From God of the Streets to Servant of the Faith

When he was 10 years old, Dimas Salaberrios saw the movie “Scarface” and knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life- become a drug lord.

“I grew in an area of Queens, New York, which had the largest middle-class population for African Americans,” Dimas said. “You know, my mother was a school principal, my father was the Captain of Correction. So it was always like a really well-rounded environment with a lot of love, a lot of fun.”

“Then around 10 or 11 years old crack cocaine started to hit our community in a huge way,” Dimas said. “You know, when you had a middle-class family, these were not poor people on drugs, but these were people of great influence. All kind of people that were bringing home thousands of dollars a week.  And when that started to translate into them spending that on drugs, I mean, there was some drug blocks that made $150,000 a day. So you can imagine the impression that this had on a young person's mind.”

His entry into the drug culture came at the age of 11.

“Walking down my junior high school hallway, a friend pulled me aside and said, ‘Do you want to buy some drugs?’” Dimas said.

“I gave him $3 and popped the pill, but, you know, I realized quite quickly that that little pill was like a hallucinogen and it had power.  And I told him, I said, "I never want to use it again, but I'd be very interested in selling it. I started to go to his neighborhood and we started to sell marijuana right in that community.”

Dimas maintained a strict business mindset-and avoided using the drugs he sold. Instead, he sought the highs that came with status.

“For me it was fame, money and power,” Dimas said. “So when I went into the drug world I was really very young but I was able to outthink even the competition that was around me, so I started to make more money than all those around me, and I feel in love with that. and then very quickly we realized in order to make the money like Scarface, I had to dip into the cocaine business and that's when I started to sell crack cocaine.”

By his mid-teens, Dimas had adopted the street name “Daylight” and had become one of the most respected drug dealers in his neighborhood. But as business expanded, so did Dimas’ criminal record. When he was 16 years old, Dimas was sentenced to a “shock” program at one of the most notorious jails in the country—Rickers Island.

“Rikers Island was tough,” Dimas said.  “I mean, you know, people would slice you with razor blades.  I fought there almost every other day. And, you know, it was one of the toughest things that I have experienced.”

Dimas was released after serving a year. He tried to live a clean life, but the reality of working for minimum wage hit hard.
“And I got a job at a fast food restaurant and I remember working so hard that whole week and my paycheck was $75,” Dimas said. “And when I saw that I said, ‘Is there a mistake?  Are you serious?’ When I was used to making $1,000 an hour, you know. and uh and unfortunately I went back into the drug world.”

It wasn’t long before Dimas violated his parole. But, instead of returning to jail, Dimas fled to North Carolina. At only 23 years old, he was paying the price for his drug dreams.

“I mean, to be a fugitive, that's a lot of pressure, you know?” Dimas said. “Fear was just a reality that you-you lived with in the drug world.  From age 11 on, I had to figure out in seconds was someone coming to buy from me?  Was some-someone coming to rob me?  Was the person coming towards me an undercover cop?  I mean, 30 of my friends were murdered in the drug world.  

Dimas grew increasingly paranoid and fearful, but a run-in with another drug dealers girlfried, who was known for being a witch, put Dimas over the edge.

“She popped out and grabbed my arm and did some kind of spin move and next thing I know, hours later, I started to lose my mind,” Dimas said. “Like I could not control my body. It was so scary.  I can feel this overwhelming presence of evil and darkness inside of me and I'm saying, ‘What could I do?’"

Some neighbors heard about Dimas’ distress and offered to help in one specific way.  

“And three elderly women –three praying women that ran a Bible study together had asked my girlfriend, ‘Could we pray for him?’” Dimas said.  “Do you think he would allow us to pray for him?’"

“And then, you know, they said, ‘Are you ready for prayer?’” Dimas said.  “I said, ‘Yes.’  And they grabbed me "IN THE NAME OF JESUS" and they just started to pray for me.  The power of God hit me so hard. But the next thing I know, I felt that evil presence just leave me.”

“You could feel it like driving out of my neck, out of my mouth, out of my body.  And I just laid there and just felt this peace from God. It was such a joy to be in his presence.  I never felt so good in my life.  That was like the first time I really felt free and I really felt liberated and I really felt the love that came from heaven.  And my eyes were open in a way that I knew I could never go back to the world.”

Because of his experience, Dimas left the drug business.     

“I said, ‘God,’ I said, ‘I love you God.’  I said, ‘I'll never sell crack again, God.’” Dimas said. When I realized that Jesus gave me my right mind back, I mean, Jesus gave me control of my body back, I said, ‘I'm going all out for God.’"

“Then I started to seek, ‘Where's a church I could go to?’ And I started to go to church, you know?  And I just loved church,” Dimas said. “And just started to read the Bible and pray and read the Bible and would pray.  I mean, there was an instant attraction to talk to God and to read his word.”

Nine months after turning his life around, Dimas felt led to return to New York and face his past. He turned himself in and confessed his crimes, knowing that he could get at least 7 years in prison. But, when he stood before the judge to be sentenced, her response was surprising.

“She said, ‘The man that I’m looking at looks so different than the person that I'm reading about and the photographs that I'm looking at.’” Dimas said.  “She said, ‘I'm going to do something I've never done. I'm going to release you, continue doing what you're doing, and I never want to see you in this place again.’"

Dimas honored her request and never returned to crime. Today, Dimas has a wife and two children and is a pastor in NY—ministering to the same streets where he used to sell. He was written a book called, “Street God” to tell others about the difference that Christ made in his life.

“So the same boldness and energy that I used to give to the dark world, I give so much more now to Jesus Christ,” Dimas said. “I left from being a street god to serving a God who loves the streets.   I want anybody that's watching this, that feels like they're trapped, to know God can turn that situation around.”

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