We’ve all heard stories. “She was a good kid, but she started hanging around the wrong crowd.” “He was in college on a scholarship, then threw it all away.”
Dimas’ story is no different. Growing up in NYC, the son of separated but loving, financially stable parents, Dimas Salaberrios longed for power. And power was with the druglords a few streets over.
We hear about violence, drug deals, jail time, and the whole process again. This was Dimas’ life. He grew up watching it.
Business savvy and committed, Dimas rose through the ranks on the streets. His mom tried to help. His brother tried to talk sense into him. But his mind was always busy on growing his business and competing with the other top dogs. The cycle continued as kids started watching him, and Dimas recruited “employees” as young as eleven in his drug business.
Hanging with the wrong crowd. Throwing away potential. We’ve heard it all before.
But here’s where the Gospel changes stories: Dimas’ story didn’t stay like this.
Through a dramatic experience that sounds like an exorcism, Dimas was forever changed. In the second half of Street God, we see the results. And so did everyone around him.
Dimas’ Christian life had a rocky start, as he navigated his way through two “churches” that welcomed him but also heaped extrabiblical requirements on his head. His change was not complete overnight, and he tells of his continued sexual sin and decision to sell only marijuana (since it was a natural plant). But Dimas acknowledges these areas and continues to change. Eventually he landed at a larger church in NYC. He met his wife, and together they went on international mission trips and led a church plant in the Bronx. Dimas worked in youth ministry and was a frontrunner in the NYC church/state conflict over using public buildings for church meeting. Far cry from selling crack.
I won’t deny that I had a few reservations about this one. The exorcism account, along with a number of “miracles” and Dimas’ propensity for extreme fasting were a little unsettling for me. Some of the later chapters come across as self-congratulatory, though Dimas often and consistently gives God glory for the change in his life.
And that’s just it. There is no denying that God changed Dimas. No one else could have done it, just like none of us are able to change our own sinful lives. The radical example in Street God may upset our opinions for what change and regeneration look like, but it still proves what we say we believe:
“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”’ – Mark 2:17