CP: Did you learn anything in the streets that you've found to be relevant in your ministry?
Salaberrios: Absolutely. I can see fake Christians a mile away. I can see fake pastors a mile away. I can tell you seven of them that have fallen that I saw the minute they came on the screen, I was like, "No, I can't watch that dude." And then that dude turned out to be with other males, or …
Those senses are so acute because I was selling drugs for so long. At age 12, I'm out there with a package dealing with grown ups I'm selling drugs to. I had to figure out in seconds, were they coming to rob me? In seconds, were they coming to purchase? Did they just get into an argument? Were they coming to kill me, you know, for my stuff? I had to figure that out. … I learned to trust that instinct. That's one thing.
I think to be a kingpin, you had to know thousands of drug dealers. So I think I have a higher skill of meeting and networking with people to know thousands, because that's been my whole life. That's some of it. And how to run an organization. I mean it's very similar. You have to have [an] extremely high work ethic.
I used to wake up five in the morning to sell drugs. I get up five in the morning to do ministry. It doesn't change. And I [slept, drank] and thought about hustling, you know. Now I sleep, drink, think and pray about how to make God's name more known and how to introduce people to Christ. So that translates over pretty well.
CP: What's your message? What do you want people to take away from reading Street God and learning about your personal story?
Salaberrios: There's a couple of incredible takeaways. One of the big takeaways is that I was reachable and no one reached out, for a long time. And three brave women knew, they knew I was the kingpin and they shut down a gun smuggling operation, a crack business and a marijuana empire by a prayer meeting. By a prayer meeting. I wonder what we could do more if we were to grab some drug dealers, some people off the street and say, "Can we pray for you? Can we pray for God to have a better plan for your life?"
Another thing, I would love for mothers to get hope. I mean this is spreading all around the jails, which is extremely exciting. So a lot of people are being converted through getting this message out into the prisons.
I'm a pastor now in the Bronx River Housing Projects. We eliminated homicides from those projects. So it doesn't just stop at conversion as you read. But I think it's a great blueprint on how to hold onto your faith. You saw we had crazy churches I went to where stuff was spilling out, but I always kept my eyes and focus on Jesus.
What bothers me, is Christians go to a church where there [are] huge failures and they'd be led astray by staying there. Leave! Go to a better place and hold onto the truth and follow the truth.
And believing God can overcome any situation. I could have been doing seven years, but I got pardoned. There's no mountain too big. So I think some people live on fear of taking on a challenge when I see over and over again the old acronym that we've all heard: F.E.A.R. — false evidence appears real. But that's so true.
I hope this book will conquer people's fear and would build their faith. … That God can just show up when you put legs to it, and I think that's a big part. Put action to your faith, is one of the things I would like to be done with people that read the book or one day see the movie.
CP: Any final thoughts, Dimas, you want to share with viewers or readers?
Salaberrios: I would encourage churches. You know, right now, we're passing out thousands of books to inmates in jail. And we would love for churches if they would reach out to the website (streetgodbook.com) and they connect with our buy-one-give-one plan. Through churches, every book that's bought, one will go to an inmate in jail. I believe we have the missing million African-American males that are incarcerated that we could really help reach, and upward toward that, Latinos.
Watch the video below in which Salaberrios describes an encounter with darkness that proved pivotal to his decision to walk with God: