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Finding God on the Streets (Part 1 of 2)

Air Date 08/30/2017

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Pastor Dimas Salaberrios shares his remarkable testimony of coming to faith in Jesus Christ after he spiraled out of control as a young drug dealer whose life was consumed by addiction, violence and crime. (Part 1 of 2)

Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpt:

Pastor Dimas Salaberrios: …made it down south and that’s when I hit Street God status. I mean, we started makin’ money like I’ve never seen before. We were in the middle of several drug wars, 30 of my friends got killed and … and in between this time frame. I mean, I mean, 30 of them were dead.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, you’ll hear how that man went from a high-level drug dealer, known as a “street god,” to pastor and evangelist. Your host is Focus president, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I met Pastor Dimas Salaberrios at a Salem radio event in Philadelphia just a couple years ago and I was so impressed by his love for the Lord. And once I heard his back story, I was even more impressed—I mean, this is a man who has overcome incredible odds and I know our listeners are gonna be fascinated by his story. Especially if you have a prodigal child and, maybe, you’ve lost hope.

As you’ll hear, Dimas is living proof that no one is beyond the reach of God. No one. And Dimas Salaberrios has been a pastor for many years and has shared the gospel on every continent except Antarctica.

John: Oh my.

Jim: I’m sure there’s some penguins that need to hear the gospel! (laughing)

John: Maybe after this broadcast, he’ll get an invitation to go down there!

Jim: There you go! He is the president of Concerts of Prayer, greater New York, and wants to spend the next few years mobilizing Christians to participate in large outreach events in major cities where people really need to see God’s love in action. He’s the author of the book, Street God, which tells his life story in more detail.

John: And here’s Pastor Dimas Salaberrios, speaking at Harvest Fields Community Church in the Bronx on today’s Focus on the Family.

Body:

Pastor Dimas Salaberrios: So today I want to share with you my testimony and one of the reasons why is, the Bible says in Revelation, chapter 12 and 11, that we can overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

Audience: Amen! Hallelujah

So, I want to tell you a little bit of my story. I didn’t always look the way I look right now and I just want to walk you through some really tough things, some hard things, some very real things I experienced.

Now growing up, I grew up in Queens, New York in the Hollis area of Queens. This area was called Cambria Heights. My mother was a principal. My father was a captain of correction and an Air Force guy. So, I came out of the house where those, be like manicured lawns, you know. It be a very beautiful surrounding, but a couple of blocks away is where a lot of the crazy stuff would go on.

And I remember, you know, my mother got me to the best school district. Her and my father had separated and he lived in Bayside, Queens and my mother still stayed in the house by Cambria Heights. So, we got into this all-white school district in Bayside.

So the school took us on a trip to see the movie E.T. Any of y’all remember seein’ that? E.T. phone home, you know. And I remember, I left out of there. I was so happy. I was like 9-years-old and I said, “Man, I wish I could just ride my bike and just launch into the air, you know. I mean, that was my dream.

But then when we came out of the theater, we started to walk and there was a big sign of the movie that’s coming out called Scarface. And I looked, I said, “What’s up with that?” And many of you may remember this, but Scarface was going to be … it was gonna be rated X, not because of pornography, anything like that, but it was gonna be rated X for the power of the content.

So, at age 10, I went in there, saw that movie and it had a real negative impact on my life. I left out of there with a dream of becoming a ‘Street God.’ I left out of there with a dream of becoming one of the largest drug dealers in New York City, at age 10.

And you know, by age 11, I finally went back to middle school and I remember I was walkin’ the halls and I saw one of my friends. And this is not, you know, one of these stories like, you know, whenever we think of a drug dealer, we think of somebody with a black hoodie in an alley, like you’ll, “Come over here, my man. You know, I got the stuff.” You know, no, it wasn’t like that. It was a fellow classmate pulled out this bag of these little dots of mescaline tabs, which looked like a tip of a No. 2 pencil was broke.

