One of the first things you notice upon meeting Justin are the three words tattooed on his neck:
Death Before Dishonor
He got the tattoo at 14 when he joined a street gang notorious for its violence and drug running. Justin had grown up in a broken home with parents who battled addiction. His mom was rarely home, and when his dad was killed in a drunk driving accident, Justin, then 11 and with a 7-year-old brother, took things into his own hands.
He started doing drugs to numb his pain, and selling drugs to make a living. He joined the gang. He bought a gun — and bought into the lifestyle.
“I was a monster,” he says now. He was violent, often getting into fights. He abused drugs, and overdosed several times. “I should be dead,” he says. He’s been to jail 26 times; his longest lockup was for one year.
Along the way, Justin and his girlfriend have had two children — a 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. Having a daughter got under his skin — in the best possible way. Justin suddenly realized he hadn’t been much of a family man. He didn’t know how.
“I didn’t want that lifestyle anymore,” he says. “I wanted to be there for my kids.”
He learned that Atlanta Mission does a great job restoring lives and healing addictions, so he came for a stay.
At first, he didn’t like the rules and regulations, and balked at Bible studies and chapel services. But he started reading the Bible, and . . . “
And I started to get feelings, like God was talking to me,” he says. Two weeks later, overwhelmed with a feeling of peace, Justin decided to give his heart to God. “I felt immediate relief, and the bad thoughts in my head went away.”
Justin enrolled in a course called Stepping Up, which teaches men to embrace their roles as fathers and as husbands. Justin says it really helped him, and today he is reconnecting with his children, who are with their mother in another state. “We talk on the phone a lot,” he says. “I want them to know me, and I want to be a part of their lives.”
He is also in training to become a professional barber, and once he opens his own shop, he hopes that his whole family will be back together.
“If it weren’t for Atlanta Mission, I’d either be dead or in prison,” Justin says. “Now, I can be there for my kids.”
The lives of men, women, and children are being transformed every day at Atlanta Mission thanks to your continued kindness and generosity!