Tag Archives: gangs

Jesus helped addict kick meth, drive away gnarly hairy demons

img_7467After his father succumbed to cancer, David Silva Jr. was “eaten up with guilt” because he hadn’t been there for his dad through the chemotherapy and hospitalizations.

So he tried to commit suicide. When his girlfriend left, he tied a noose around his neck, fastened it to the bar in a closet, took a bunch of pills and let himself fall.

But his girlfriend came back in suddenly and rescued him, marking the beginning of David’s turnaround from meth abuser to Christ follower, now 31-years-old. Nearly half his life had been consumed by addiction.

“I never thought it would be so easy for me to quit. It had to have been God. I didn’t have no withdrawals or anything,” says David, who hasn’t been sober for a year yet. “I felt I was on fire for Jesus.”

the day the meth addict came homeDavid first got into trouble because of the kids he was hanging with in Pacoima where he grew up. They took drugs, so he eventually tried them in the 10th grade. Very quickly he transitioned from marijuana to crystal meth.

“I’ve always been upity up. So I liked meth because the feeling you get is you’re alert. It’s a stimulant, but eventually you start losing control of your own mind,” David says. “Because of the lack of sleep you start hallucinating, hearing things and seeing things. When you open your mind up to that much evil, you’re actually seeing things that are actually there.”

David did construction work with his dad, but since the two of them argued constantly on the job site, he eventually left home. He “screwed up” some really good employments because of his drug use.

“Me and my dad had a big blowout,” he says. “We always bumped heads. We had a really bad relationship on the job site. We always wanted to be in control. We had ups and downs. We had a love-hate relationship with me.”

He was sleeping in his truck but eventually found favor with a drug dealer to sleep on his couch. Fixing a car for a friend of his dealer, he met the girl who would become his girlfriend. He fell asleep on the patio at a barbecue at her house and just stayed there.

church camping tripHe would do handyman jobs and install security systems and cameras and home entertainment units. Sometimes, he would be at police officer’s houses installing systems — and he would be high while he was doing it.

By many accounts, methamphetamines are second only to opioids in popularity on the mean streets of America. The drug triggers a jolting release of dopamine, the happy hormone. Users go for days without sleeping or eating as the drug becomes their single focus in life. David stuffed toilet paper in his cheeks for his driver’s license photo so he wouldn’t look so gaunt.

“You can do $300 of meth and it won’t hit you because your body is so exhausted. They call it the burn out,” David says. “No matter what amount of meth you do, it won’t hit you.”

Towards the end, David starting hanging out in underground casinos, “getting involved in some really heavy things, with some really gnarly gang members who were notorious” in the criminal world, he says. “I was involved in all kinds of illegal activities.”

Meanwhile his mom and dad were praying for him. Even when he was high, he would remember God and even talk to other users about God.

meth addict freed by jesus“God had purpose for me,” he says. “Smoking with 20 guys I was still talking about God and get into debates about good and evil. I would wonder how I could debate about God while I was high. God never leaves us.”

David’s parents hadn’t heard from him in nine months when his dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Mom was afraid to tell her son the complete diagnosis for fear it might make him spin out of control with the drugs, but she sent word that dad was in the hospital through some friends.

David came home and made peace with his father. Eventually he found out he was dying of cancer, and he began to spin out of control.

“I lost it. I started using drugs really really badly, even worse than before,” he says. “I became reckless. I didn’t care.”

When his dad was in the hospital for the last time with liquids oozing out of his mouth and nose, David was there to help.

“I love you,” he told his father, who stared back with eyes of fear, unable to speak himself.

“It was too late,” David says. “It ate me up so bad. I was afraid he didn’t hear me when I told him I love you. We didn’t really make that peace. The guilt was so much. I wasn’t there for my dad like I should’ve been. I was too busy getting high. I got in a really dark place, and I lost sense of everything.”

Two days after his father (a born-again) Christian died, David was overcome with guilt and grief and tried to commit suicide but was interrupted by his girlfriend.

With no sense of closure or peace, David threw himself into rabid drug use with a fury. This time, not even his girlfriend knew where he was, in a tent underneath an overpass bridge. He dropped from 188 to 140 pounds when an acquaintance brought him a message.

“Finally one of my friends came looking for me and said, ‘Dude, your mom is really worried about you she wants you to come home,” he recalls.

He agreed to go with mom to church where he met a fellow former user, Eric, who encouraged him in God. Especially important was that Eric told David his father was proud of him. That made him feel good, but also guilty because he wasn’t living a life to be proud of. So he decided to give it a try.

And then came the radical change in his life: a church camping trip.

It’s funny how the church has advanced to streamed sermons, devotional apps and seeker-friendly sermons, but the old methodology for Christian camping is still one of the most powerful discipleship tools.

David went to the Sequoia National Forest. He had always loved camping, and he made himself useful helping set up tents and doing most of the cooking. He led hikes into the mountains and helped chop wood for the campfires. He fellowshipped with Eric and grew strong in the camaraderie.

But it was the last night that broke his heart and solidified his decision to serve Jesus. At a campfire his younger brother Elijah publicly thanked God for giving him back his older brother.