And he said … he said, “Yo, man,” he said, “you want to buy these?” He said, “I’m sellin’ ‘em for $3.” He said, “Yo, it will rock you all day. You’ll be laughin’ all day.” And I remember I was like, I didn’t believe him. I was like, “That little dot, you’re tellin’ me could do something?” He was like, “Oh, yeah.” I said, “Man, here’s $3, man. You’re frontin’.” And I took … I said, “What do you do with these?” He said, “You gotta swallow it.” So, I swallowed it.

And you know, back in the day, I don’t know if people still do this today, but we were big on writing these little notes to girls that would say, “I like you. (Laughter) Do you like me? Yes or no?” (Laughter and Applause) So, I wrote this girl this note and you know, a half an hour went by. I was like, “I’m feelin’ the thing.” Forty-five minutes go by, I’m like, I’m great. Then the girl walked down and she looked at me and she said, “I like you.” And I said, “You like me?” (Laughter) And the drug kicked it. I started cryin’, walkin’ down the hall, “She likes me.” (Applause) “Oh! Oh! Tamara likes me.” (Laughter) “Oh!”

And then I was sittin’ in a class and I could not control my emotions. (Laughter) And then walked in the principal with this man with him and they said, “Today we’re gonna have a special assembly on drugs.” I sat there. My heart was poundin’, ‘cause you know, at that age, you just feel like teachers know everything. I was like, “I’m busted.” I was like, “They’re gonna know.” And I remember I went into that assembly and the guy was talkin’ and the giggles just came over me and the guy just looked at me and I knew he knew.

But then he kinda second guessed himself, like “this kid’s 11.” Nah, no way and just kinda went on. Now I was there and at that point, I told my friend, I said, “I never want to take it again. I’m good.” And then my friend said, “Well, why don’t you help me sell it?” And then I said, “Oh, yeah, I could do that.” And then I became also a drug dealer at age 11.

Then we took it out into the streets and I’d walk around sellin’ the mesc tabs. Then I kinda realized very quickly, I wasn’t gonna become Tony Montana [ref to Scarface movie] by sellin’ mesc tabs. So, then we found out that this girl in the neighborhood had like a pound of weed. I went to her, started hustlin’ weed, you know, did pretty good with that.

And then I remember, you know, we sold out all the stuff and she didn’t know how to get more and one day we were walkin’ down to McDonald’s and I went down to McDonald’s and I’m … I’ll never forget it. This guy from my neighborhood, he had this beautiful Cadillac and he was only like 18. And I was like, “Dag, look at that car.”

And I remember my friend said, “Yeah, man, he’s a crack dealer.” And then it went into my head, crack! That’s the way I could get a car. (Laughter) I was like, “this is the way I could really do this thing.” So, I went and started working for them, hustling for them, learning, you know, the ropes, learning about jail and … and how to not get busted and stuff. And I started to get arrested from time to time, but my father, since he was the captain of correction, he knew a lot of judges, so I was getting passes over and over again.

And also, my mother had money, so she always kept me with a paid lawyer, so every time I went I’d, you know, I’d get a dismissal. I would get, you know, a slap on the wrist, probation, another probation, one-year probation, a five-year probation.

Over and over again, I kept getting this break until one day, the only day that I was really, really sorta innocent (Laughter), I came out [of] the house and I’m walkin’ and I was goin’ down to check on some of the workers and all these cops pulled up, surrounding me and I was like, I’m good. I’m not runnin’. I don’t have anything.

And then when they pulled up, they took the drugs off this dealer that they had in the back of the car and they came and put it on me and they said, which is my street name, Daylight, they said, “Daylight, beat this one.” And I was like, oh, man. And when I went to court and I had my lawyer, he came and he said, “Look,” he said … he said, “You’ve been arrested nine times already. You’ve beaten nine different drug cases. We’re not beatin’ this one.” He was like, “This one is lookin’ serious.”

