By Rudee Becerra
Before Remi Adeleke was a famous actor, he was a Navy SEAL. And before he was a Navy SEAL, he was a drug dealer in the Bronx.
God brought about an incredible transformation in the life of the Transformers star.
Remi's life spiraled downward after his father died in 1987. He had immigrated to New York from Nigeria with his family when he was five. Without a father's love and guidance, he was left to himself. He liked movies, but the message to black men was mostly negative.
"It said you're a young African American male you need to be a hustler, or you need to be a thug or a player," he says on an "I am Second" video.
Accordingly, he fell into stealing, running scams and dealing drugs as a young person in the Bronx.
But if movies hastened his journey into the "valley of the shadow of death," movies also brought him through. When he watched "Bad Boys," he saw black men who were heroes, not thugs. He began to re-imagine his self-image.
Then he watched "The Rock" by Michael Bay about Navy SEALs that lived heroic lives, running, gunning and saving the day.
"I was just blown away at this portrayal of men who were coming out of the water and going into this place to go sacrifice themselves and save others," he says. "It really resonated and I thought if I was to ever turn my life around, that's what I would do."
A drug deal that went bad provided the spark to turn his life around. At age 19, he joined the military with the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. There was one snag to his freshly forged ambition: he didn't know how to swim.
He worked his bum off through boot camp, learned to swim, and qualified for SEAL training.
"When I wanted something, I would literally run through walls to get it," he says.
He had reinvented himself, and he loved Remi 2.0.
"There's not many jobs where you can get paid to jump out of planes and go after bad guys and protect those who couldn't protect themselves — essentially be that guy who stood in the face of bullies and said not on my watch."
During cold weather survival training in Alaska in 2008, he found a measure of solitude that caused him to think about his journey.
"While I would walk through this wilderness, I really had time to reflect upon myself in the silence because it was completely silent out there," he says. "I began to think about how I treated my mom, how I treated people I claimed I loved, and I would think about things that I did in the past. I still yearned for that paternal presence. I couldn't really sleep and then I began having suicidal thoughts.
"I was at the lowest point I had ever been in my entire life," he says. "I didn't know anything about the Bible. But by a simple act of faith, I literally began to cry out to Jesus; 'Help me, Jesus. Help me.'"
He started hanging out with Christians, ones "who didn't just read the Bible but actually lived the Bible," he says.
Change was happening in his heart.
"I started praying. All I wanted to do was be with Him and do for Him and forsake that life I used to live," he says. "I just wanted to live my new life with Him."
Remi surrendered his life to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and was born again.
After 13 years in the military, he decided God wanted him to move on. So in 2013, he transferred to the Army Reserves, and one year later, he became a full-fledged civilian.
At first, he didn't know how he would pay his bills. He tried public speaking and thought that his background in the Seals would provide bountiful opportunities to make a living. But there weren't any phone calls asking him to speak.
With only six months of savings, "I began to get very nervous," he remembers. His wife was pregnant. "We were just barely scraping through. We were living paycheck to paycheck."
The pressures were mounting and the marriage skills were limited — so much so that they very nearly divorced.
"I got so frustrated," he says. "When things didn't work out, I got mad at God: 'Did I hear you wrong? Was I supposed to get out of the military?' God was silent."
Then out of the blue he received a phone call from a casting agent who had given him a one-day gig years earlier as an extra. She wanted him to work on the Transformers filming. She needed him the next day. He so impressed his directors with his work that they upgraded him to a principal role.
The director was Michael Bay, the same one who inspired him years earlier to become a SEAL!
"Looking at my story, going from the Bronx to the military, special operations, out of that, into marriage, being a husband, being a father, and now having a career in acting in the film industry, if there's one word I could sum it up with, it's 'God,'" Remi says. "He's been with me throughout my entire life. He's seen the good, bad and the ugly. And He's used it all to bring me to where I am today."
Remi remains happily married and the couple has three sons.
"I don't want to force things anymore, I just want to allow God to do whatever He wants to do in my life. If He wants me to get out of acting and get into ministry, so be it. Because I know that His plan is better than any plan I could ever have.
"Even though it may not make sense to me, I know that in His plan is everything I need."•
This story first appeared in godreports.com and is used with permission.