not come when you want him too but he’s the only one who can be late and on time,” said Pastor McDonald.

Curtis McDonald said he was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this year while he was in prison.

His co-conspirator and Memphian, Alice Marie Johnson, was granted clemency by President Trump in 2018.

Members of First Baptist Church Bartlett also rallied around McDonald’s case on social media and held a march calling for his release in June.

There was also an online petition for his release with almost 10,000 signatures.