So, I was sent to Riker’s Island, you know. I went in there for a year. And Riker’s Island was hard. I ain’t gonna front, you know. I went in there. Everybody I knew from Queens said they were from Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx. So, I’m the only dude representin’ Queens, like, “Where’re you from?” “I’m from Queens.” They’re like, “Oh, Queens is soft.” And the next thing I’d know, I’d be in a fight. Next thing I’d be in another fight. I mean, it was horrible.

They finally, they put me into this thing called “Shock.” Got out, came out. I was so excited. I … I just … Shock was like awesome. It was this military thing where you had to do 100 push-ups and run miles a day and all this stuff.

And I really came out with my mind set. I can see somebody went to Shock in here. I came out with my mind set (Laughter) like, “yo, I’m gonna like go straight. I’m gonna do the right thing.”

Program Note:

John: Pastor Dimas Salaberrios on Focus on the Family. And you can get a CD of this entire dynamic presentation when you contribute generously to Focus on the Family a gift of any amount when you call 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or donate and request that CD at focusonthefamily.com/radio.

End of Program Note

Dimas: And the only job that was available to me was White Castle. And let me tell you, all my manpower for four bucks an hour, it did not work. And at the end of the week, they gave me $75. I was like … when I was used to sometimes clockin’ a G an hour. You’re talkin’, I mean, real money. So, when I got the $75, I was like … I tried it for another week and I was like, “I can’t do it.”

And I went back into the drug world and then this one girl, I’ll never forget, she gave me what I call the kiss of death. She was like, “Yo, smoke this with me.” And I was there and then she turned this blunt around, put it in the mouth and kneeled down and said … now I didn’t date her; I just liked her. And she said, “Put your lips on mine and I will blow this smoke into you.” And kneeled down and when she blew into me was marijuana and crack cocaine. (Audience groans)

And I took a hit of that and I was like, wow! And I remember, I turned into like a fiend. But me and my friend, we’d be like, “No, we ain’t crack heads. We put weed in it.” (Laughter) Then the weed started getting’ smaller and smaller and the crack started getting’ bigger and bigger. And then people started lookin’ at me and I was all smoked out, losin’ weight.

I started stealin’ people’s packages, messin’ up people’s money. My operation went to zero and I had all these dudes that was chasin’ me, wantin’ to kill me. And I thank God my mother stepped in again. She said, “I’m gonna send you down South to stay with your brother.”

I went down there. I tried to get high there. I couldn’t find a thing. I mean, he was in the woods. (Laughter) In the … you don’t have a car down there, it’s over. (Laughter)

And I realized from those drugs, I lost all my self-esteem. I forgot who I was. Then I started to find myself again. I started to buy clothes. I started to get dressed.I started to remember, “I like this and like that and all that.” Then I got myself together and then he sent me back to New York. My mother called up and said, “I got the money to pay off some of these people you owe, the most wild ones.” And went and paid them all off and I remember I turned to my friend. I said, “Well, guess what we’re gonna do.” I said, “We’re gonna hustle crack and this time, we’re not gonna use it.”

Now some of you know for real, I never used it again. I just hustled it and that time, I knew the mind of the addict, so I’m like, “yo, I know how to win this thing.” And I trained all my workers with … it was kinda like … I used to call it the drunk man style. Like we never drunk, but what I did was, I would chop the stuff up and put it in these smaller like bottles, so when people would come, I would tell them, if they’d give you a $10 bill, act like you’re dizzy and you don’t know what you’re doin’ and just give them five. So, everybody thought they were getting’ on me, like you know, “this dude can’t count.”

