A Drug Dealer's Life Transformed - Mike Sarkissian

The following is the powerful testimony of Mike Sarkissian. Mike was a former student of BJ Rudge’s when he was on staff as a professor with California Biblical University and Seminary. His testimony is a reminder of how God can change the heart of anyone, even the heart of a drug dealer. Mike has also written an excellent book on prayer called Before God: The Biblical Doctrine of Prayer.

The time in which I actually ceased living worldly and truly surrendered my life to Christ was a very interesting period in my life. When I reflect on it, it does not seem too different from many other people’s experiences (that I have met). However, some have described it as ‘amazing’ and ‘powerful.’ All I can say is that our God is ‘amazing’ and ‘powerful’ and every sinner who comes to Christ is an ‘amazing’ and ‘powerful’ testimony to the power and love of the Living God.

It all started years ago. To make sure I was saved, my parents baptized me as a baby, both in the Catholic Church and the Armenian Orthodox Church. Our family, for the most part, was irreligious and did not value the things of God. Yet, we were ‘Christian’ because of the following reasons: my parents’ upbringing was Christian, we were ‘good moral citizens,’ and we were ‘Americans.’

From the age of ten until about fifteen my mother took my two brothers and me with her to a small Evangelical Christian church down the street. My father stayed home and did yard work. I enjoyed going to church and I learned a lot. Nevertheless, even though I did not want to, I always reverted back to my old self, usually by Monday or Tuesday.

At the age of thirteen I went forward to ‘accept’ Christ. For the next couple of years I began to be involved in the youth group as a leader and studied the Bible somewhat regularly. Yet, when High School came, other interests took over my life. I became one of those who were in the ‘in-crowd.’ Though I was still going to church occasionally, there was no fruit of repentance in my life. I had not taken the call of discipleship and forsaken my old self. One could wonder whether or not I was even saved.

Towards the end of my High School years and immediately following it, I had fallen into a deep pit of sin and depravity. I was consumed with the thought of making money and ‘coming up.’ In my lust for money, power, and ladies, I ended up becoming involved with a family connected to the Mexican Mafia. Though I never even touched a cigarette, when the summer of my senior year arrived, I became one of biggest drug dealers in the city. I already had a problem with pride, and with my love for Italian mafia movies, this really drove me farther from God and more into my self.

For over three years I began to sell anywhere from twenty to fifty pounds of marijuana per month. Trips to other counties and states were routine for me. There were close to twenty people working for me at any given time – growing, selling, driving, etc. Networking hallucinogenics, such as LSD and mushrooms, from various places also became common as well. I had even begun to get involved in connecting and distributing illegal cell phones for a brief time. Though I never had to use them, there was a clean up crew who were always one phone call away. They would take care of anyone or get anything I needed. Praise God I did not ever go that far.

Interestingly enough, while all this was taking place I read the scriptures, prayed daily (including to and from picking up drugs), and even went to church often. My theology had evolved into a hybrid of Rastafarianism (I was heavily into Reggae music) and Christianity. Though I never audibly denied the Lord Jesus my lifestyle proved otherwise. I was a connoisseur of marijuana, writing papers at Riverside Community College, traveling the state to trade or purchase the best types available. I was even planning on going to be a judge at the Cannabis Cup (an exclusive marijuana festival in Amsterdam that is held annually).

Then the Lord started to break into my life rather forcefully. In a period of approximately six months two associates of mine were busted immediately after I left the scene. I was arrested for a DUI, and I was involved in three major car accidents. In the first accident, a car pulled out in front of me, which resulted in my show truck getting totaled. This took place directly in front of a church, which no doubt had my mind wondering. The fire department had to use the ‘jaws of life’ to get the other driver out of her car. Both she and I were taken to the hospital in ambulances. I was also cited for driving on a suspended license.

Though I was receiving treatment for my injuries, two months later, as I was trying to resist God’s calling on my life, I was in a mini-truck that hit a semi on the freeway while leaving a club. My head actually grazed the truck! Yet, I still did not submit to God. I increased my illegal activity moving more and more drugs and came ever so close to funding and operating a meth ring.

I was involved in another car accident three months after that. This one took place within one mile of the first one. We could actually see the site of that first accident and pondered the significance of it with the police officer. This officer, remarkably, was the same officer who arrived at my first accident! He reminded me that I ought to have died in both wrecks.

Miraculously, the old woman, who was in the other vehicle that my friend hit with his 67’ Mustang, walked away unscathed. Thank the Lord! We, on the other hand, had some major bruises and managed to limp away from the site.

Besides all this, the Lord was warning me to cease my activities or else. The Lord practically spoke to me audibly through a dream of which I can recall every detail. A couple of times, people I knew were stopped or raided and questioned about me and my operations. I had many close calls where I was pulled over with a substantial amount of drugs, yet amazingly I was let go.

In one instance, a carload of us were pulled over late one night on the premises of an elementary school. We had paintball guns, marijuana, and all the ingredients to make fifty pounds of meth. The police searched the entire vehicle. They pulled out everything, even the bottles with the skull and cross bones on it, and they let us go.

I remember at least two car accidents happening within one hundred feet of me. It was like the movie, Final Destination. Friends of mine thought death was chasing me down. Moreover, I began to sense a deep emptiness in my life. That lifestyle was not very exciting anymore. Everything that I did became increasingly convicting. This led me to reflect on my sin and how far I had fallen away from God.

I began to study the Bible in depth more than ever and slowly began to decrease my wicked ways. Though I struggled in my mind with my illegal activities, constantly trying to justify various things, it all came to a halt when the Holy Spirit used a passage from Galatians to wake me up from the dead.

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

This passage haunted me, because I knew that my lifestyle demonstrated that I would not inherit the kingdom of God. It was at this time (after about nine months from my first accident) that I fully devoted my life to Christ, was baptized, and got a job as a 411 operator. It paid pennies, but it was a legal job. I praise God for His protection from numerous temptations to go back to the world. Four nights a week I was involved in a Bible study or some type of fellowship, being saturated with the Word of God. The Lord placed such a love in my heart for Him and His Word that He led me to Biola University to finish my degree and later to Seminary, where I would focus on biblical apologetics.

Praise God for His amazing grace! Five years later, the Lord would have me serving full time in a local church. I would never have thought that this would have been my lot. It has now been close to twelve years since the Lord delivered me from that horrible lifestyle of sin.

I had served the Lord at D.C. Christian Fellowship in Moreno Valley for ten years, the last five as a teaching pastor. From there, God in His providence led me and a handful of others to start a church in a neighboring community. We started with twenty people and by the grace of God grew to over one hundred. Many people were leaving their lives of sin and coming to Christ as Savior. It was apparent that there was an amazing spiritual battle going on in the community we were ministering and amongst our families.

At that point in time the Lord led me to study deeply on the subject of prayer and even write a book, Before God: The Biblical Doctrine of Prayer. As the book was going to print, and by God’s grace receiving some excellent reviews, there was a ferocious spiritual attack on my family in numerous ways. For the next three years I went through some tough times of depression, yet, God never left me.

I received my doctorate from Covenant Theological Seminary, was awarded another degree from California Biblical University, and more significantly married a wonderful woman who loves the Lord and is a true helpmate. She has a wonderful heart for people and is a tremendous blessing to me.

These last fifteen years, I have learned a multitude of lessons, theologically and practically, and I know that there are many more lessons God has in store. We have been ‘stretched’ in many ways in our current ministry and have really been learning how to show grace to others. The community that our church is in is very poor and needy. Yet, the Lord is faithful to us and continues to show His favor upon us in many ways.

Early in my Seminary training my eyes were open to the doctrines of grace and my love for God and passion for His Word grew even greater. Contending for the faith that was once and for all given to the saints has been a value in my life. From 2005-2008, I participated in three formal debates regarding historic Christian doctrine (two pertaining to the Trinity, and one on the existence of Hell).

It has been a great privilege for me to know God and be used by God to share his love and grace with others. I remind myself often of the greatness and saving power of God not only in my life, but in my family’s life, and in my church. Soli Deo Gloria