Thursday, September 24, 2009

God Story #8

When one reads about the Apostle Paul in Acts and how he was converted, one truly does believe in the miraculous. An important thing to remember is that there are conversion stories in this day and age that are just as powerful. Michael "Bull" Roberts is a former Canadian drug lord with one such testimony. Christian Week recounts his story:

BRAMPTON, ON—The extravagant wealth and power former gang member Michael "Bull" Roberts had as one of Canada's wealthiest drug lords reads likes a fantasy. But the road which led him there is the stuff of nightmares.

"I grew up in a very abusive home," says Roberts, who cuts an imposing six-foot, four-inch, 450 pound figure. "My father was a very strict man, very hard. I was bullied at school, and then at home I was physically and sexually abused."

Roberts ended up in foster care. After witnessing his foster father's murder, Roberts hit the streets. Within months he was a "full blown drug and alcohol addict" with a long list of trafficking and assault charges.

When some acquaintances overdosed, police charged Roberts with three counts of first degree murder. At 16 Roberts was tried as an adult and found "criminally insane." He's lost count of how much time he has spent in prisons and mental institutions since then.

When he joined a gang, Roberts says he finally found a "family." A meteoric rise through the gang's ranks followed.

"I became one of the wealthiest drug lords in Canada," he says. "I had stables, boats and every kind of ride you could think of. I was distributing cocaine and crack all over Alberta. I was turning over millions of dollars a week."

But last summer, a partner sent 30 men to kill him. After a cruel beating, Roberts was left for dead, his knees, legs, arms, hands and skull broken. Permanent spinal cord damage means he still walks with a cane.

After his gang ties prompted a release from hospital, Roberts found himself alone in a hotel room facing the news his home had been burned to the ground.

"All I wanted was revenge," Roberts says. "But I was so broken I couldn't even get myself to the bathroom. I fell on the floor and [wet] myself. I spent hours there. I was in extreme physical pain and emotionally spent.

"That was my breaking point. I just snapped. I just couldn't fight no more. I looked up at God and said, 'Fine! You win! I'm done!'

"I just kept praying to Him out of anger, and the next thing I knew I was asking for forgiveness. I said, 'Please, God I just want to feel love!' I just burst into tears. I cried for hours on that floor.

"I really feel like God came into the room that day. I really felt like I was forgiven. I told Him I'd give my life to Him. I'd let Him run it His way."

Through the yellow pages, Roberts found the name of a local pastor who then put him in touch with pastor Ted Brown of Kennedy Road Tabernacle in Brampton. Roberts arrived in Ontario a few weeks later with "nothing but a pair of pyjama pants and a t-shirt.

"My first meeting with Mike was pretty intimidating," says Brown, referring to both Robert's size and the tattoos covering him from head to foot. "Mike is still rough around the edges but…I've seen a man who struggles with unforgiveness—toward the people who hurt him and who he's hurt—learning to forgive."

Roberts now writes the church's "Behind the Walls" prison newsletter. He also talks to school and church groups.

"I've taken Mike with me to meet with some young men who are close to being in trouble with the law or have already been charged," says Brown. "Mike speaks clearly and patiently to them hoping to direct them on the right path.

"I believe Mike has impacted lives for the kingdom, and in the days and years ahead, he'll impact many more."

Roberts says, "I could go back tomorrow and be that drug lord again, but I've given up all those riches because I want to be with God.

"I know where 'the beast' in me was created—and now I have my heart back. God gave me back the heart of a child and the dreams I had as a kid."

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