Well, what I was doin’ was, I was growin’ the market and I took over this whole area. And then one day, I mean, I felt like I was on top of the world. I had parole officer I had to report to. I was gettin’ a GED program stuff goin’ down and I remember, I walked in there to see the parole officer and I was sittin’ there and she said, “Uh... I wanna talk you.” I said, “How’s it goin’?” She said, “It’s goin’ okay.” I said, “So what’s up?” She said, “You’re goin’ back to jail.” She got up and handcuffed me. I said, “What!? I said, “For what? I’m in a GED program. What’s goin’ on?” She said, “You have turned in three dirty urines of cocaine back to back.” And I said, “I don’t even get high.”

And then I thought about it, like the movie Breakin’ Bad, I was cooking the drugs and the cocaine was goin’ in my pores and I didn’t even know what pores were! (Laughter) So then I’m sittin’ there and I’m havin’ flashbacks of Riker’s Island. And one time this dude, you know, he sliced my face with a razor. Thank God, you know, it was dull razor, so I don’t have the big, you know, buck fifty sign that you see on some people. And you know, he sliced me once.

I started thinkin’ about all the fights I had, and I was just sittin’ there. And while I was sittin’ there, she got up and walked out and I just started to slip the cuffs to my knees and then I put one foot over the other one and one foot. Next I know, I’m sittin’ there with the cuffs in front of me. And I’m sittin’ there like, “All right, you pulled that off.” Then she came and she sat in front of me. I said, “Oh, shoot, she didn’t see it and she was like, “Okay, you’re gonna go to jail. It may be 90 days; It may be six months.” And I jumped and said, “No, I’m not.” And I grabbed the door and opened it and now I’m runnin’. And I was on the fifth floor, so I went and hit this … I always had a lot of heart, so I would hit the step and I’d just leap down the steps. I mean, heading with my face forward, bang and I would hit the bottom. I’d run, jump down, bang and I could hear an army of cops comin’ down the steps after me.

So, I’m runnin’, jumpin, boom, runnin’, jumpin’, boom. I’m runnin’. Now I knew down at the bottom it was always this officer there and I said, I gotta get around this dude. So, when I came around the corner, he wasn’t there. I wasn’t even a Christian, but I yelled, “Praise God!” and ran outside. (Laughter)

Now I’m on Jamaica Avenue. This is like 42nd Street. I’m runnin’. “Get out the way!” I’m knockin’ people down, runnin’. Move! And I ran into this mall called the Gertz Mall and dipped inside of this barber shop and nobody in the barber shop saw me, but I could hear them yellin’. “Yo, they’re chasin’ this dude in the mall. Yo, they’re chasin’ this dude.” Then one of the managers who opened up, saw me. I had the cuffs. I was like, “Yo, dude,” I was like, “call my friend, please.” And I told him my friend’s name and he was like, “All right.”

Now this is the era, you gotta remember of the big chains. I mean, if you had ropes, that was you. If you were fly, you had links, you know. You had the nice links and the medallion and all that. So, my friend, he was like one of these links dude[s] and you know and we were doin’ that.

So, he said, “Yo, I got a plan.” He said, “Stay right here.” He went down to one of the guys he bought the chains from and he got a metal cutter. So, he came and cut my cuffs and I said, “Put me in the barber seat.” He was like, “Are you crazy?” I said, “No, man.” I said, “Trust me.” I said, “If you put me in the barber’s chair and you just give me a shirt, they’re lookin’ for somebody cuffed. They’re not lookin’ for somebody with their hands movin’. So, I was there, getting a cut and every time the cops came in there, I was just like, “Yo, man, the Nicks man, yo, they let us down again. They’re garbage.” And then the cops would walk out.

So then one of the guys pulled a car around and I got up and I tried to act like I was short, walked, got in the car and took off. Now where did I go? The worst place to ever go, the girlfriend’s house. (Laughter) That’s why you see on TV and the news, “Caught him at his girl’s house.” Went to my girl’s house, but I knew. I wasn’t stupid. I said, “I got like 20 minutes here.” So, I went in there. We’re gettin’ stuff together real fast I call up one of my drivers and he said, “Yo, I got somebody that can take off your cuffs.” I said, “Bring him.” He said, “It’s gonna cost you.” I said, “I don’t care. I’ll take care of him.”

