Out of the depths of the LA gang scene, rife with drugs, abuse and violence, born-again Christian Tommie Scott offers a story of hope and complete transformation.
A former gang member and drug dealer, Tommie grew up with an abusive father who was constantly in and out of jail. Aged just 12, he was initiated into a faction of the Crips, one of the biggest and most violent gangs in the US.
He became known as 'Hit man', and spent years trapped in a cycle of crime and jail-time. He fathered five children, three to his wife, Rache't, who he is still married today to today.
Despite a legacy of extreme violence, however, he eventually became a Christian during a stint in prison, when men from a local church shared of the forgiveness and grace offered by Jesus. Tommie accepted a call to give his life over to God, and began ministering to other men in the jail himself, leading Bible studies and prayer meetings. He saw many more once-violent men come to faith.
Now out of jail and completely reformed, he has since dedicated his life to sharing the good news of Christ with those who do not yet know him. He believes he is testament to the fact that anyone with a willing heart can be used by God and now leads an outreach for at-risk youth in Las Vegas as well as working alongside a Gang Task Force, speaking at and training schools to deal with gang warfare and drug awareness. He wants to show young people that they need not be a part of an endless cycle of violence - Jesus offers a better way.
He is passionate about spreading the Gospel: "If you knew you could do something that would impact a life for an eternity, would you do it?" he asks.
Tommie spoke with Christian Today about his story, and the grace he has received through faith in Christ.
CT: What was it like growing up in LA in the midst of gang warfare?
TS: It was chaos. A lot of fear plagued the city, and you could cut the tension in the air with a butter knife. My father is one of the first generation of Crips, which played a big part in me joining a gang because it was like tradition, I was rooted into this life from birth. I was jumped into a gang at age 12 right before the Watts riots and the Rodney King beating. At this time crack cocaine had its nasty grip on a lot of the parents of the youth in our community, or the parents were locked away in prison, which would leave children young and reckless.
Many of my friends were killed by the hands of the gun, the knife, and drugs. I became numb to death when my best friend Lee was shot 16 times. I knew that I would be murdered soon, and so I just accepted it. Every day saw another tragedy or some form of chaos going on - fights, shoot outs, running from the police, hiding from the helicopters, or just committing senseless acts of violence. So I did drugs and drank all day to drown out reality. LA has close to 1,500 gangs with hundreds of thousands of members. In America we have close to 15,000 murders a year, most of which are black on black crime. We are the porn, alcoholic, suicide and drug addict capital, and house 25 per cent of the world's jail population. We need revival.
CT: How did you become a Christian?
TS: Before being saved, I was suicidal and depressed. I destroyed lives by making others join gangs, sell drugs and take part in robberies and violence. I couldn't provide for my family, I couldn't get a job because of my record and prison sentences. I felt low, worthless, and unloved. I hated myself.
One night I drove around to see if I could find someone to rob, so I could pay the bills, but no one was out. I went home and fell asleep with a knife in my hand. The next morning a knock at the door woke me up - it was my probation officer. There was a warrant for my arrest - I had left blood on the scene of a place that I had broken into. And then the walls seemed as if they were caving in on me.
I was sentenced to a housing unit where I sat on my bed and cried: "If there's a God or something you need to show up now." God didn't show, but the next night they called for a Bible study.
Going into this meeting, I saw two very old men smiling as if we were someone they knew. Pastor Kleg Seth and Tim Berends gave a message about the Apostle Paul's conversion. They spoke of the forgiveness of God, and how Jesus took all of our sin upon himself. They told us that we could have eternal life, and be forgiven and set free. I didn't believe that God could forgive a man like me, but he did. At the end of the message Kleg asked us if we would surrender our lives and I received Jesus as my saviour.
Words won't do justice to what happened. I knew that I was saved. I felt clean and overcome with love and peace. Back in my unit I started sharing what happened to me, and I was shocked by how God started using me while facing 10 years in prison. I was released in one week on house arrest and started sharing the Gospel everywhere I went.
CT: Do you have any stories of transformation you'd like to share?
TS: God started using me daily. I would pray for at least one soul to witness to each day. One day I caught the wrong bus and met a man who was going home to commit suicide because his wife had passed away. He had seven bottles of vodka in a bag so I sparked a talk with him and found out about his wife and unbelief. After sharing with him, we two grown men on the bus went from crying to laughing in front of many people.
CT: Now you work with at-risk youth in Las Vegas, what's your dream?
TS: To see every soul saved. There are many programmes, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation.
CT: What more can be done to help transform gang culture?
TS: The church can't be scared to go into these neighbourhoods. It doesn't matter what race you are, or what background you have - two old white guys who didn't live my life but were full of the Holy Spirit led me to Christ. We have to preach the Gospel unashamedly and love on people, and just be there for them.
CT: What can people learn from your story, even those who may not be able to identify with your upbringing at all?
TS: Jesus Christ is who he said He is. The only way, the truth and the life. The solution to our problems, to the world's problems, is that we need a saviour.
CT: What would you say to those who believe they are too broken, or have done too much, for Jesus to save them?
TS: We all are headed to the same place apart from Christ. Seeing God's grace in saving me shows that anyone can and will be forgiven no matter what they have done. I didn't turn over a new leaf. I didn't just become a better person. God supernaturally transformed me, and He could for you too.
The Tommie Scott Story is published by Innovo, and is available to buy now.
In the video below, Tommie shares how he used to be filled with hate before God saved him and gave him the courage to write a book: