I’m Not Done With You

I heard the Doctor pronounce me dead. I had just been brought into the Emergency Department at a local hospital because of a heroin overdose. I wasn’t supposed to be there. Heroin use for me wasn’t new. I had been a heroin addict ever since I had landed in Vietnam when I was 17½.


But at 64 years old, I was pronounced dead. I had 3 bids in prison, had a large drug business, had masterminded a burglary gang in Buffalo, NY, specializing in precious gems, metals, and firearms, and was extremely violent. Yet, before the overdose, after I had gotten out on a PIE and satisfying my parole, I was only operating a petit theft ring just to feed my drug habit. That night I had cooked up 4 bundles of heroin. To my surprise, it was more potent than I expected. It was lethal.


As I laid on the gurney, I saw a bright white light. It was the most beautiful light I had ever seen. I have not seen that color light since. Just after I heard the doctor pronounce me dead, I heard God speak to me, “I am not done with you.” Just after that, I heard the nurse blurt out that my body had moved. The Doctor reiterated that he called the time of my death. It’s funny how God uses the foolish things to bring down the wise. Well brotha, God was right, and the Doctor was wrong. I have been alive since then for 11 years.


This is where my story gets even more unbelievable. Like the Apostle Paul, I had seen a light, heard God speak to me, and waited for further clarity. When I finally regained consciousness in my body, I was in the Detox ward. I was pronounced a miracle. So much for the previous pronouncement. I had no urge for heroin and other drugs, and I was off my psych meds. The Doctors studied me until I entered a lifesaving, 6-month PTSD program at another VA hospital.


I was studied in disbelief by the medical staff. I did not have any common withdrawal symptoms. In fact, I have two large backpacks full of psych evals that were compiled over 40 years, but those all became ancient history. The Lord healed me. The only person that passed away was my old life, and I became a new person. At the time I was in the Detox unit, God happened to bring to me a Pastor who had become addicted to opiates, due to the collateral damage of recovering from knee surgery.


Let me state for the record that God’s love and forgiveness, and the love that God’s people were supposed to show others were to me not real. Having been in prison for three bids, I was promised a lot of things by volunteers and chaplains, and no one ever followed through. But my pastor friend Steve was different. He got out a week before I did, and he told me he would contact me again. Brotha, God surprised me.


After I was transferred to the PTSD program, Steve did show up, but not by himself. He had four other men with him. The first thing I said to these do-gooders was, “Don’t try to save me and convert me to your BS.” They agreed. They visited me weekly, and I was beginning to be open to their message. One of the men brought a guitar, and we would sing praise songs. The staff even had to ask us to stop singing worship songs, because we were too loud. Please try to understand I was a former gang leader and drug dealer. I never would be caught dead singing songs to God. But these men were different.


On the last day of my program, the men picked me up and had arranged for me to stay in the Malachi House, a house for men who were ex-incarcerated and down on their luck. Steve arranged for this. Over time, I was trusted with managing the daily responsibilities of the house. God had always given me wisdom to be an effective manager. After all, I managed a criminal enterprise. Now God was using my gifts for His glory. I started attending Steve’s church. These men were such good examples of God’s kindness and care. I was invited to their homes for meals and socializing. I began to see that their walk lined up with their talk. I was no longer resistant to their message of God’s love. I had been receiving it, Jesus Christ became my Lord. That was in 2010, when I was 63, and I got baptized. I no longer needed to escape from reality or fight my way through life. I received forgiveness, rest in Christ, and the peace of the Holy Spirit. If you make Jesus your priority, He will provide everything you need.


Shortly after this, God had shaken some things up in my life, and I started attending a new church. It was there that I met a man who gave me an opportunity to live in another house on Amherst St., which was part of a ministry called Saving Grace Ministries. The local co-Directors at the time were Don and Pastor Jim Crowley, who is still the Executive Director. Terry King started the ministry in Buffalo, NY after his unexpected prison bid.


It wasn’t long before I began to manage the house on Amherst St. I am an imposing man who doesn’t quite fit in, as you can imagine. The new church I was attending was stand-offish toward me. After some time of showing myself faithful and reliable, I was asked to be part of the security team, which I eventually led. During this time, I noticed a person who was obviously struggling. When I found out he was homeless, I told him he had a bed in the house I was managing. That started a 6 year friendship and mentoring relationship that still exists today.


After three years of managing the house on Amherst St., Terry King had heard about how effective I had been at managing the house. He recommended me to Don and Jim to take over the Grace House, which had fallen into disrepair. There was no funding, no staff, no heat, no hot water, no bedding, leaky windows, an empty pantry, and had only two residents, in addition to bed bugs and roaches.


Pastor Jim agreed to ask the Board to approve my hiring for the Grace House, and I was approved as the Director of the home. I made Terry proud, and the Lord turned around the Grace House. It took three years to increase funding, hire 4 new staff, fill all twenty beds, clean up the place and eliminate the infestations, provide adequate bedding, stock the pantry, and provide hot water, heat, and tight windows. Les followed me from Amherst St. and has worked with me now for over 5 years.


My relationship with Pastor Jim is a spiritual blessing. He took a chance on me, and God has gotten all the glory. I began to attend the church that Jim pastors, and I am very involved in the new church. I work with Jim three days a week. I am on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I am now in my 70’s, and I feel stronger than I did in my 30’s. All glory goes to the Lord. If you are faithful in what you are doing, God will give you more to handle.


I had reentered society on a PIE, came off of parole early after 4½ years, but I was still lost. I was making a little money, using heroin, and my life seemed ok. After the overdose, I realized that my life wasn’t ok. Thankfully, after God called me, spoke to me, and healed me, I have never returned to prison since 2006. If you are God’s child and have spent time in jail or prison, you can make it and never return to prison. It will take effort and commitment on your part. But I believe that our Lord is able to do for you what He did for me. If you need some encouragement, you can call the Grace House, and we will get you on the right path. Praise the Lord for His goodness!