[A] guy came in, gave him $100. He took off my cuffs and then I don’t know what came over me. I just said, “You know, dude, what do you do for a livin’?” He said, “I’m a parole officer.” (Laughter) Yo, he went out the front door. We grabbed everything. We went out the back door. Ten minutes later they rushed my girlfriend’s house, but I was gone.

Then the next day was Halloween, so I told my girl. I said, “I got a plan.” She said, “What?” I said, “You gotta get me a wig. You gotta get me a dress. I said, we’re gonna go down south. We’re gonna get this money. So, on Halloween, I was the tallest woman you’ve ever seen (Laughter). Went through Amtrak. Got on the train. Went down… made it down south and that’s when I hit Street God status. I mean, we started makin’ money like I’ve never seen before. We were in the middle of several drug wars, 30 of my friends got killed and … and in between this time frame. I mean, I mean, 30 of them were dead and we’re just in this game and I’m seein’ all this money comin’.

And then I get this crazy idea, I was like, “Man, I’m gonna go to New York and get a little chocolate tower and what not.” About the, you know, I want … I want to visit some people and all this and so, I came to New York and on my route drivin’ to New York, there was this other drug dealer whose girlfriend was well-known as a witch. I mean, this was some stuff that happens down south and I’ll never forget. I was in this car sleepin’ and we just heard the horns honkin’, “Aah! Aah! Aah! Aah!” And they just kept honkin’.

And I remember, I woke up and looked and I saw the girl drivin’ past me like, lookin’ at me like this. And we all saw her and we were all like talkin’ about it the whole ride. Like how did she see us? How did she find us? We’re in a car. We got black tints. This ain’t even a car we used.

And then we got all the way to New York and I was walkin’ down the street and that girl popped out, grabbed my arm and I remember I yanked my arm away from her and she did some like weird move and I just pulled it away. And lo and behold, when I got back down to North Carolina, it was like I completely lost my mind.

I started to see things in shades of red. I mean, I was walkin’ around the house, tryin’ to find a gun to kill myself. But part of me was tryin’ to stop myself, but I was still movin’. And one of my friends grabbed the gun and held it and I tried to get it. He pushed me away. I got so angry I went over to the kitchen sink and just started to smash all the dishes with my fists and that’s how I got a lot of scars on my hands today. Blood was flyin’ everywhere.

I looked outside. I saw someone had their door open, only down south, not New York. But they had a door open and I went runnin’ to their house. I don’t know to this day who they are. I opened their front door, ran in through their living room and ran out their back door.

Now could you imagine that? You sittin’ there. Some dude runnin’ in, ah! Blood everywhere. Ran out, and everywhere I went from that point on, because news travels really fast in a town like Winston-Salem. So, everywhere I went, blocks would clear, like I walked to a block. It was somthin’. “My man, how’re you doin’? Hey, hey.” The block would be packed. I’d turn around; everybody was out. And I was like, “What’s goin’ on?”

And then I said, man, I know I needed help. So, I called up my mother and I said, “Ma…” I said, “I’m strugglin’. I need help. I said “This is hard.” And she said, “What’s goin’ on?” I said, “It’s like I’m losin’ my mind. I’m seein’ everything in red. Can you help me?” She said, “Why don’t you go to church?” I said, “Ma, I need real help.” And I hung up the phone. Bang!

Closing:

John: You’re gonna want to tune in next time to hear how this story ends. We’ve been listening to Pastor Dimas Salaberrios on Focus on the Family.

Jim: What a cliffhanger. And remember, if you can’t be with us next time, get the CD so you can hear the entire presentation. I was so impressed with Pastor Dimas.What an amazing story! 

John: Well, you can hear the entire recollection of his difficulties and his encounter with Jesus Christ when you call in and ask for a CD. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio to hear the rest of the story. 

