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How I escaped from a gang

De’Jaye Johnson’s life revolved around gangs, drugs and street violence until, from a jail cell, he saw a way out of his misery

I started in a gang in middle school, when I was 12.

All my friends were part of one and inviting me to hang out with them. I wanted to be cool, and I wanted to be like them. We did a lot of group fights — fist fights. It was normal to me. Most of my family — my cousins, my uncles — were involved in gang activity. 

I saw what a disappointment I was for my mom. She raised me to be a gentleman and raised me in church, but I really never listened to her. When I turned to drugs, it gave me temporary peace. I felt like I was useless and couldn’t do anything with my life, like I was screwed up.  

Stealing and doing drugs — I think it was hurting me more than I would like to admit.

Fighting For My Life

Throughout high school, I was really dependent on drugs for everything. If I had a bad day, I would turn to drugs to get that temporary high to feel better. Toward the end of my high school career, I started to sell drugs to support that habit.

That’s where I saw most of the violence in my life. I would get into fist fights with someone not giving me money they owed or someone stealing from me. I had guns pointed in my face from someone trying to rob me. I did carry a weapon for a short period of time, once I started feeling threatened, but I never used it.

Thieving was a way to get money for drugs, too. We would break into a house and take anything we could find of value, and we would sell it and get weed.

I realized I didn't have any peace in my life at all.

Rescued From A Jail Cell

It got to the point where I was arrested for stealing. I stayed in jail two nights and one day. To this day, I remember being on my knees in jail praying and crying and begging for forgiveness. I was crying out to God to rescue me. That was my rock bottom.

My mom bailed me out and told me she believed in me and God had something better for my life. And that’s when she invited me to go to NewSpring Greenwood, Christmas 2012.

It was the first time I felt welcomed anywhere. The message that day was about peace. I realized I didn't have any peace in my life at all. At the end of the service, I couldn't help but stand and ask Jesus into my life. I walked out of NewSpring as a new person.

It feels like the world is off my shoulders now

An Example To Others 

Really when I think back to where I’ve been, I think about the peace that I have now. I can't stop reading the Bible, and I pray daily.

That’s part of the reason I volunteer at Fuse every week and started a Fuse group: I want to reach out to the kids here who could potentially go through what I went through. A couple of my guys have gotten saved, and I’d like to feel like I’ve made an impact on some of their lives.

I was a guy who was messed up. I knew I needed to do something with my life, but I didn't know what. Stealing and doing drugs — I think it was hurting me more than I would like to admit. It feels like the world is off my shoulders now. I love my walk with God.

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