Stephen Easton:Hanging with the Wrong Crowd
By Jewel Graham Taylor
The 700 Club
CBN.com-“It was like the fourth of July. Bullets flying everywhere ‘POP! POP! POP!’ And I ended up in the street after I was on the steps of the store. I was left for dead and all I could do was look up in the sky and say, ‘Lord, I don’t want to die.’”
Stephen Easton lived life large as a Crip on the streets of Louisville, Kentucky, so this was not the first time he had been shot. The rivalry between the Bloods and the Crips goes back as far as the 1970’s.
“I looked back and there was a guy with a gun behind me. He was a Blood and all he kept saying was ‘DIE! DIE!’ Then I heard it, ‘POP! POP! POP! POP!’ ‘DIE! DIE! DIE!’ and I just ran out in the street,” Stephen said, “by the time I got my gun, I was shot.” Stephen kept running, thinking he was going to die.
Stephen wears the scars of thirteen bullet wounds; they were a badge of honor. From the beginning, gang life consumed him.
At the age of 13, gang life gripped him, “It was like, ‘wow!’ It was the money, it was the females that I had seen, it was the cars, it was the glamour that drew me in.” Stephen quickly realized that he could not be in school and be a gangbanger as well. “It’s going to be one or the other,” he said. “I realized I was making more money outside of school than in school instead of getting my education like I was supposed to.” So that is what he did, at the age of 16, Stephen dropped out of school.
Unlike his fellow gangsters, Stephen’s upbringing did not drive him to the streets. Stephen’s mother and father were raising their children in the church.
Stephen says he went to Sunday school, loved Jesus and was baptized. Gang life was not something that he grew up in; it was something he was exposed to.
Stephen remembers, “After I got shot I was more low key. I was not on the corner. I would do stuff behind the scenes, selling drugs and smoking marijuana. I was probably making between five and seven thousand dollars a day. People couldn’t tell me anything, I had money, I had cars – I felt like the world owed me something.”
Stephen’s emotional state was a wreck; he said he felt like he had everything but was still empty on the inside. “I didn’t want to die, I almost lost my life after being shot 13 times. I don’t want to go to jail either and spent the rest of my life there, so it’s only one option for me.” Stephen decided to go back to church!
After meeting with a friend’s pastor, Stephen went to church the following Sunday. “I knew that I was not in a good place with God; when I first walked into church that Sunday there were tears just rolling down my face. I was tired, just tired. I had had everything and I was still empty. I was asking myself, ‘what’s next?’” Stephen realized he had a decision to make. Was he going to give his life over to Christ or go back and do the same things over and over again?
“I remember the man of God, the pastor, saying ‘Tomorrow is not promised to you.’ And I gave my life over to Christ because I knew God was dealing in my heart.” Stephen said.
Through that process, Stephen says he had to change his people, the places he went and the things he was doing. “God, I give it over to you. So many times I gave it to God but then I took it right back. It was really a heart change for me because I had some choices and decisions I had to make. God was ready to do it, but I had to participate in it,” he said.
Stephen went back to school and completed his high school diploma. He married and says the Lord changed his heart. However, his passion for those living on the streets remains. “I realized the stuff I had been through, the seven years I was on the streets, God was going to use it for His glory. I realized when I was around young people I would just get this excitement – they would do something to me because I believed in them because I know God has a purpose for them. I see what the enemy is trying to do in their lives and how he is trying to destroy them and I say to them, ‘God changed me! I came from this lifestyle and you are still in it? I know if God can change me, He can change you too!’”
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