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Malfunctioning Gun Leads to Christ

Ex-California gang member transforms into a committed evangelist.

Northern California gang member Javier Torres had determined to take someone’s life, but the incident proved to be the catalyst for a new life in Christ.

In 2016, at the age of 29, Torres had been involved in gangs nearly half his life. One day, a rival gang encroached on his group’s turf, which led to a street fight.

“With the intention to kill in order to prove myself to my homies and protect one of them from getting stabbed, I pulled my .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum revolver toward my rival and squeezed the trigger six times, but none of the bullets came out,” recalls Torres, 35. “All I heard was six little clicks in the chamber.”

The episode rattled him, and his Mexican gang fled the scene.

“When we got to our hiding spot, one of my homies snatched the gun from me and checked it,” recounts Torres, whose father also had been a gang member growing up. “He looked at me and said, This was God. The bullets were still intact inside the gun.”

Instead of turning to God, the jarring experience caused Torres to turn to cocaine for three months. With his soul in turmoil, he hoped to die from an overdose. But one day he couldn’t get hold of the addictive substance.

“I finally looked up and said, God, if this is you helping me get me out of this pain and hurt, I want a new life,” Torres recalls.

Later that week, two women neighbors invited him to join them at New Life Community Church in Fair Oaks, California.

Torres nervously accepted the invitation to attend the church, which at the time held special services for a week. There he accepted Jesus as Savior and subsequently left the gang.

During one of the services, Torres came to the altar. Ordained Assemblies of God evangelist Dean A. Johnson of Roseville, California, prayed for him.

“I felt all the dirtiness, all the filth washing away,” Torres remembers. “My hands were shaking and lots of tears ran down my cheeks.”

Johnson then started prophesying over Torres.

“He began speaking about my past, my hurts, my hatred toward my dad, and all the pain that I had caused,” explains Torres. “He said I am a man of power and I would use my testimony to share the gospel. I would forgive my dad. I would find a good wife.”

Afterward, Johnson asked Torres if he wanted to start working out together, which started their relationship.

Since then, Torres has been part of Johnson’s Uncommon Experience, an encounter night service. Additionally, he is part of Johnson’s Victory 4 Youth, a strength team program at school assemblies and prisons.

Torres is obtaining ministerial credentials through the AG Northern California/Nevada District. The district, under Johnson’s ministry, launched a Berean study group in which Torres is finishing his final class.

“It’s a joy and a privilege to watch where Javier has come from, what he has walked through, and how God is using him,” says Johnson, 45. “He’s impacting not only the youth, but also inmates and even his own family. Javier is one of the most sold-out, committed evangelists I’ve ever seen.”

Torres proved instrumental in leading one of his brothers to Christ.

“For two years, Javier always came around the neighborhood preaching about Jesus, and one day I got so irritated I told him to shut up,” recalls Sergio Torres, 30. “I put a .9 millimeter gun to his head and said, ‘You say one more thing about God and you’re going to find out if He's real.’”

Javier replied that he and God both loved Sergio.

“When that happened, I felt my life in my heart and I walked away,” Sergio says.

In 2018, Sergio became a Christian when he went with his brother to New Life Community Church during an Uncommon Experience service. After 30 men prayed for him at the altar, Sergio miraculously began hearing in his left ear for the first time in his life.

Javier also reconciled with his father. He and his wife, Jorlinis Centeno, have a 2-year-old daughter, Selah Torres.

Eric Tiansay

Eric Tiansay has been a full-time journalist since 1993, writing articles for Christian media since 2000. He lives in central Florida, where he is an active member of an Assemblies of God church.