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Robbery Gone Wrong Catalyst for Change

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“Every day he would beat me. Every day, multiple times a day,” says Johnny Chang.
“I remember, like, just fearing for my life. And I would freeze up and next thing you know, I'm seeing stars.”
From the age of five, Johnny Chang suffered physical abuse from his father. The beatings became a source of anger and led to fighting with his peers. “I was just very, like, filled with rage,” says Chang. “I would just see red. And then I would come to like, oh, snap. You know, I either have like something in my hand or like the person's on the floor or like, we're just like, bloody, everyone's bloody like it just, it was really bad.”

Johnny grew up in East L.A. in the housing projects.  By age twelve, he’d joined a gang. “I had seen the gang members, even the Asian gang members with money. They had cars, clothes, notoriety. There was just some kind of pull. And on top of that, I noticed they were very tight-knit. They were very family oriented,” says Chang.

Feeling at home with his new gang family, Johnny began committing violent crimes. At twelve-years-old, Johnny was sent to a juvenile detention center for “the worst of the worst.” Over his four years there, he witnessed sexual assault, was in more than forty fights, and became even more hardened. “When I saw that, I was like, ‘You know what? Even if I die, like, I'm not going to let these people step on me,’” he says.

At sixteen, he was released. As a 17-year-old, Johnny was tried as an adult, and sent to federal prison for an assault with a deadly weapon. He knew being locked up in the penitentiary was another level. “I was scared,” he said. “You're now in there with people who are like, you know, adults and they're crazy. You know, they'll kill you.”

He served eight-and-a-half years of his ten-year sentence and wondered what real life looked like on the outside.
“I just felt this uncertainty like, I had seen people who had completely been rehabilitated in prison and they say, ‘I'm never going to come back here.’ But six months later, they're back. It’s's not hard to come back, you know, it's very hard to stay out. So, it's like I was just existing at that time and I felt a lot of emptiness inside my heart,” he says.

Johnny tried living a “normal” life. “I applied to like a lot of places and nobody called me back. So at that point, I really felt like a rage again and anger,” Chang says. “And I'm like, ‘Okay, if you're not going to give me a chance, then I'm going to just go and live the way that I know.’”

Back on the streets, he was making thirty to forty thousand dollars a month, selling drugs. For Johnny, it wasn’t enough. Chang says, “I still felt that emptiness, still felt that void, which blew my mind. I thought if I made some money, I'll be okay, you know?”

During a robbery attempt of a rival drug dealer, Johnny’s fellow gang member was shot. A few days later, another friend was killed. “So it's just like death all around me,” he says. “And I really started to think. I never really thought about death because I was so caught up in the moment.”

His mother, who became a Christian while he was incarcerated, asked Johnny for a ride to church. “The pastor's like, ‘Hey, Johnny, heard a lot about you. Glad that you're home. Your mom has kind of talked about you a little bit, but, would you like to have some black bean noodles?’ And that's actually like my favorite dish,” says Chang. “I just parked the car, went inside and ate the black bean noodles. It was really, really delicious. And he starts to kind of ask me some...some questions.”

The pastor shared the good news of Jesus with Johnny and spoke very directly about his need for a savior. “And I'm like, ‘Wow!’ And he talked about emptiness, void, you know, this feeling that I felt. It was as if he was like dissecting my heart and like, pulling out pieces and like showing me and like, giving me the antidote. It's almost like a light bulb clicked and it turned on,” Chang says.

Johnny gave his life to Christ and noticed a complete change in his life and in his heart. A friend told Johnny, the change is clear. “He says, ‘You know, it's obvious that you're so peaceful,'” says Chang. “'Like you're not what you used to be.' You know, he's like, ‘I could see that, like, emanating out of you.’”

He has since reconciled with his father, who has also become a Christian. Today, he’s podcasting and ministering in prisons.

Chang says, “I think God has really led my life to put me in a position of being like in the bottom of the bottom right, the lowest of the lows, going to prison and just drug everything, gangbang and everything. And I feel like God did that so I could understand people's hearts at different levels. You know, not everyone's been to prison, but we're all interconnected by sin and struggle. There is hope, but it's not in this world, it's not in money, it's not in fame, it's actually in God alone. And that's just what I'm here to do, is to shed light on that.”

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Will Dawson is a Senior Producer for The 700 Club.