Hammond resident Donald Ramirez decided to turn his life around after finding himself locked in a Chicago prison at 17.
“I never knew who my father was, and as a result I turned to the streets with hopes that the gang life would fill that void,” Ramirez said.
Adopted and raised by his grandparents, Juan and Ana Ramirez, Ramirez was shot at 15.
“At a young age the streets became my home, and my life became complicated. Worries, insecurities and always having that thought in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t make it to see another day would consume me,” he said.
“Growing up, I was taken to church and I was raised knowing who God was. I knew that there was a person by the name of Jesus who can change my life and get me through that difficult situation in my life.
“It was at that moment in prison (when) I was between a rock and a hard place, when I realized that there was no other alternative, and I knew I needed change. I decided to give my life to Jesus Christ, and since that moment my life has never been the same,” he added.
Now 36, Ramirez is married with two children, and began Cross Church Ministries this year at 4334 Tod Ave. in East Chicago. The ministry seeks to deal with violence in the surrounding community under the direction of the Rev. Ruben Fontanes.
“Our key focus is to bring hope and salvation to our streets and community with a message of love and redemption,” Ramirez said. “We also believe that we need to pour out into this fatherless generation by means of mentoring, through the church.”
Cross Church Ministries hosted a Community Back to School Praise Invasion last Saturday, supplying free school supplies and haircuts. "We impacted over 250 kids and gave bikes, toys and gift cards. We also fed more than 300 people," Ramirez said.
For those considering making a change in their own life, Ramirez offers simple advice.
“The only two options to that (kind of) life are six feet in the grave or life in prison. Let me tell you, neither one of these paths are worth your life or freedom,” he said.
“If you want change, you can have it in Christ. I’m here to help you get through that process, and get to the true purpose in your life, which is filled with joy, peace and prosperity.”
“If Jesus did it for me, he will definitely do it for you.”
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.