Written by Jerry Pippin from Long Beach, California
I grew up in Long Beach, California. In high school, I entered into the drug world through some “friends” of mine. Shortly after, I started to see the business end of it and started selling drugs myself. I worked a few jobs, but selling drugs was always the main focus of my life. Crime was my passion. I was always thinking of different ways to make money - always illegal ways. I scammed people by making fake lottery tickets, made a life of stealing, and looked for anything I could get away with.
I met a woman named Julie during this time, around 25 years ago. After some time together, I found out that she was pregnant with our baby. This was one problem I did not want to mess with, so I urged her to get an abortion. She always said, “NO,” so I left her to deal with the “problem” herself.
I continued in my life of drug dealing and theft, and one day in particular, I tried to rob Disney Land. I was about to leave the house that morning and I heard something tell me that I was only going out to write checks that day. I turned around, went back inside and put my drugs, gun and money away and left with only a checkbook (looking back now, I see this was God’s grace). Our plan was to take checks or credit cards (not our own of course) and go buy hundreds of dollars in tickets at the booths. Then, we were going to go right around the corner and return them to customer service for cash. It was easy and very profitable… except for one problem. This time, the woman at the register recognized me from the week before.
The woman called security and I knew it was time to go. I parked close to make a quick getaway, but, another problem, there was a tour bus parked right in front of my car. I could not move! I got out of the car and before I knew it, security was on top of me and I was face down in the asphalt right in front of the tour bus door. One after another, Japanese tourists came off the bus, each stepping over me with a camera in hand. I’m sure I was a part of many happy memories for them, but it was not the happiest place on earth for me that day. I got arrested and then quickly posted bail.
My court date came, and so did Disney Land’s attorney. We lost the case, and I was sentenced to jail. I didn’t care; I wasn’t scared. I asked, “How long?” and said, “Let’s do it.” I got 45 days to get my affairs in order before 45 days in jail.
So, there I was, back on the streets, knowing I have to go to jail soon. One night, I was out with my new girlfriend and had a brilliant idea. I would get real high, then have her drop me off at the jail so I could serve my time and see her 45 days. So that’s what I did. She drove off, and there I was, downtown at 3AM with nothing on me but my ID… but the jail wouldn’t take me. I couldn’t come in until my stay of execution date. I went straight to the courthouse to find the judge that sentenced me. I waited all day to talk to him. Finally, he asked, “Why are you here?” I told him I wanted to go to jail. He laughed and said, “I have never heard anyone say that before” then, “Bailiff, take him away!” And I got to go to jail. God’s timing.
I was a punk. The first call I made in jail was to my Dad. I said, “Hi Dad, I’m in jail, I like it here” and hung up. I went into jail coming down from a high. I mean really high. I was on meth for three years and weighed 130 pounds when I went in. It took two weeks of sleeping and sneaking through the chow line several times for double meals to finally be capable to have a conversation with someone. And talk I did! I was telling an inmate my plans to get out and make tons of money selling drugs and guns, all the scams that I had going, and all the connections I had. He let me ramble on for about 10 minutes. Then, he looked me in my eyes, handed me a Bible, and said one sentence: “God has so much more for you.”
I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. He opened the Bible and outlined the book of Romans. I went back to my bunk and began to read. I don’t even think I got to chapter 3; I couldn’t continue. The Holy Spirit covered me in a blanket of light and tears.
I was picked on when I was little, and when I was 9 years old I told myself I would never cry again. And I didn’t. Until now. I couldn’t stop crying and the light continued to pour out on top of me. Then the chow bell rang and it was time to line up. I can still remember looking up into the light and saying, “God, if this is really You, give me enough to eat this time.” I put the Bible down on my wet bunk and got in line. I was expecting something to happen. When the guy filled my plate, I was expecting him to overflow it. But that didn’t happen. I went to my table and began eating. Then, without me asking, guy after guy, inmate after inmate walked up to my table and moved food off their plates and onto mine. I could not eat as fast as they gave me food. I was that last one to leave the chow hall that day. On the way back to my dorm I looked up and said, “God, I’m yours.”
He was faithful when I was not.
I could not believe that I had a real encounter with God! I became one of the crazy guys in jail. I consumed close to the entire New Testament in a matter of days. I went to church that Sunday and made it official by raising my hand and accepting Jesus as Lord of my life at the altar there in jail. I could not wait to tell everyone I knew! I thought everyone would be excited about the new Friend I met in jail, but I knew my ex-girlfriend, still pregnant, would not want to hear anything I had to say. She sent me hate mail the whole time I was in jail.
30 days later and 30 pounds heavier, I got out of jail early with good behavior. Three o’clock in the morning, my mom was there to pick me up and I was headed home. When I would talk about my new life, I knew my family was thinking, “How long will this last?”
My third day out, I got a call from someone wanting a quarter pound of meth. I told him that I gave my life to Jesus, quit the business, and that he needed to lose my number. The very next day, I heard that the people who called me got caught up in a drug raid and I would have been right in the middle of it with a quarter pound if I had followed through with their request. But, I didn’t. I knew that was part of my past. God’s grace.
Several things started changing in my life after that day. God set me up with a great job working for a man who became like a father to me. I also started hanging out with my uncle who brought me to his church. Every moment I was not working I spent at church. If the doors were open I was there; it was the only safe place to go.
The drug world was all around me. These people used to be my community. I tried going back to my drug friends to tell them about Jesus and what He did for me, but it didn’t work out quite like I thought it would. “Jesus Freak” and “Bible Thumper” are a couple of the names I remember, but needless to say, I was not well received. But I was well received in the body of Christ. I felt out of place at first because most of them were older than me and had a life but we all had Jesus.
During this time, I visited my grandma. I told her all about what God was doing in my life. I also told her that I was going to have a baby soon with someone who didn’t want anything to do with me. She began to cry and said, “Is there no hope?” I told her no, but something inside of me began to wonder.
I went home that night and knelt by my bed and began to cry and pray, “God, if You can, please put this family together.”
The next day I went to see my ex. Her family was extremely upset that I was there, but she was willing to see me. She was very pregnant. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I brought her a blanket as a gift and made small talk. I soon said good-bye and left.
A few days later I was working in Vegas and started my drive home. On the drive I received a number on my pager. The number didn’t work but it was all I needed to realize what was going on. I knew my son was being born. It took several hours but I got there and saw my son, Tyler, for the first time; He was only a few hours old. God’s grace! Julie’s family was angry I was there but I knew that she was not.
I persisted in going to see Julie and Tyler, and eventually won back Julie's heart. She soon gave her life to the Lord Jesus Christ. I proposed and we were married on August 27, 1994 - six days before Tyler’s first birthday. God is able to do all things over and abundantly.
Today, Tyler is a full time missionary and has been for 4 years. The boy that I tried to get rid of has become the greatest gift God could have ever given me other than giving me Himself through Jesus Christ. I weep when I think of all the Tyler’s that have been lost to the altar of selfishness and fear. My wife, Julie, and I are still happily married. God has created every life for a purpose and He does not make mistakes. He makes all things possible. Nothing is too hard for Him.