Unfolding Stories Podcast, Episode Ten: From Street Gang to God’s Child.

This is it! The final episode of our Christian testimony podcast Unfolding Stories, season one, is here! It’s available to download from your favorite podcast platform today. See below for links to download.

This week we meet Michelangelo, who recalls for us a life that started with little direction; and even fewer expectations. He finds himself running on the streets with a gang, getting up to no good. He spirals into depression, addiction, and debt until God sends a message to him through some coworkers.

It’s a long, emotional journey, and one—as you will hear—that takes many turns; but eventually Michelangelo finds his hope in the Lord and gives his life to Jesus.

Photo of Michelangelo, this week's guest speaker in the final episode of the season of Unfolding Stories Christian testimony podcast.

This captivating episode of Unfolding Stories demonstrates the power of sharing the gospel with others, supporting faith seekers on their journey, and leaning into a relationship with God for strength and wisdom. We really are at our best when we know that all good comes from God, and He is worth placing our trust and our lives in.

You can read the transcript from Michelangelo’s Unfolding Story below.

Download episode ten here:

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While we may not all be able to relate to Michelangelo’s life in a street gang, there are takeaways from his story that we can apply in our own lives.

Trusting God and His promises, especially when you’re new to faith, can be a challenge. How do we seek reassurance in this? Well, for one we hope this podcast has been a source of reassurance that God is fighting for you and He loves you unconditionally. More important, however, we can turn to God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible is God’s means for speaking to us, for speaking truth into our lives and helping us to navigate all of life’s challenges.

Front cover image of the book, Bible Promises to Live By. A featured resource in this week's Unfolding Stories.In Bible Promises to Live By, by Amy E. Mason, you’ll find over 500 promises from the Bible arranged alphabetically by topic for quick and easy access. God’s promises are as current and fresh as they are ancient, which means they apply not only to your past and present but also to your future. Living by God’s promises will put your heart at ease. And it will give you the desire to trust in His Word, even in seasons of struggle and challenge.

 

 

 

 

Front cover image of Street God, one of the recommended resources for this week's episode in our Christian testimony podcast.If you enjoyed Michelangelo’s story, you may also like this autobiographical book from Dimas Salaberrios: Street God. It is the true story of one man’s against-all-odds journey from the streets to the altar and back again. Salaberrios’s story reveals that we’re never too far gone for God to change us—and shows how a single spark can illuminate even the darkest existence.

 

 

 

 

Read the transcript from Michelangelo’s Unfolding Story:

The Unfolding Stories Christian podcast logo.

I grew up in a caring but disciplined, Italian non-practicing Catholic family near Chicago, Illinois.

As a child, I often felt very lonely, and never really accepted in my home or at school. I was teased by my family for being a skinny kid, making me self-conscious, even ashamed. I wouldn’t even wear shorts around them. In school I was a very timid kid, steeped in shame because I didn’t do well in class. I just couldn’t understand and learn in the way they wanted me to. I think as a result, I just assumed that everyone thought I wasn’t good enough for them, so I avoided making friends or getting close to anyone.

Had I realized then how self-destructive that thought was; that I wasn’t good enough, my life probably would have been very different.

I eventually met some kids in high school who finally made me feel a part of a group. We would mess around causing a bit trouble, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and laugh over pornographic magazines together. I came across hardcore pornography at a very young age. I began fantasizing about acting out what I saw in the films, even managing to convince a couple girls to try some of these things; my young mind had been so polluted by the unreal imagery.

Just as I was struggling with that, I met some other, far more dangerous ‘friends’ and pretty soon dropped out of school. I began ‘gang banging’, regularly taking part in violent criminal activities, I started stealing anything worth taking and experimenting with hard drugs. I went from one casual sexual relationship to another, never realizing how destructive this all was.

I struggled constantly with inner fears, battled with depression, anxiety and constant feelings of loneliness. I was freewheeling, going from dead-end job to dead-end job. My life was out of control, but I had no idea how to fix it, or even that I needed to fix it. When you’re in that kind of lifestyle, sometimes it’s hard to see it from the other side, the side that offers real peace, happiness and fulfillment. I thought I had those things; I was having fun, or so I thought, being my own person and living real life. I thought I was doing just fine, despite the negative effects of my chaotic lifestyle.

