Thursday, November 7, 2013

A View from The Bishop's Window - Both Sides of the Fence an Interview

I had the rare opportunity to interview Bishop.  He is a Christian author, speaker and a gang expert.  After serving as a gang leader on Both Sides of the Fence, he has written a book by that same title to share what God has shown him through his life experiences.

I was so very touched by this man's tender heart toward God and his passion to help others be delivered and rescued out of gangs and the human trafficking industry! And yes, it is an industry that has invaded the United States in a very discreet and insidious way.

I hope you will join me as I welcome Bishop to my Window!

“Because of previous transgressions – whether it’s lying, stealing, selling drugs, sex trafficking – we don’t always get to choose the next step in our life.  Sometimes people with more control and more power make those decisions. And you have to move forward under their direction whether you like it or not.”  Did you feel like you had any choice about going undercover? Why or why not?

Choice?  No, not really. When I think about this, I remember Barabas.  I ask myself, "When the people chose Barabas, did he ever realize that someone else paid the price for him?"  He thought that he and Jesus experienced the choice of others, and I can't help but wonder if he ever really knew that Jesus died for him.  God always has purpose.

See, when I got out of prison, I made contact with one of my former gang brothers to tell him that I had chosen Jesus and wouldn’t be returning to the gang.  He told me, “When you get tired of doin’ the Jesus thing, you can always come back.”

When the Feds came to me, they thought I’d moved to this town to start a rival gang even though I was serving as a youth pastor in a local church.  No, I didn’t have a choice, but God had a plan.

Both Sides of the Fence takes readers into the life of a biker gang – a world you compare to both
the church community  (closeness, fellowship, family) and corporate business (financial decisions, business deals and leadership hierarchy) Yet it is vastly different than both in that most of what they do is illegal and the money used to live on is illegal.  Is that the fundamental reason that people must go undercover to ensure they are brought to justice?  Is there any other way to have success bringing these gangs to justice?

If you aren’t in the gang, you really can’t even get near them.  You have to have an invitation to even hang out with them.  We ride at night, we ride without colors.  Most violence is gang to gang  and isn’t even investigated.  Gang activity happens below the radar, and most of the time doesn’t even get onto the radar because cops look the other way. See, I went undercover to uncover bad cops. It turned out to be so much more.

I discovered  human and drug trafficking goes on in every town in the US. It’s a 32 billion dollar a year industry.  If you don’t realize it’s happening, you can’t stop it. All walks of life are involved. 

God doesn’t weigh sin against sin. That God could use me is just mercy and grace.

Part of me feels like the church needs to overcome its fears and minister to these gangs – like we have somehow failed.  But in fact, we are in the deadliest spiritual warfare ever and even folks who have been raised in church are leaving in droves.  What, in your opinion, needs to happen for the Church to be able to effectively reach these gangs?  Are jailhouse ministry the only option? Is that even effective?

I can’t judge other people.  Outreach is important, but it’s not the only thing that is needed.  After they are saved the church needs to welcome  and disciple former gang members and human trafficking survivors during their re-entry into life.  I think the church misses this a lot of the time – at the point of re-entry.  We are missing compassion. We can’t just give them a list of rules to follow and make them feel condemned.

My ministry deals with gang recovery – faith based curriculum that helps them re-enter life with Jesus. And no matter what is offered to former gang members, or people rescued from the sex slave trade, if Jesus isn’t in it, it will fail every time.  Jesus has to be the heart of recovery.  You have to let them hurt and you have to let them heal. Show them Christ.

People in recovery from these types of wounds will forever bear the scars, but you have to own the scars and not allow your past to own your life.

 “It certainly was a juxtaposed life, living and acting like a biker while dying daily in Christ.”  You were selling drugs, selling booze, and leading a gang while you were undercover.  How on earth did you cope?

Well, there were times that I could use the excuse that I was still on parole to get out of some things.  But the hardest part was family.  I had cut ties with everyone while I was in prison.  And while I was in prison I asked God to show me Himself.  When I got out of prison, He revealed Himself to me in a very real way, so when I was asked/told to go undercover my deal was violence.  I had to keep people in line with violence.

After a while we just kept being told, “If you’ll just do one more deal…” and when Willie’s accident happened….that was our wake up call.  (me:  you’ll have to read the book folks!)  At that point we knew our time was undercover was coming to an end.

Some truths that really popped for me as I read:   “We have to trust in God and that this is all part of His plan.”

“Peace came because my God is bigger than any situation or circumstance.”

“God doesn’t put us in the fire to come through it alone.  He gets in there with us.”

We all pray that God will snatch us out of our circumstances, but He crawls in there with us.  I can’t walk in someone else’s pain, but I can understand now, and crawl in there with them and show them Jesus. 
The peace I was talking about came just after I’d been told by the Feds that there was a contract out on my life.  I had to hold it together when I returned to the gang, because we were having a party. I could only do that after God had sent His peace into my heart.

Going undercover is really no different than working through terminal illness, the death of a loved one, tragic loss of life in an accident, death of a soldier, the end of a marriage….in its severity of trial. In light of these trials, how do you view your work undercover? What did God teach you as you walked through that fire?

I was once told that if God, “…is not talking to you, He’s talking to somebody else about you.”  That is a true statement.  When things got really tough, other people were praying for us.  That is still true today.  And my time undercover is in my past.  Satan tries to tempt us to live in our past, but we have to put it behind us and move forward.  We must be the arms, hands and feet of Jesus.  We need to get on the ground and ask God what He wants us to do.

God has called me to minster to these gang members and assist with rescue and recovery with those members and for people recued out of the sex slave trade.  You can contact the National Hotline for Human Trafficking 888-225-0498 x103 for victim assistance to find out more. 

You can also have me come and speak to your group and teach people about ways they can become a part of the solution to this growing problem.  I also offer Gang Intervention Consulting.

You can also contact TraffickinginAmericataskforce.org and find out ways to get involved.   

Readers, what I have shared with you really doesn’t begin to capture the heart of this very transformed life known as The Bishop.  We shared laughter, tears and blessings as we talked, and my life will forever be touched by his ministry.  The book Both Sides of the Fence.  And next Spring – the movie!!  Don’t miss this eye-opening experience!!


1 comment:

Wanda Pettit said...

Awesome interview. I was very touched and inspired by you and Bishop.