Al was big in the drug business. He was a well known dealer and made plenty of money from it. He was respected and feared, known for his enforcement of drug collecting efforts. Nobody messed with him. His years in Viet Nam taught him to be treacherous and cool in the midst of horror. He had enough money to buy rich clothes, flashy cars, and all the girls he wanted. It was life on the edge, and he loved it. He was big. Everyone knew him, and no one dared to cross him…. Until a couple of young ‘hoods’ tried to make a name for themselves, and become ‘big’ in the drug business.
Al knew the boys and they laughed and hustled pool together. He knew their family and they knew his. They made a deal with Al for a large amount of heroin and arranged to meet in a secluded spot for the buy. In a rare moment of carelessness, Al went alone to meet them. They showed him the money, and Al brought out the stuff. As he was talking to one, the other crept around behind him and bashed Al on the back of the head with his gun. As he was going down they both started beating and kicking him. When he was unconscious, they took off with the dope and the money.
After recovering in the hospital, Al was soon back on the streets again dealing drugs. His military training taught him to be cool and remain patient. He knew those boys would be around and they’d make a mistake and leave themselves open. He never let on to anyone that he was intending to get his revenge. The day came that he spotted them in the local bar, laughing and unsuspecting. Al turned and walked casually to his car and pulled out his gun. He walked calmly into the bar, up to the boys and shot them both in the head, murdering them both.
Al’s mom told him she had been praying for him all during the trial. And now that it was over, she was continuing to pray. She told him confidently, “Nobody’s gonna kill my baby” even if it did look hopeless now that he had been sentenced to death. Although she had mortgaged the house to pay for the lawyer, she wasn’t going to stop fighting. She borrowed every penny she could, sold everything she had, and scavenged every penny she could find to keep the attorneys fighting for him. It took many years, but finally her prayers were answered. The death sentence was commuted on a technicality, and Al was now sentenced to life.
He spent 25 years in prison, and then was paroled. He got out, and tried to go straight and get a job. But with his record that was impossible. So he went back into the drug business. But this time he made the mistake of using it himself. Soon the drugs overtook him and he found himself an addict, broke, homeless and alone. He felt his life would never be worth anything, and he was ready to end it. He applied for rehab at the shelter, and finally got in. He still had his callous, heartless survival way of thinking, and everyone at the shelter knew once again, not to mess with Al.
While at the shelter, he saw some of the guys getting picked up for church. They seemed to come back happy and excited. That was a marked contrast to the complaining, angry men that he saw there most of the time. Since there wasn’t much around the shelter to keep him busy, out of sheer boredom he decided to go along one day. That was the day a whole new world opened up to Al.
Al continued going to the church. There he met happy, kind, giving people such as he had never known before. He was fascinated and wanted to learn more. He signed up for some of the classes at the church. He read his bible voraciously. He began joining in on some outreaches – going down to Washington Park and into the homeless camps, delivering food and clothing. He learned about something he had never known before – compassion. He continued on this journey for several years. He realized his life could amount to something, and his mind began to see life differently. He started helping some of the other homeless, directing them to resource agencies, giving them a dollar or two, listening to their stories. He attended NA meetings, and soon had enough years of sobriety to become a sponsor himself. He began advocating for the homeless for health care and housing. He was soon asked to speak at meetings and tell his story. Then he was asked to speak at churches and schools and social agencies. He became a facilitator and counselor at one of the rehab houses. Today he also serves on the board of a housing resource for the homeless, and is well known in the community as a great example of a life transformed.
He was sentenced to death, but God gave him life. He was sentenced to life in prison, but God released him. The old Al is dead and he’s been transformed into a loving, giving, soldier of Christ.