I spiraled even further and began gambling regularly. Of course, I really enjoyed it and it became a heavy addiction. It was an escape, much like the drugs, booze and sex.

Eventually, I started to feel a need to settle down, just to get some basic security in my life. Everyone around me was doing it, so it felt like I should do the same. I left the gang and got a full time job at O’Hare airport, one that I actually enjoyed and stuck with for 18 years.

I met my wife, got married and had 2 beautiful children.

Despite my life taking a better turn, I continued to self-destruct. I was still engaging in all sorts of casual sexual hookups, continued to steal and was gambling till I had no money left. I was getting myself into trouble with massive debts racked up to feed my addictions.

One day, after a weekend of gambling and taking massive losses that lead to outbursts of anger at home and deep depression over my situation, I decided to talk to some trusted co-workers.

My colleagues at the airport had, at one time, lived very similar, debauched lifestyles – lots of stealing, partying and drugs, gambling and sex. But I knew they now followed God and I sensed a huge change in them, they had turned their lives around and seemed much happier for it. I’m not sure what I was looking for from them, but it was the first time anyone had made me feel safe enough to admit to my addictions. I felt like they genuinely heard me, understood me and wanted to help. That day, for the first time in my life, someone prayed with me.

In 2004, my life took another sharp turn, when my wife of 7 years suddenly told me she was no longer in love with me and filed for divorce. At the same time, I was told that I would be losing my job at the airport after 18 years of work there, and then, on top of all that, I was diagnosed with both Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory intestinal disease and a bone loss condition called osteopenia.

It was a very dark time in my life. I lost my family unit, lost my house, had to find another job and move back in with my now elderly parents.

I thought of suicide, something to take away this enormous pain. Now I recognize that it was more a cry for help and attention but at the time, it was very real. How could I survive this life? What did I do to deserve this? It all felt so hopeless.

I started attending a church hoping that God would fix everything for me, but, of course, that didn’t happen. Something was still missing, I couldn’t understand why the life I thought I would have with God; one of instant happiness, health and wholeness – why that wasn’t just happening for me? I know now that I wasn’t really looking for a relationship with God, I was trying to find a genie in a bottle, something to magic away my problems and make me feel better, without having to put any work into my own recovery.

I met a guy at my church who was also going through a divorce at that time and could relate to my journey. He had been walking with the Lord for some time already and introduced me to a different church. It was there I finally heard, connected with and understood the gospel message. It was there that I came to faith, I truly believed in and understood God’s love for me and His forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ.

I was eager to know Him more, to serve him as best I could and really live my life for him. I no longer expected anything from God, but I knew with His love, and my belief, things would get better.

Since giving my heart to the Lord, my life has radically changed. And while it hasn’t been easy by any means, with the strength of my faith, my church family’s help and the blessings of God, I can now genuinely say that my life really is changed for the better.

I have stopped gambling altogether and given up the drugs and the destructive lifestyle. I have a full time, permanent job at a Christian company where I have been working and serving the Lord for the last few years. I met and married a woman at my church who is supportive and loving, she had a similar story to mine, so she understood what I had been through, and I am so proud to call her my wife.

I am blessed to serve additionally in my local community, through my church’s outreach programs where I get great joy volunteering with kids. My osteopenia has become so well managed, you wouldn’t even know I had it, plus my Crohn’s disease is now virtually undetectable. I can’t say this a miracle, I don’t know if this is the work of God’s healing hands, but I thoroughly believe He sent the right care team to help me.

This was what was missing from the beginning, my recognition of God and His love. Had I been aware of God’s love for me in my childhood, I’m almost certain my life would have been very different. That’s why it’s important to me to pass this message onto my family and the kids I serve through my church. Please, know that you are loved! You are never alone, because God is always with you. And despite all my failings, addictions and sins, He has always loved me too.

God will forgive all sins, except one. . . . Click here to see which sin is the only one God cannot forgive>> Is There Anything God Won’t Forgive?

 

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