I was born and raised in New York City. I grew up in a middle-class Catholic family and attended Catholic school. My parents were strict with me and tried very hard to raise me right, but as much as I tried to be good, I couldn’t. I wanted to hang out with all the bad kids. I had gotten turned off to religion at an early age because I had seen the hypocrisy in the Catholic Church. The people that went to church on Sunday were doing the same things during the week as the people that didn't go to church. By the time I was 13 years old, I had joined a gang and was drinking and taking drugs. By the time I was 14, I was carrying a gun to school every day. By the time I was 15, I had been in reform school, was on probation, and had been suspended from all NYC public schools. At 16, I ran away from home trying to find out what was going on in other parts of the country, hoping to straighten myself out.
When I was 18, I was sent to prison for burglary. While in prison, I had an experience that made me realize that God was real. I was accused of helping another inmate escape and they put me in solitary confinement and threatened to keep me there for a very long time. After being there about two and a half weeks, I thought I was losing my mind so I got down on my knees in my cell and asked God to get me out of there and I would serve Him (I had no idea what that even meant). The next morning the guard came downstairs and told me I was getting out. On the way up the stairs I could feel the sun so brightly shining on me and at once I remembered my promise to God. Immediately I felt my heart harden up and to myself I said, “NO!” And I put this out of my mind. Thank God He didn't kill me right then, for surely I would've deserved to die.
When I got out of prison, I hoped that I was rehabilitated, but as soon as I was released, I returned to the same lifestyle I was living before I went to prison. When I was 22 years old, I again set out to try to find out what the answer was to what life was all about. I thought that maybe the answer was in some small town, so I joined a carnival and traveled throughout the South and Midwest, but the people I met were more lost and confused than I was.
In August 1970, someone told me that all the drug addicts like me went to California at this time of the year, so I talked some friends of mine from New York into meeting me there. We had plans of traveling to the South Pacific, but when they got to San Francisco, California, those plans fell apart. So we decided to go to Hollywood, California, but since we were hitchhiking, we had to split up. We had a plan to meet, get some guns, and find some drug dealers to rob. I ended up on Sunset Strip waiting for them to show up.
I had always been afraid of dying. I heard of people dying and asking God, before they died, to forgive them. As a drug addict, I was always afraid that I would be on drugs and die, possibly stepping off a curb and getting hit by a car. If I was going to die, I wanted to know beforehand--so I thought, “Well, God is supposed to answer prayers, so if I ask Him to just let me know before I die, God will have to let me know, and then I will just ask Him to forgive me and then everything will be fine. I figured since I prayed that prayer, I now had my guaranteed ticket to Heaven no matter what I did.
I used to say, “Well, God, if You're real and You really do exist, then let me know where people are that are doing a work for You and I'll serve You.” I didn't really know what the words “serve You” meant. I figured helping kids like me as a social worker would be, “serving God,” but I really never expected to find anyone that was doing a work for God.
I got to the point where I thought the rug was going to get pulled out from under me and I was going to have to stop living the way I was living, so I asked God to let me party one more year before I had to start serving Him. I really thought I had all the bases covered because I was scared to death about dying.
I saw people on Sunset Strip from Tony Alamo Christian Ministries handing out gospel literature and inviting people to church, which is one place I did not want to go. I saw three brothers from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries heading towards me. I looked to the corner because I was in the middle of the block, and said to myself, “That’s too far to walk. Maybe they'll pass me by.” Of course, they didn't. They were inviting everybody, and handing gospel literature to everyone on the street, telling them about the Lord Jesus Christ. I was very reluctant, but they convinced me to go with them to the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Church on Crescent Heights Blvd. I went inside and when the service began, everyone stood up and started clapping and singing gospel songs unto the Lord. They had their hands raised, praising the Lord--something I had never seen in a church before. I sat down because I didn't want any part of this.
I don't remember one thing that was said during the service, but at what I realized was the end of the service, a brother came over to me and asked me to go down to the altar and accept Christ into my life. I just laughed in his face. When the service was over I walked outside and talked to a few of the members from the ministry. Then I told them I would see them on another day but I had no intention of ever coming back. I started walking down the street towards Sunset Boulevard which was maybe half a block away. All of a sudden the cars on Sunset Boulevard looked like a blur going so fast. At the same time this happened, I heard a voice in my head that said, “What are you going to do if you get hit by a car tonight? Who are you going to call out to now? These are the people, Tony and Susan Alamo, who are doing a work for Me. Not next year, tonight!” It happened faster than a gun being shot—three answers from God. In an instant I knew this was where God wanted me, or else! I turned around and ran back to the church and asked them if I was too late. Of course, they told me, “No,” and they walked me down to the altar where I knelt down and said a simple sinner’s prayer of repentance to God. I didn't care if the whole world was watching me. I knew what I had to do when I got off my knees that night. I knew I was a new person. I knew I was changed. I now knew that there was a God. I wanted to do something for Him, and what better place than at the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Ministry. I've been with this ministry for 43 years. I've never looked back, and I’ve never wanted to go back to a life of drugs, alcohol, and crime! Jesus has set me free from the bondage of sin.