“I’m sorry for being a screw up all those years,” David responded through tears.

When Moses came down Mount Sinai, his face glowed from the glory of God. Something similar happened to David.

“After the camping trip, I felt I was on fire for Jesus,” he says. “Just having my family back. Just knowing that I was doing something that my dad wanted for me. Just knowing that I was doing something that would make him feel proud of me.”

He kicked meth.

He didn’t suffer the usual physical symptoms of withdrawal. But at night, he saw demons. This was strange to him because he’d never hallucinated while taking meth. It was when he quit meth that he saw the fiendish beings mocking him at night.

“I couldn’t sleep. I’d be afraid to fall asleep because I was afraid I would see more demons. They were imps,” David says. “It was like an out of body experience, like I was watching myself sleeping, and these gnarly hairy creatures, imps with lots of teeth, were moving around harassing my brother as if they were saying, ‘If we can’t have you, we’re going to take your brother.’” Read the rest of the story about meth addict freed by Jesus.

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Panhypopituitarism led to low self esteem and homosexuality, then Jesus got involved

panhypopituitarismWhen Ricardo Hernandez was in high school, he had the body, face and brain of an eight-year-old, but he never got bullied because his older brothers were in gangs, and they watched out for him.

Born with panhypopituitarism, which causes reduced secretions of most or all of the pituitary hormones, doctors didn’t think he would survive past infancy. Miraculously, he lived. But because his brain was behind his classmates, he failed all his classes. Lacking a special education program to help him, the teachers passed him along to the next grade. Also, Ricardo was tired all the time, a result of the syndrome.

Once at the end-of-lunch bell, a kid hurrying off to class bumped into him and knocked him down with all his books. Almost instantly, a bunch of gang bangers jumped him and started beating him up. Ricardo, knowing it was an accident, tried to call off his brothers’ fellow gang members to no avail. “They told me to get to class,” he said.

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Ricardo is 14 in this photo

In the 11th grade, his high school counselor finally put an end to the free ride and halted his graduation, suggesting he seek an independent study program. (Ricardo enrolled in continuing education later, when his body and brain caught up, and received his high school diploma as an adult.)

He had two major challenges: a slowly developing brain and chronic fatigue, which kept him from working. With not much to do but lay around most of the day, Ricardo became the object of unwanted advances by a cousin who was gay. Slowly but surely, he seduced Ricardo.

“I was very susceptible. I was very depressed. I had no self esteem,” Ricardo said. “I was also sexually abused by my oldest brother. He was homophobe but yet he did this act. Once I started, I went from being non-sexual to like going on a rampage. I was 21-years-old, but my mental age was 13 or 14-years-old.”

Ricardo started a relationship with a neighborhood boy that lasted for two years. Kicked out by his mother for adopting the homosexual lifestyle, he rented government-sponsored housing in Pacoima with his brothers-in-law.

freed from homosexualityRicardo entered the gay lifestyle for about 13 years. Then his mother died in 2012.

“When my mother passed away, it totally destroyed what little foundation I had, and I fell into deep, deep, deep depression. I was already depressed. It got me more into wanting to end my life. I was already contemplating suicide, but after my mother’s death, it was like, ‘What’s taking so long. Get it over with already. Take courage and do it.'”

Fear always held him back — even though once he took a whole bottle of pills to no effect. The cousin who had induced him into homosexuality was abusing drugs and attempting suicide.

“I saw how the family got around him. I thought to myself, if I attempt a suicide and fail and my entire family knows that I tried to end my life, one they’ll probably make fun of me, two they’ll hover over me. I didn’t want to feel that scenario. Waking up after an attempted suicide in my mind was the worst. It would be embarrassing.”

Then near Mother’s Day in 2015, a friend came to visit that had been heavily involved in lesbianism and Heavy Metal.

She knocked on his door with a Bible in her hand, proclaiming Jesus Christ!

“Wait a minute…who are you?” Ricardo asked, incredulously.

She said she had visited a church and during the song service, God spoke to her and she started weeping. From that day, she changed. She surrendered to Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and found real joy.

Ricardo, however, got furious because he felt like she turned her back on him.

“I told her off and she took it like a champ.”

His friend stopped wearing black, changed her Mohawk hairstyle, and got married. She and her husband prayed for Ricardo and continued to visit him.

“She became a professing Christian, one who did what she said she did,” Ricardo said. “That shook the very core of my being,” he said. “But I told her that I could go to her church and read her Bible but nobody could ever change me.”

As Mother’s Day approached, his depression deepened. He planned to end his life when he visited his mother’s grave. He called his aunt — the closest thing he had to a mother — to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, but she retorted, “Are you on drugs?” He hung up and cried.

He left a message on his sister’s phone saying goodbye. She was in Mexico. “I told her how much I loved her. I told her I was sorry for everything.”

That night he went into his bathroom.

“God if you’re real, because I see you transformed my best friend and she’s a whole different person, I ask you to end my life, because I’m a coward,” he cried out. “I’ll be an embarrassment to my family. If you’re willing, I ask you to end my life. I don’t ask you for your joy, peace or love — or anything you have to offer. All I ask is just end my life.” Read the rest of panhypopituitarism.

