Hi, I’m Jeff. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My father lived in the area and provided financial help to the family from time to time, but he wasn’t there most of time and didn’t provide the emotional support I needed as a child. In spite of that, I was a good kid most of the time, at least until I was eleven years old. We moved to Harlem and later to the Bronx. It was about then that I started messing with the girls and doing things I shouldn’t have been doing.
I never got involved in the gangs, but I was hanging out with the wrong crowd – my family. I was about thirteen when I saw my uncles and cousins hustling and selling drugs on the streets, things like crack, cocaine, and weed. I didn’t use them myself, but I helped my family members in making and selling them. Before long, I was selling on my own. I preferred to work alone.
I stayed in school and graduated with a high school diploma. I even completed three years of college, but all the while I was selling on the side. I was often stopped and frisked by the police, but was never arrested for anything other than jumping a turnstile on the subway. I often carried a gun for protection when I was on the streets, but the police never bothered me when I had it or drugs on me. I was selling up to a thousand vials of crack a day and was making big bucks. I had a Lincoln Continental and a Jeep, gold chains, fancy watches, a beeper and even a cell phone before cells phones became plentiful.
When I was in my twenties I met a girl that was different than other girls I had met. She went to a little storefront church in the Bronx. She kept inviting me to go to church with her and even introduced me to her pastor, Marty Silverberg. I would drop her off at church and he’d come out to the car and say, “When are you coming to church?” I was still dealing at the time and didn’t have any time for going to church. I had to keep hustling to keep the money coming in.
She knew what I was doing and kept telling me, “Pastor Marty asked about you?” She even tried to witness to me and tell me that I needed to be saved from my sins. She told me that if I continued dealing drugs someone was going to kill me sooner or later. I didn’t believe her because I had guns and I wasn’t afraid to use them if needed.
I finally went to church with her one day and heard some good stuff. Pastor Marty kept on me all the time. I was making a thousand to fifteen hundred dollars a day and Pastor Marty used to ask me if I loved Jesus. I told him I did, but in my mind I was thinking, “I love money more than I love your Jesus.”
My girlfriend asked me once, “Where do you think you are going to go if you die in the streets?” I told her I would probably go to heaven. She tried to explain the gospel to me as much as she could, but I wouldn’t listen. A week or two later, Pastor Marty sat me down and explained about heaven and hell. If I wanted to escape hell and go to heaven, I needed to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and let him change my life. That really scared me, but I kept dealing drugs anyway.
Then my girlfriend dropped a bombshell when she told me I was gong to be a father. I was twenty-five years old and that started me thinking, “I have to leave this stuff (drugs) alone.” I told her I would quit selling drugs if her father could help me get a real job. Since I didn’t have a police record, he helped me find a job with a security business. I shied away from the streets and stopped selling entirely. My friends tried to get me back into the business, but I told them I was giving it up. The job at the security company went well even though I was making a lot less money. I wanted to live to see my son born. I’d seen people killed. I didn’t want that to happen to me.
Later that year in 1995, I realized I needed to give my life to Christ. One night I prayed with my son’s mother and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and to save me from my sins. He did that and the next day I walked into Pastor Marty’s church, told him I had gotten saved, and requested to be baptized. I have been with the church ever since.
Before I got saved I knew right from wrong, but I didn’t want to do right. In my mind the only right thing was green (money). But when I invited Jesus Christ into my life I looked at things differently. When my son was born, I realized I needed to be a father for him. I didn’t want to end up in jail for fifty years like one of my friends. I stopped dealing drugs and gave up hustling in the streets. I didn’t carry guns anymore. My attitude changed. I realized that if I was going to be a Christian, I couldn’t do those things. I had a lot less money. I had to give up the fancy cars and bought a nice family car. I learned to respect myself, and others as well. Before, I was destroying myself and others by selling drugs to them.
I helped to raise my son and he is now going to college. His mother and I were engaged, but we never married. She later married another man. Being saved is a good thing. Through the years since giving my life to Christ I have gone to church regularly, Sundays, prayer meetings, what have you. I seldom ever missed. I was on the front line of evangelism, handing out tracks and visiting in the projects. I read my Bible regularly. My family made fun of me after I became a Christian. They couldn’t believe I was taking this seriously. I didn’t care. I had dedicated myself to doing the right thing – school, church and family.
I am one of the longest standing members of Commonwealth Community Baptist Church. I come to this church because I like the fellowship and it teaches the truth. It was here that I learned what it means to be saved and to live for God. I love the people, the different ethnicities, the variety of backgrounds and cultures we have in our church. I love the singing and the beautiful building we now have. Most of all, the church preaches and teaches the gospel faithfully. We have different speakers from time to time, but they all preach the same message.
Because of the lifestyle I was living when he first met me, Pastor Marty used to tell me that he would never have thought that I would still be here twenty years later, but I am. My life is a trophy of God’s grace and shows what God can do in people’s lives if they will just let him be the Lord of their lives.
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