The Christian Broadcasting Network

The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Angelo Vega: Joining God’s Gang

By Jeremy Callahan
The 700 Club -“I began to do drugs and began to shoot cocaine in my veins. Money was running out!  I had to survive.”

“We show up and knock at the door. One of us is standing to the side. I force my way in while he’s coming behind me with a gun already pointed up. Once the victim sees the gun, they’re not gonna struggle with ya, man. So one of us takes his hands back and duct tapes him, so he can’t make no sudden moves. So then we ransack the house, and see what we can find.”

Angelo Vega was always on the run, and always got what he wanted… EXCEPT a real family.  Growing up, he was handed off to live with different family members across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

“I was always rejected. My mother and father didn’t want nothing to do with me. They had their own lives. I see people all around me all the time who have families and they were functional families. I always desired that.”

At one point, he lived with an alcoholic grandfather, who beat him every night.

“He would just come in there and just drag me by the head and throw me to the floor and just take his belt off and just begin to whoop me and whoop me and whoop me. I was so young I couldn’t retaliate, because I was scared he’s going to beat me down so bad again. I had all this anger being stored up inside of me.”

Angelo lashed out at other students at school, and was sent back to his father, a drug dealer.

“One day I came across his stash, and I started to experiment with marijuana at that age, 13. I would take it to school and I would show all the other kids, ‘Look what I got, man,’ and I would start selling drugs to get money.”

 By the time he was eighteen, he ended up in jail on drug charges. There he met members of a gang called the Latin Kings, who wanted Angelo to join them.

“I mean, I’ve been rejected all my life. Now you guys are telling me you’re going to love me, and I’m going to be a part of a family finally—the family I never had.”

He began fighting other inmates for his gang, and ended up in solitary confinement for a year. The other gang members forgot all about him.

“They said they were going to keep in touch with me and whatever I needed they were going to make sure that I had it. Everything they ever talk about is a lie. It’s not true. It’s the same thing I felt when I was a kid. I was rejected all around. I was angry. I was stuck. I was depressed.”

Once Angelo was released he needed cash to buy drugs, and began robbing homes.
“We duct tape them at gunpoint, laid them on the floor, loaded up and took off. Took everything.”

Angelo was caught and went to prison again for eight years. His cellmate invited him to go to the prison’s chapel service.

“I said, ‘Brother, I don’t go to church. I didn’t come to prison to go to church. I came to prison to do eight years.’And he said to me, ‘Well, you’re a gang member, right?’  I said, ‘Yeah, I’m a Latin King.’ And he said, ‘Well, I think I seen one of them in the service.’ I said, ‘You did?  Wow!  Really!?’ I said, ‘Man, where do I sign my name?’”

He went to the service that night. He didn’t see any gang members, but he heard a message that changed his life.

“The man of God began to preach. And he began to share that God is willing,God is there, and God wants to speak to you today. I found myself in a prayer and I was saying, “God if you’re real, if this is true about you, uh speak to me.”

After the service, Angelo walked forward to talk to the pastor.

“He said,’The Lord wants me to tell you that three years ago you almost died, but he kept you alive because of his grace.’ He says, ‘Stay in the Word and the Word will guide you there.’ There was no way that this man could know that I almost had an overdose exactly three years ago. I mean, this is not a coincidence. And so immediately I knew it was God, I knew He spoke to me and I was shaken. And I go into my cell and I got on my knees—I was weeping.”

Angelo was transferred to a new prison to serve the remainder of his time.  That’s where he discovered Teen Challenge, a Christian drug rehabilitation program.

“Everybody that goes to Teen Challenge, they get released from prison. I said, “Man, that’s the program for me.’”

But once again he heard the same message he had in the prison service

“He begins to share how God so loved the world… even though we deserve condemnation, He didn’t come to do that.  He came to liberate and set the captives free. When he said that He didn’t come to condemn the world, right there I knew it. It was love. It was a love that the gang could not offer me.”

“It was something deep, profound, and so I prayed and I meant business with God. ‘God, I’m so sorry that I rejected Your Word. I’m so sorry that I ran from You when I came into this prison.  I’m so sorry! And Lord, I believe that Jesus Christ came and died on the cross. And because of that, Lord God, I accept You today as my personal savior.”

“I felt a weight--it was like chains was lifting off of me that morning. This scripture became a reality in my life, ‘Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. All things are passed away, behold all things become new.’”

Angelo finished the drug rehab program and his prison sentence. He now works fulltime with Teen Challenge, helping others who share the same struggles he once had.

“One of the things I love the most of this job is to see when God takes a person that is broken and puts them back together. My grandfather really didn’t care less. My father, all he cared about was his drug business. My mother, she tried, but really she wasn’t there for me. The gang, they gave me a false philosophy of love, but God—nothing is like God. He definitely knows how to love like a true, true Father.”  

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