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After Stabbing, Gang Member Rethinks Life Choice

“Just to hear the stories of them fighting and stuff they got into, like I was attracted to that,” says Gilbert. “I wanted to be accepted by my uncles and my mom. I wanted to take on the tradition of being a gang member.” As a young boy Gilbert idolized his family members, who were active in Southern California street gangs. To him they were larger than life.

“I wanted to have their stories, I wanted to be rough like them and be strong like they were strong. Whatever they’ve got to do for the gang, like robbing, stealing, or killing. People die, people get shot. So it’s a part of it,” he says.

He moved to Arkansas but when he was sixteen his uncle came to visit and officially jumped him into the gang. Gilbert remembers, “He just started punching me in my face, like he was hurting me and I had to swing back and he says you’re getting jumped in. So it was fighting, fist fighting. It was my uncle—my own uncle was beating me up. Right away like I thought I was like the toughest dude. Because now I’m like, I can call myself a member of a King Kobras.”

His brothers eventually followed him into the King Kobras. Gilbert says he loved the identity he had as a gang member. “Anybody who was from a different gang, if they wanted to fight me, I was always claiming it. That’s what I loved to do, you know. One thing I was good back in the days was being a gang member. And I wasn’t any good at anything else. That’s who I was, that’s who I wanted to be all my life was a gang member.”

Weekly fights and turf wars with other gangs were fueled by daily drug and alcohol abuse. Gilbert says, “Crack cocaine and the use of cocaine and mixing it together. And I didn’t care. Like I remember just saying like well, if I’m going to overdose, I’m going to overdose partying. And I didn’t care how much I would use. Because it was always there around us, we would always do drugs. It was normal to us. If we didn’t have drugs it was just weird. You know, it was a part of the gang culture, doing drugs, getting high, getting drunk.”

One night gilbert was stabbed during a fight. He says the reality of his life choices finally sunk in. “And I remember getting rushed to the ER they had to stitch me up because it was –I was cut really deep in my back. Just thinking about life, like is this all there is to life? Like gang banging and doing drugs and partying, and I was like man, there has to be a change. I can’t live this way forever because I’m going to end up dying or going to jail.

But his gangster lifestyle continued. Soon after, he was arrested for public intoxication. Late that night he called his girlfriend Karen for bail money, “I just told her, can you get me out? And I didn’t have money on me. And Karen came and her mom actually gave her the money.”

Karen says, “And so I told him, I’m like, ‘Hey, my mom, you know, that was my mom’s money. Like she said you need to come to church.’ And he said okay. And I was like I’ll pick you up.”

Gilbert says, “And I remember going. I was hung over still, you know. And I went and when I was in there, you know, I didn’t really pay any attention to the sermon because I was scared of Karen’s mom because she was singing in the choir. And I remember her coming down the steps and I thought she was going to slap me in the service. And, but she stuck her hand out and she was like, nice to meet you. And that shocked me.”
 
He started going to church regularly with Karen. Then one day, she went forward during an alter call. Gilbert says, “In my mind I was like, is she really going to do this? Is she really going to follow Jesus? Like we never talked about it and it just blew me away. Like she made this commitment.”

In the following weeks he met with the pastor and heard about God’s love and grace in a way he hadn’t before. Gilbert remembers, “Just thinking well, he told me like about who Jesus is and what He did for us. And knowing that this loving God died for my sins, I was just feeling so much weight, like heaviness on my heart because before I never regretted what I did. I never felt guilty for the people I beat up or hurt or almost killed. Like to me it was –it was –like I felt good about it. But it was just eating me up inside. And I remember going in the room and getting on my knees and crying. Like I never cried like that in a long time. And I remember just laying everything on God, like God, I want to change. I don’t want –I don’t want to live this lifestyle no more. I’m tired of drinking. You know, forgive me for all the past things I did in my life, from beating up people. I was just done with the gang stuff. I was done with all that. The way I felt in that moment was just –a peace like. Knowing that everything that I did in my life, like He forgave it at that moment.”

Gilbert left the gang and was set free from drugs and alcohol addiction - as he put his life in Jesus’ hands. He says, “I’m beyond thankful. I’m grateful that God has changed my life. Because I don't know where I would be at now. I’d either be dead or in jail or being homeless. And He has blessed me with so much, you know.”

Gilbert and Karen married and started a family. His brothers and mother also gave their lives to Christ and left the gang. “God, in His mercy, you know, like answered my prayers in my family,” says Gilbert. “Because I thought they would never change. He changes people. He changed me, he changed my family.”

The gang member identity that used to define him has now been exchanged for a new one; a follower of Jesus. “Now that I found my identity is in Christ, like the old has passed and the new, you know, my new identity is in Him. I’m no longer living for myself, you know, so I live for Christ now. It’s changed the way I think, the way I live out my life. The way I treat my wife, raising my boy. It’s just a new identity knowing that I’ve been forgiven.”

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