Jim: John, there is so much to reflect on from what Pastor Dimas shared today, but I’d like to comment on just a couple of things. Dimas said that it was seeing the movie Scarface, which is a violent and very graphic movie, as a 10-year old boy, that inspired him to become a major drug dealer. Think of the impact of media. We always debate it. For me, and I know for Focus, there is no debate - it does have an impact. One of the taglines from that movie was, “The world is yours.” And you can see how that would appeal to a young boy who was growing up in an upscale neighborhood where he had no power.

And let me tell you again - movies have a huge impact on the hopes and dreams of your young children. So you need to help them choose carefully. And we can help you do that through Plugged In, which is Focus on the Family’s media review website and app. We are here to help you make good movie and music and TV and gaming decisions for your family.

John: And you may listen to Plugged In right here on this radio station, it’s a regular and we can link over to the Plugged In website, which has all sorts of great information, and also a link over to the Plugged In app for your iPhone or Android device.

Jim: Jean and I love the app—Trent and Troy, not so much. (chuckling)

John: That’s a common thing. (chuckling)

Jim: Especially, uh, when you go to a theater, it works out really well if it’s sold out and you knew the movie you already cleared you can’t get into, what’s an alternative—you can pull it up right on your iPhone or smartphone and get the answer to your question right there, right on the spot.

John: That can be a really big help and take some of the pressure off. 

Jim: It does! Another point I want to make is that Dimas said his parents helped him avoid punishment, in fact, he had an attorney who managed to get a dismissal or probation for Dimas in nine drug cases! Nine! And it just makes me wonder, what would have happened if Dimas had really felt the full weight of the law the first time around or maybe even the second time. Perhaps he would’ve figured out that the consequences for dealing drugs was just too painful.

So parents, as hard as it might be, don’t shield your children from the consequences of their bad choices unless the punishment is truly unjust. If they pay the price now at a young age, chances are they won’t be paying a much bigger price when they get older. And obviously, God had a plan to redeem Dimas, but He also allowed a lot of painful consequences, like a full year at the notorious Rikers Island Prison, right there in New York City.

John: That’s a great point, Jim, and when kids are young, that can be as simple as taking them back to the store when they’ve stolen something.

Jim: That doesn’t happen to you, does it? (chuckling)

John: More than once.

Jim:  Were you the kid or the parent? (chuckling)

John: I was the parent. (Chuckling) You gotta confess to that authority figure, the store manager, that can have a profound impact on that youngster and help them understand the full scope of what they’ve done.

Jim: Important lessons to learn. And as we’ll hear next time, those consequences on a much bigger scale continued for Dimas even after he became a Christian. And I believe in this message. This is a man’s testimony, and I wanna make the CD of this message available for a donation of any amount. Justuh... let us know, contact us so you can get a copy.

John: And you can do so by calling 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or visit focusonthefamily.com/radio. And by the way, if you hear a dramatic testimony that you’d like us to consider hearing, as well, get a CD and send it to me. The address is 8605 Explorer Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920.

And if you enjoyed today’s program, tell a friend to tune in next time to hear how Dimas got to this point in his life:

Excerpt:

Dimas Salaberrios: I remember I got up at that moment. I felt such a peace, like never (Applause) before. I mean (Applause), this incredible peace. I took all the crack out of my pocket. I started dumpin’ it in the garbage. I looked up to heaven. I said, “God, I’m never gonna sell crack again.”

End of Excerpt

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Guest

Dimas Salaberrios

View Bio

Dimas Salaberrios is the founder and pastor of Infinity Bible Church in New York City. He is also the president of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, an organization that unifies and mobilizes pastors across denominational, ethnic and economic lines. Dimas is a worldwide missionary, teacher and speaker, host of the weekday radio program "The Dynamic Life," and author of the best-selling book Street God. He and his wife, Tiffany, have three daughters. Learn more about Dimas by visiting his website, pastordimas.com.