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)
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
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, , 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.
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.
So the school took us on a trip to see the movie . 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 . And I looked, I said, “What’s up with that?” And many of you may remember this, but 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.
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
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.”
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 , 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.”
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!
End of Excerpt
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Dimas SalaberriosView 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.