St. John was losing basketball games, so coach Chris Mullin told his players about the time he was losing to alcoholism

NCAA Basketball: St. John at DePaulTo help his team snap an 11-game losing streak and stun #1-ranked Villanova, Coach Chris Mullin pulled a skeleton out his closet of personal failures and revealed his battle with alcoholism.

“Where do you think I was on this date 30 years ago,” he told his players, who were languishing in last place in the Big East Conference, lost in basketball oblivion.

The players, depressed in doldrums of dearth, responded mostly by looking blankly at him, the New York Times reported.

The answer? Thirty years prior, the millionaire NBA player was kicked off the Warriors squad and thrown into a bedraggled rehab with homeless winos, heroin addicts and crack heads in the middle of L.A.’s gangland. On his first night at the AA 12-step, after the speaker droned on about an alcoholic’s powerlessness to kick the habit, gangsters in a van drove past and strafed the church building with automatics. “Damn, I’m trying to get sober here, not get killed,” Mullin thought.

12-chris-mullin.w710.h473.2xFour years later, Mullin was on the Dream Team that swept the Barcelona Olympics. Fellow teammate Magic Johnson said of him: “When God made basketball. He just carved Chris Mullin out and said, ‘This is a player.’”

But to pull himself out of the mire, he needed to endure the month-long program of 6-hour group therapy sessions with uninspiring cast of rehab mates. Then he had to drive back to the Golden State training court and fight, humbly but forcefully, for his place on the team — a feat that five other previous addiction-afflicted players had failed to do.

St. John is where Mullin started his trajectory; he took the New York university to the Final Four in 1985 as a star player. His signing as coach in 2015 was supposed to restore glory. Instead, in his third year, the Red Storm lost 14 games, his program in a malaise of ongoing roster turnover as developing prospects transferred and significant signings fizzled.

Dream_Team_2_641x405But then in February, sophomore point guard Shamorie Ponds and crew pulled off the improbable: they beat #4-ranked Duke. Then, the impossible: they defeated Villanova 79-75 on Feb. 7. Suddenly, the nation was asking about St. John.

The story of Mullin’s life — and the story of his team — is a story of redemption.

The Irish Catholic credits God: “Faith is everything,” he told Organic Catholics. “My Catholic upbringing I rely on daily. If you live a good life, good things will happen.”

Mullin was born in Brooklyn. With a passion for basketball, he took the subway all over New York City to find the most ferocious competition. Frequently, the palest player found it in the African American neighborhoods.

“For me, going up to a neighborhood if I had a bad game, I might not be allowed to come back,” Mullin said in the New York Daily News. “That was real pressure.”

legends-chris-mullinWith his hustle, ace shooting and unwillingness to be intimidated, the young Mullin gave them reason to learn his name.

During summers, Mullin attended local basketball camps at nearby St. John’s University. Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca spotted his talent and saw his raw hunger. A relationship began to form, and signing for the school was a natural choice for the Brooklyn native. He won the Big East Player of the Year three times.

A first round pick of the 1985 draft, Mullin carted across the country to the Warriors. He was lonely and called home excessively. By his third season, his alcoholism was taking a toll. He was overweight and missed practices. Coach Don Nelson gave him an ultimatum: shape up or his suspension would become expulsion.

A breaking heart keeps me going

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We meet the need as a Christian school in Guatemala

Some of the kids come from excellent Christian homes. Many do not.

Their dads are in prison for 30-year sentences. They have no last name because parents disowned them and the system has failed them. They’ve been kicked out of homes and fallen into gangs. They’ve had to work from age 4.

Somehow, they come to the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta Christian school in Guatemala, and we try to get God involved in their lives. And sometimes it works. One of our students dumped the gang and got the college degree. Another pursued art instead of violence. One guy cut the womanizing and became a family man.

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Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta en Guatemala ministers to troubled teens (not pictured)

The need is so great. How can I work for my own personal comfort? How can I dedicate effort to church politicking. Please. There are more urgent things in life.

The Door School in Guatemala is going on its 20th year. It still struggles to make ends meet. Meanwhile it helps sinner and Savior meet.

Because he didn’t die…

… he didn’t make the news, but the mailman who fought off his assailant was a great story.

from Dani Mejias

from Dani Mejias

I was an intern for the L.A. Herald Examiner. I observed the trail of blood that extended for about 15 yards on the sidewalk in South Central Los Angeles in 1988. The mail carrier was delivering General Relief checks, and some gang-bangers thought they could grab and forge. They shot him, and he bled, but he never surrendered his cargo. Instead, bleeding from the bullet wound, he fought them off. The story was incredible, but it never even made the newspaper because the mailman survived. Had he died, it would have gone viral (in age when there was no “viral”).

9-11News outlets thrive on bad news, so if it’s bad news that you want, just read the offerings of the world anywhere. But if you want “good” news, read the Gospels. Jesus forgives your sins, God promises wonderful things, the Spirit restores your family. Prayer connects you directly to Almighty Power.