Years before I came back to God, I was under the impression that there would be no more church for me. I had these childhood thoughts in my mind that if I went to church again someday people would judge me. If they did ridicule me or look down at me, how could I blame them?
In 2003 I was still on the streets of Brooklyn as a connected guy to the Colombo family.To all those who knew me, I was just what I had always been: a mafia-connected thug.But I had a secret. I had been working for the FBI since 1996. I was playing the role of a criminal at this point. The operation was only supposed to last for six months to a year, and here I was in my seventh year. It had taken it’s toll on me, both mentally and physically. I was in the life, but not really – a kind of limbo. I was constantly facing what all of my actions and decisions had done to people.
It had taken it’s toll on me, both mentally and physically. I was in the life, but not really – a kind of limbo. I was constantly facing what all of my actions and decisions had done to people.
One day stands out for me during this time. I was out with Uncle Manny driving around to construction sites. Uncle Manny was giving me my daily lesson on mafia wisdom. It was the mafia’s form of indoctrination. We were up in the Bronx when I received a call from Eddie G, a Colombo associate who ran a trucking business. Eddie G wanted to know where I was at that moment. I told him where I was at, and he told me I had to come see him at his truck yard on Staten Island. I must have looked upset because Manny asked me what was going on. I told him Eddie G wanted me to go to his yard ASAP. Manny asked me if I wanted him to come with me.
Eddie G was Manny’s nephew, so really what good would that do? I was scared right then and I had good reason to be afraid. In the life, nobody wants to get sent for out of the blue. So many thoughts were going through my mind, did they know the truth about me?
I got back to my place in Brooklyn and was soon in my car. I called the FBI and the New York office was closed, it was after business hours. I called the Los Angeles office and got ahold of an agent I knew. I told him where I would be going. He told me I did not have to go, but in my mind, I had to, because if you did not come when sent for, it was over.
The drive was thirty minutes, which was mostly a blur. I kept thinking, “This is it.” I hoped it would be quick. I thought about my family. Would anyone ever know what happened to me?
I didn’t pray, but I thought I could just ask Jesus to forgive me before I died and I would be okay.
I pulled into the yard and Eddie was standing outside yelling at some guy. He smiled when he saw me and motioned me over. He told the guy to beat it and then he shook my hand. He said, “Let’s walk and talk.”
He then told me he was putting together a fund to buy our capo a truck for Christmas. Instant relief! You never saw anyone give up four grand faster than me that day. That cash was out of my pocket and in his hand in seconds, and I would live another day.
Did I learn anything? I guess not, because I kept doing the same thing for years.
I felt almost as much dread the day I went to the church in San Marino after thirty plus years of walking away from the one I attended as a kid. I thought that anyone there would know I was a fraud. I thought they would stare and speak under their breath about me. It had been almost ten years since I left New York and my life in the underworld. I had gotten my life on a better track, but it was still empty, missing something. I also carried around a lot of guilt from my former life, which made it hard for me to get close to others.
I felt that sharp intake of breath that I had felt on the street with a slight burning sensation in my stomach when I stepped into the church. Once we started singing and then when the sermon started, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
I have never felt so welcome and so at peace as I did that day when the service was over.
I found my way to Jesus and I was then fulfilled.
I signed up for and began attending Bible study the next week. I read the Gospels, and if you read them you’ll see the people Jesus chose to minister too. He did not pick out the rulers, priests, rabbis or wealthy merchants. He often chose regular people and those looked down on in the society, like a fisherman and a tax collector.
I read about Saul Tarsus who would become Paul later in life. He was not who you would think Jesus would pick to be his disciple, yet it was who he picked. Jesus appeared to him on the road. Saul had been a persecutor of Christians, but after his encounter with Jesus, he would be one of his strongest missionaries.
I understand Saul. I went from meeting in truck yards, planning ways to make more money for a criminal organization, to today studying and sharing the word with anyone who will listen and spending time with fellow believers. This is my second chance.