Click to watch Ronnie share his testimony
with the teens from Valley Forge Baptist.
I Timothy 6:10 states, For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. This verse defines the early part of my life. I began working at age 13 with my father in the paving industry during the summers. I loved having money and the power it brought me and was very good at hoarding it. People could tell you “no,” but when you have cash there’s always someone willing to tell you “yes.”
This desire for money at a young age was what started me on a path of destruction. I was never really into drugs and alcohol, but at about age 16, I bought my first bag of marijuana. My thought was, “Why be the user when I can be the dealer and make lots of fast money!” This simple thought lured me farther along toward disaster.
At age 17, I bought my first ounce of weed to sell; it cost me $200. By age 20, I was making routine trips to Philadelphia and purchasing $55,000 to $65,000 worth of drugs a week! That’s how quickly I moved up the ranks and into one of the darkest periods of my life. Also by age 20, I was a full-blown drug addict. It started simply—I was addicted to weed and alcohol, and then to ecstasy, painkillers, Xanax and finally cocaine. When you’re an addicted drug dealer, you have an endless supply of drugs and money. You have no reason to stop!
While I was addicted to and dealing drugs, many of my friends overdosed and died or were arrested for selling and using drugs. I kept narrowly escaping arrest and would ask, “Why me?” I thought it was because I was smarter than the law and those around me. One time I was caught in traffic on the way home from Philadelphia with more than 10 pounds of weed in my possession. By the time I got home, the cops already had the block surrounded where the drugs were supposed to be purchased. Had I not been caught in traffic, I might still be in jail right now.
I remember another time when I was held up in Philadelphia. A guy had a gun shoved in my spine and was telling me to give him my drugs. As I handed him the bag, I heard his friends in the car telling him to shoot me: “Shoot him, shoot him and let’s go.” Again I just narrowly escaped. Most people would say I should be thankful to still have my life. But that’s not the mentality you have when you’re living that lifestyle. At that moment I was more furious about the drugs I had just lost—more upset about them than the fact that I could have lost my life. The more times these incidents happened, the more I questioned: Why? Why do I keep escaping? Why haven’t I been arrested? Why am I not dead yet?
You may be surprised to find out that I was raised in a church. My mother began taking me to church when I was 6, but after I hit my teenage years, there was no God to me. It’s not that I didn’t believe there was a God, I just didn’t trust in Him. I wanted to prove that I didn’t need anyone, and I could live life on my own. I was proof that the devil never gives up. I went from being raised in church, making straight A’s and being an athlete to drug dealing. As a drug addict, I was one step away from an eternity in hell. But fortunately for me and all of us, although the devil never gives up, neither does our Lord! Hebrews 13:5 states, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
Even when you and I turn our backs on God, He never turns His back on us. He will place people in our lives to provide direction. Many times we don’t truly realize it until the trial has passed. My grandmother was one of those people. God bless her; she never gave up on me. I moved in with her during high school, and I remember the look of despair on her face when she pleaded for me to go to college. She told me that if I would just go, she would pay for it. I had absolutely no intention of going to college, even though I earned good grades and received high honors throughout high school. I was accepted into places such as St. Joseph’s University. But college was just not what I wanted. Between working for a paving contractor and dealing drugs, my mind was possessed by money and greed. However, to appease my grandmother, I decided to go.
College was where my drug dealing reached its peak, but it also was where I met my wife. She was the next person God placed in my life. Right before my 23rd birthday, my wife had finally had enough of my dark ways—she left me. I remember the look on her face, the tears running down her cheeks, and all the hurt I had caused her over the years. It was too much for her. Out of fear of losing her and my child, I finally turned my back on the world of drug dealing. This was not as easy as it sounds. When you’re dealing with the drug rings I was involved with, you don’t just walk away. They have too much to lose. However, for me the risk was worth the reward, and God blessed me for my decision.
It was at this time in my life that my wife and I began going back to church. She and I made the decision to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We trusted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. It was the best decision of our lives. Yet, I think there is a huge misunderstanding by many who feel that once they start dedicating themselves to God, they should no longer face any hardships. Actually, quite the opposite is true. The closer you become with God, the more your faith may be tested. This is when the true heart of a Christian shines strongly. A growing Christian gives glory to God no matter the circumstances.
My wife and I had another child and were baptized. Things were moving in the right direction for us. But it was at this time in my life when we would face our most difficult trial together. My wife became pregnant again; however, at her four-month checkup, without any warning, the nurse told us that she could not find the baby’s heartbeat. And just like that our child was gone. Throughout the course of this miscarriage, my wife was put at risk for two types of cancer and diagnosed with post-partum depression, and we were hit with a $6,000 hospital bill. To say our faith was tested would be an understatement.
This situation, however, would lead to the next person God was placing in my life for direction. My pastor preached a message explaining that God gives each one of us a story to use to help others through circumstances that are similar to ones we’ve experienced. At about the same time, a church member approached me and said he had heard what we were going through and wanted to let me know that he and his wife had gone through a similar circumstance. He briefly told me some of his story and assured me that he would pray for me. He gave me his number and told me to call if I ever needed someone to talk to. Ironically, anytime I was at my lowest between the loss of the baby and my wife’s health issues, I would receive a text from this church member. He would say, “Hey, just checking on ya, making sure you’re all right. Something had me thinking of you.” And just like that, hope would come back into my heart.
During the time when my wife and I were recovering from our loss, this church member and I developed a friendship. He invited me to a fellowship where men get together for accountability. Truthfully, I blew off the first couple of invitations. But I was curious; the third time he asked me, I decided to go. It was at the men’s fellowship meeting that I saw men practicing the Word that’s preached on Sundays. I was still using drugs and alcohol occasionally, but at that event my eyes were opened to a life outside of the way I’d been living. I thought, “Why not? Why not live a life outside of the one I’ve spent the majority of my life in.” I still wasn’t truly happy in the deepest part of my heart, so I decided to make a change. I let go and fully surrendered my heart and life to Christ…and just like that God changed me!
My pastor shared a message stating that we can be thankful for our problems because they present opportunities in our lives for God to work. My life is a living example of that. The next time you’re presented with a problem, before you begin to complain, try this—stop, pray and thank God for the direction He is about to place in your life.
My attitude of loving money was the beginning of the path into my problems, but God brought me out of all of them. At the time of this writing, I have just turned 31. Ten years ago I wrote in my journal: “I probably will be dead by the time I turn 30.” I still remember what I was feeling when I sat in my apartment and wrote those words.
Now I’m completely sober, more than eight years removed from drug dealing, faithful to my wife, and a devoted parent to my two children. My wife is no longer at risk of cancer, and through the loss of our baby, we have grown closer to God, each other and our children. While we know that our trials aren’t over, we also know that we won’t go through them alone. My self-inflicted problems dragged me down during many years of lows; however, today I can say that I’m thankful for the dark time God took me through because it led me to the family I now have and the walk with God I now experience. I can truly say, “God is good…all the time!”