From Gangs To Grace: 2 Former Gang Members Talk About Their New Mission

More than a year ago, a metro nonprofit's name caught our attention. It's called Bangin' 4 Jesus. And the story behind it begins with Luis Perez and David Medina. Two former members who went from gangs to grace.

Monday, February 12th 2024, 12:01 am



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More than a year ago, a metro nonprofit's name caught our attention. It's called Bangin' 4 Jesus.

And the story behind it begins with Luis Perez and David Medina. Two former members who went from gangs to grace.

Luis Perez and David Medina were so entrenched in gang life, that both said they were either going to die behind bars, or on the streets of Oklahoma City. In 2004, Medina nearly lost his life in a shooting in a pawn shop parking lot near Southwest 29th and May Ave.

 "I remember hearing the gunshots, I remember seeing all my blood," Medina said. "The first one hit me in the face, the next one hit me in the back."

 Medina said he flatlined three times before he stabilized. Each time the doctors were able to revive him. But even the doctors couldn't explain what they saw on Medina's X-ray. Medina said the doctor pointed out how close the bullet came to his brain.

 Medina says the doctor told him, "In all my experience as a doctor, I can't tell you why this bullet stopped."

 Before the doctor walked out of the room, he suggested perhaps it was divine intervention. But Medina says even that didn't change his life.

 "At that time, if I was bad, I became worse," Medina said. "I had so much anger inside me I had so much retaliation inside of me."

 Meanwhile, Medina's fellow gang member Luis Perez was having his own run-ins with the law, except he was the one doing the shooting. Perez says he was pumping gas one day when he got into a shoot-out with a rival gang.

 Twelve years ago, Medina and Perez were both arrested in a massive city-wide gang sweep that tied them to organized crime. Perez says a prison ministry and scripture inspired him to turn his life around.

 "I got on my knees, and I just screamed out to the Lord, I said whatever you got to do, just change me," Perez said.

 For Medina, his wake-up call was the death of his daughter, and he wasn't allowed out of jail to go to her funeral.

 "That right there shattered my heart," Medina said.

 When they both got out of jail, Medina and Perez went back to the streets and into enemy territory. But instead of a gun in their hands, now, it's a Bible.

 "Back then we'd fight, stabbing and shootings," Medina said. "Banging was slang for that. But now, the banging, we're fighting in prayer. That's how we're fighting now."

 And that's how their non-profit got its name, Bangin' 4 Jesus. 

 Medina says it may sound crazy, but instead of worry, he feels peace going back to the same spot where he once got shot. But not everyone welcomes them with open arms.

  Ramon Castro belonged to a rival gang. He says he used to do graffiti tagging and drive-by shootings. So when Medina invited him to church, Castro was taken aback.

 "I was like 'Hey bro, I want to change," Castro said. "I wanna give my life to the Lord and I surrender, like, I'm done."

 Castro went to church and now attends Bangin' 4 Jesus Bible studies weekly.

 "Those are the ones we want to reach," Medina said. "To show them we were the same people, we know that stuff. But look. God changed us. He can do the same for them."

 For the last four years, Bangin' 4 Jesus has expanded. They're now holding revivals in Spencer and speaking with kids inside the juvenile detention center. Medina is also part of Oklahoma County's Reality Check program, striving to reach kids who haven't been arrested yet but need a wake-up call.

 Medina and Perez also had the chance to reunite with an Oklahoma City police officer recently, who helped put them both in jail years ago. Lieutenant Keith Medley was a gang enforcement officer and investigated the gang wars Medina and Perez were involved in.

 "It's unusual for people to turn their lives around, let alone turn their lives around and do something good for the community," Lt. Medley said.

“Bangin 4 Jesus” is a nonprofit 501 C3 Ministry. They gave us a list of their needs:

  1. Donors
  2. Monthly Sponsors to be able to help with multiple areas within the Ministry.
  3. Help with expenses for rent, classes, outreaches, revivals in communities, Schools, unsheltered, and correctional facilities.
  4. AV Equipment
  5. Cargo Trailer
  6. Shuttle bus and a van
  7. Building


Ways to give:

CASHAPP:

VENMO:

PAYPAL:

They have a Facebook page and Instagram where they post where they’ll be in the community and where you can contact them if you’d like help.

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