Usually armed and dangerous was the typical warning from the dispatcher to my arresting officer. It was probably true, too. I almost always carried loaded handguns on me, sometimes even toting a machine-gun under my coat. I needed the protection in the underworld as I was involved in transporting high volumes of drugs between suppliers and dealers. I got to know many of the big dealers and mafia in the Philadelphia-Reading-Schuylkill area and even Dominican drug lords in the Bronx, New York, where I always needed a bodyguard to do my deals.
At the early age of 13, I was introduced to drugs and was quickly addicted. I couldn’t “just say no.” I began to use every street drug available and often was spending between $200 to $500 a day on my habit. Eight times I overdosed on drugs, once going 28 days without sleep because of the level of cocaine in my body. Eight times I served time in prison for crimes I had committed. I knew that the life I had chosen was wrong, illegal, and sinful, but I loved the thrill and the adrenaline rush of running from the police and getting in fights. With my 6 foot-7 inch frame and fierce temper, I was able to intimidate and dominate anyone and quickly gained a reputation as a fighter. In one fight I bent the metal plate in my hand which had been inserted to correct an injury from a previous brawl. Even the police could get very concerned.
The Bible says that there is “pleasure in sin – for a season.” Early in life, I made the devil my best friend, and for over 30 years, he kept enticing me with more pleasure, but there was never any real, lasting satisfaction. The calls of evil were powerful, right from the demonic world, and became impossible to resist. The feelings of being trapped, bored, scared, and hopeless grew day by day. I didn’t care if I lived or died. I was empty and dissatisfied, longing for something to truly fulfill me. I had no idea what that would be. I had tried everything the world had to offer.
At that lowest point in my life, if you had told me that I would soon find the greatest fulfillment and joy and peace possible, I wouldn’t believe you. If you then tried to convince me that I would find it in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, I would have laughed at you and ridiculed you as a religious nut.
But the greatest change in my life began when God got my attention in the Sixth Ward of Reading, Pennsylvania – the most dangerous neighborhood of that city, forsaken by law enforcement and ruled by crime. In a phone booth, just feet from where I personally knew people had been murdered, I found a tract. It was a piece of literature with Bible verses and a short message about Heaven and Hell. I picked it up, read it quickly, and stuffed into my shirt pocket, covering my pounding heart. I didn’t want to think about God – or the coming judgment for my sin, eternity in hell.
Watching television, I was terrified by the flames in the Burger King commercials, with the ominous invitation, “Come on over, the fire is ready!” In a crack house, a prostitute tried to hand me a note one night. I hesitated and asked her what it was about. “Jesus Christ and how much he loves you,” she answered. I never expected to hear His name in that God-forsaken place.
In my desperation for answers in life, I sought out a well-known psychic in Denver, a practice that today I certainly do not recommend. But like the witch at Endor with King Saul, God had a message for me. The psychic laid out the cards, told me the story of my life, from early success as a chimney-sweep and tennis player in college to ruining my life with drugs and crime. He ended with a “grim reaper” card and warned me, “If you don’t get right with God, you’ll die.”
I was terrified. I was under conviction from God and tried to evade Him. I had tried to hide the tract that I had found, but it kept calling me. I would pull it out and read it again and then hide it. Finally, I filled in my name and address and mailed it to the publisher, the Fellowship Tract League, in Ohio, requesting more information.
Weeks later, I received a letter from the Pastor of a Baptist Church in Reading, inviting me to contact him. I called him the same day, and that afternoon, Pastor Dale came to my home and opened the Scriptures with me. He showed me that I was a sinner, guilty of breaking God’s Law. I deserved the sentence of eternal punishment in hell for my crimes. But Jesus had paid the huge fine for me by dying in my place – because He loved me. All I had to do was surrender myself to Him, accept His offer of pardon, and switch sides from being a servant of the devil to serving the Lord. Pastor Dale called it being “born again” and showed me John 3:7 – “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” That day I bowed my head and prayed from my heart, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“But God commendeth (demonstrated) His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Before he left, Pastor Dale had me sign a “New Birth Certificate” – tangible proof that I had committed my life to Christ and started a new life in Christ. Hours later I argued with myself, wondering how it was possible that a humble preacher could get me to sign such a thing. “No one ever made Mitch Zajak do something against his will.” On that June day in 2002, however, I had willingly surrendered – to God.
But that was just the beginning. God began to make changes in my life. Over a period of months – with ups and downs – God delivered me completely from the strong-holds of drugs, alcohol, and addictions without ever going through a rehabilitation program. I gained a peace and satisfaction beyond understanding and description. This was for real – the only thing that ever calmed me down. I now have hope and a reason to live! The emptiness has been replaced with fulfillment.
My friend, God reached into the lowest pit of muck and mire to rescue me. What He did for me, He wants to do for you, too.
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (I John 2:15-17)
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