Poverty, loneliness and a need for family motivated Jacob Moore, known as Big Jake, to join a gang that led him down a sad and dangerous path from a young age.
Two years after his birth, Jake's father was locked up in a Michigan prison. This in effect sentenced him, his mother and two brothers to homelessness in Detroit once they could no longer afford to pay rent. Killing, stealing, drugs and prostitution were the norm in the area. Since his mother was always working, Jake obtained meals, friendship and family from older neighborhood kids instead.
His gang, he says, "became my family and I would do anything for them, because they showed love and cared for me".
Loyalty and a desire for popularity motivated Jake to join his friends in thieving, gang violence and smoking pot.
His friends did other illegal things, but Jake says, "There was only so far I would go because I remembered what I learned in church as a child."
Sadly, one drug hangover cost him his self-described "coping mechanism": a place on the high school basketball team.
Though the action was just, Jake recalls that this penalty devastated his self-worth.
Death threats caused Jake to turn to the only one he knew could save him"I lost all hope and became reckless and robbed someone at school in my senior year. I went to jail and did not graduate with my class."
Even after being released, he continued his careless endeavors until his life came under threat.
"There were a number of people who wanted me dead and threatened my life. I couldn't be at home, for fear of my family being harmed, so I stayed in a house with a lot of weapons and drugs.
"I began to have nightmares of being shot or killed. I knew it was a matter of time."
His mother worried about her son so much that she was hospitalized with two mini-strokes.
Afraid she was dying, Jake stayed off the street to watch over his mother and began to pray to God for the first time in his life.
"I knew who to turn to, so I prayed to Jesus asking for help," he says.
Days later, he ran into an old basketball friend as he was walking out of his church and was invited to the next Sunday service.
As he arrived home, Jake suddenly felt overwhelmed by the pressure he was under.
He recalls, "I broke down and began to weep about all the things I had done and how much trouble I was in. I knew Jesus was the answer so I went to church where my friend invited me and loved it."
After many Sundays attending this church, Jake says, "I ended up surrendering my life to Jesus".
Jake trusted in Jesus Christ as King of his life and as his Savior from the punishment for sin. His new relationship with Jesus was reaffirmed, he says, when he heard that police had arrested the occupants of the house he was previously hiding in.
As his new life with Jesus grew further, he began following a Christian gospel rap group called The Gideon Crew in Detroit because he could relate to their music.
"At one of their concerts, an old friend told me that the man who wanted to kill me was in prison for murdering someone else," Jake recalls.
As God continued to deliver him from his past, Jake says God gifted him with the ability to create his own rap music.
A year later, he had the opportunity to share some songs with the founder of this rap group he had been following.
"Long story short," he says, "I became a member of the group and my life has changed."
This change helped lead Jake to pursue a degree in business administration and he has gotten back into playing basketball.
Ultimately he says, "My life represents how much love, grace and mercy God has for us." •