CJ Blair grew up in inner city Washington DC. His mother worked on the streets and the only father he ever knew was her pimp.
"There was no one there to nurture me and keep me out of trouble," he explains. Before long CJ was selling drugs and running with gangs.
"My intention was to make enough money to get my mother off the corner," he explains; "and when I was offered three-, four- or five thousand dollars a night, then I was thinking my mother can stop selling her body and getting beat up by men."
One bright spot was spending his summers at his great-grandmother's house, which had a totally different atmosphere.
"My great grandmother believed God for everything, I mean everything!" he remembers. "Bread, rent money, everything. She would kneel me down at the side of the bed and pray blessings and protection over me."
"I was the roughest kid in the family but my great grandmother would always speak well of me and call me a man of God. She spoke positive things over me."
Despite his great granny's strong influence, CJ was reluctant to change his ways. "I was scared of hell, really scared," he admits. "My great grandmother had hammered that home. But I knew that becoming a Christian was going to mean leaving the lifestyle I had become accustomed to, so I wasn't going to play with God. Either I was all in, or I wasn't even pretending."
CJ dropped out of school and was arrested for the first time at age 13 on an assault charge. He spent the next 12 years in and out of jail. Then, after serving a six-year prison term for robbery and malicious wounding, CJ went into the rap music business with some guys he met in prison.
One night, in the music studio, the studio engineer began to talk about Jesus.
He said, "If there's a Jesus, and you haven't accepted Him, and you die, you're going to be short."
"At that point God started dealing with me," says CJ.
A couple of weeks later CJ was driving home from a major drug deal, listening to a rap group singing how they had platinum currency cards with the mark of the beast on them. [A reference to some signs of the end of the world in the Bible's final book, Revelation.] "That triggered a memory of things my great grandmother had talked about when I was eight or nine and I immediately said, 'I'm going to hell.' And suddenly conviction and the power of God hit me and I put my hands up and started saying 'Hallelujah, hallelujah [praise be to God]'.
Then CJ says he heard the audible voice of Jesus, say "CJ!" "Yes, Lord," he responded. "Take it out," Jesus commanded. CJ popped the tape out of the tape deck and turned on the radio.
"Do you know what miracles are?" the radio DJ said just then. CJ knew God was talking to him and thought that maybe this meant he was about to die. He reached behind him and began throwing the cocaine, marijuana and cigarettes he had in the car, out of the window as he drove.
He remembers thinking at the time, "This better be Jesus because I'm throwing away all this money and people I answer to are going to kill me!"
When he got home, CJ went straight down to his basement and started praying as he had never prayed before. The next day when his mum asked what was going on, CJ replied, "I'm saved!"
CJ turned his whole life over to God, enrolled in Bible College and got rid of his guns. This made him, a former drug dealer, very vulnerable on the streets.
One day, while he was getting his hair cut at the barber shop, a dealer CJ owed money to, walked in. This was someone you didn't mess with and CJ felt his lack of weapon keenly as the guy walked right up to him.
"I heard you're with Jesus now," the thug said. "Yeh," said CJ. "Pray for me," the dealer replied, and turned around and walked out.
"That was such a blessing," CJ remembers; "because God spoke to me and said, 'I told you I could protect you.'"
Today CJ is a pastor, ministering in the same streets where he used to sell drugs.
"People need to see those who have made mistakes, but at some point have said yes to Jesus and had their lives changed. I live a good life as a result of the gospel and the purpose that God has instilled in my life," CJ finishes. "I was the guy who was rebellious, who went to prison, who got shot, who did all the wrong things, but I show forth His glory because if one word from God is injected into your life, all your past can change."•