The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

Amazing Transformation

From Gangster to Pastor

By Rod Thomas
The 700 Club Rocco Morelli grew up in a tough neighborhood run by the mafia. It was only a matter of time before Rocco too, fell prey to the mob lifestyle.

"I was intrigued by the wise guys and the mafia. I learned gambling myself and what we called 'bookmaking,' and illicit bets of sports," Rocco tells The 700 Club.

As Rocco began his life as a bookie and enforcer for the mob, there was a hindrance to his career advancement – his mother’s prayers.

"My main thing was I always asked the Lord, 'Just have mercy on him,' and I wanted a hedge of protection around him at all times. I would always claim Psalm 91 over him," says Rocco's mother.

Eventually, he tried to walk away from the mob life. He became a police officer and went into politics, but the lure of the underworld was too great.

"I was elected to a position as a Penn State constable; but, yet I was still living the double life -- you know, gangster at night but by daytime, I'd play politician ... Mr. Nice guy. I'd kiss all the ladies and the babies, and pass out candy to get votes, but I was only fooling myself. I still deep down in, was a gangster at heart."

At the height of his political career, Rocco’s lust for power and money led to his downfall. It began with a visit from an old friend.

"Tony had obviously been busted by the man, and his job was to set me up in a sting operation, so Tony brought me a package and left me with the reason, 'You need to hold this stash for me.' "

The next day, his friend betrayed him.

"He needed that package back and wanted to introduce me to another friend that was going to move a large quantity for us ... of coke," remembers Rocco.

That man was the undercover agent.

"Tony had the drugs in his hand, and he put the money in my hand. It didn’t look good, and I knew what was going down at that moment." he says.

Rocco was arrested on the spot. He faced up to 20 years for possession with intent to distribute drugs.

"I wanted to kill Tony. At that point, it was a rage," he adds.  

Tony also snitched on several mob bosses in an attempt to get out of serious jail time. While he was out on bail, the mob boss gave Rocco a job.

"The boss had put on me to whack Tony, and then I would become made in the mafia. That’s what was running through my mind.  How am I going to get away with it? I needed the alibi."

The plan began to develop when Rocco went to his doctor for a routine checkup. His doctor was a Christian and invited him to a full Gospel businessmen’s meeting. 

"It hit me - what an alibi. My plan was ... I’m gonna whack Tony, and take Tony to that Gospel meeting. People would see me go through the routine and that was the night I was going to whack Tony."

He says that God had a better plan for him that night.

"I was set up that night. The pastor was talking and sharing his story about forgiveness -- how he had been angry and the violent nature that he had. He wanted to even kill his own lawyer for something that had happened to him," Rocco recalls. " That’s what started to speak to me in volumes."

"The message of God’s forgiveness changed my life as though somebody just pushed me out of that seat. I went to that altar. The setup was between God and I. I met the Lord right there that night. I could just feel inside of my spirit something happening, and I knew that God was real."

"I was experiencing Him now for the first time in a very powerful way," he tells of his experience.

Rocco walked out of the meeting, a new man. But he still had serious legal consequences to face. He was given a 15- month sentence for several drug charges in addition to conspiracy. During his time in prison, he studied the bible daily and learned about God’s forgiveness and love.

"Spiritually, I knew that my life was changed. My mind still had to be renewed and that was going to come day-by-day as I read the Word, studied the Word, and lived the Word." 

Now released, Rocco has been back to prison – this time to share the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ with the inmates.

"I always felt when I was in prison that I was going to have to go back. Because I saw the despair and where a lot of guys were not saved, but that had lost hope. I had a message to go back to say, ""ook what He’s done for me.' "  

He is grateful for parents who wouldn’t give up on him.

"Praise be to God. I give Him all the praise, honor, and glory for Rocco changing around, and He is what He is today.  We’re really proud of him," adds his mother.

Rocco Morelli went from mafia wise guy to God’s man. He tells about his journey from mafia to ministry in his book, : Forgetta 'Bout It.

"I can’t believe He actually loved me so much that He intervened and was able to just say, 'I want you just the way you are, and just let Me work in you and clean you up,' " Rocco says of God

"Things have evolved from that day when I said, 'Yes' to Him and 'No' to the mob and my old life. It was definitely Him and His grace and love. I’ve never experienced that kind of love and mercy before in my life until that moment."

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