‘Son, You Don’t Have to Live Like This’
Alex Velasquez, born in 1958 on the South Side of Chicago, became a drug runner in middle school. His father skipped town in 1965, and Alex and his siblings rebelled. Alex stole supplies to become a shoeshine boy at the Criminal Courts building and learned from his attorney clients how to beat a rap. By age 13 Alex was a gang member and full–blown addict hooked on pot, cocaine, and heroin.
For the next 27 years, Alex continued his descent into hell. His status increased among gang members as he worked himself up the ranks to become “President.” On his watch the gang grew from 2,000 to 5,000 members. Alex was in and out of jail for possession, assault, and aggravated battery but beat most of the raps because of his knowledge of the system.
Alex’s life began to deteriorate at an accelerated pace by his late 30s. Living in a basement apartment, he took in his dying, regretful father, who had lung cancer. A seed was planted in Alex’s mind. Did he really want to end up like his dad?
Arrested for possession again, Alex spent four weeks in jail. When he got out, he found that his father had died. By October 1998, he had lost contact with his family—and his gangland status.
Tired and shivering on a street corner, Alex felt a hand on his shoulder and heard these words, “Son, you don’t have to live like this.” The elderly man (a Chicago Salvation Army Advisory Board member) drove Alex to the Army’s Harbor Light.
One Sunday morning Major Geoffrey Allan preached about a man crippled for 38 years lying by the pool of Bethesda. Jesus told the man to “get up and walk.” This story had a profound effect on Alex. Two Sundays later, he says, it was as if a supernatural power shot through his being and led him to the mercy seat. He cried in public for the first time.
Today, Alex Velasquez is a new creature in Christ, transformed by the grace of God. He has reconciled with his once–estranged mother, son, and two daughters. In 2004, he became a Salvation Army officer and married Captain Jennifer Poore. In 2005, Captains Alex and Jennifer were blessed with the birth of a little girl, Jaqueline.
“She and Jennifer are the joys of my life,” Captain Alex says. “I never knew love could be so intoxicating. … My life was once only about satisfying the five senses. Since the Lord saved me there’s now an eternal dimension transcending everything.”
by Daryl Lach