Danny Velasco was a freelance hairdresser and makeup artist who worked with famous celebrities in photo studios around the world. His career was sky-rocketing, he had all the money he could ever want and his work was sought after by many well-known people.
However, drugs plunged him into poverty and madness until he cried out to God for rescue.
"In my early thirties, I moved to Paris where I got my first cover on Vogue magazine," Danny said. "When that cover hit the newsstands, my career just exploded. I had as much money as I wanted to spend on drugs. Suddenly, it wasn't just pills and alcohol, now it was cocaine and heroin."
Secretly struggling with his addiction, Danny was doing a photo shoot in New York and had an encounter with a model, Wanda, on set.
"She began to talk to me about God," he remembers. "To me, she was a religious fanatic. I didn't have anything to say to her, I just let her talk."
Before Wanda left, she asked to pray for Danny who stood there uncomfortably thinking the girl was crazy. After the prayer, she told him, "I just want to let you know that if you call on the name of the Lord, He is going to set you free."
"Listen, I will never call on the name of the Lord. That won't happen," Danny assured her.
Later, he got a contract with a big company and went to do a photo shoot for them during which he overdosed on heroin. They sent him back home and cancelled the contract, which ruined Danny's reputation.
"I didn't care," he said. "All I wanted to do was shoot dope."
Danny left all his wealth and prestige behind in a dramatic manner: "I pulled a garbage can between my legs and I began to cut up everything that had my name on it. Anything. Passports. Driver's license. I put my keys on the table, I walked out, I closed the door behind me and I never went back. I began to live on the streets."
Day-to-day existence on the streets of New York took its toll on Danny. He did drugs every day, he was starving, he lost so much weight he went down to 108 pounds [48 kilos] and he developed serious liver infections Hepatitis A, B and C.
He also developed unnatural phobias and was tormented by voices in his head. "I had gone from this celebrated person to this crazy man living on the streets of New York talking to himself, laughing, and cursing," he said.
Every once in a while, Danny would go to a pay phone and ring Wanda, asking her for money. She would always invite him to her church where, unbeknown to Danny, she had a whole team of friends praying for him.
One night, Danny was told by another drug addict that he was going to die if he didn't go to the hospital. He stumbled to the emergency entrance and blacked out before waking up in a pool of his own vomit. "The demonic voices were screaming in my head and in that moment, I heard this sweet little voice and it said, 'Call on the Name of the Lord. He's going to set you free,'" he remembers.
"At that moment, I cried out to God. I didn't know how to pray. I didn't know really what I was saying. I was just crying, 'Jesus, help me. Save me. You're my only hope. I have no other hope.' That's the moment that I'll never forget because the spirit of the living God just swept into that hospital room.
"All of the voices in my head stopped and all the fears and phobias just dropped away from me. I knew that I was in the presence of God. I knew that the Spirit of God was in the room healing me and changing me."
When he left the hospital, Danny went into rehab where he read the Bible and eagerly learned more about what Jesus had done for him on the cross. He also wrote to Wanda and told her what had happened.
Upon leaving rehab, he went to stay with Wanda and her husband and they took him to their church. There, Danny met the people who had been praying for him and they surrounded him with encouragement and love.
"I'll tell you the thing that blows me away more than anything: God goes so much further than we ever dare to ask," he said. "When I called on the name of the Lord, I just wanted to get out of a jam. God goes: 'I'm going to get you out of the jam and give you a new life. Not just that, I'll give even further than that. I'll stand you up in front of all the world, in front of audiences of thousands and thousands of people so that others too may know that they can obtain mercy.'
"It's almost like a trophy," he concluded with a smile. "You're His trophy that He wants to show off to the world and say, 'I can do this in somebody's life.'"
Two weeks after Danny shared his testimony on a YouTube video, he passed away and went to be with Jesus in heaven.•