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Serving Others After Time Served

“As a kid, if your father tellin’ you he's goin’ to come spend time with you, that's like the most exciting thing to you,” recalls Tony.  “So I remember just waiting outside and my mother telling me, ‘Come on in and eat, son.’ I said, ‘Naw, Mommy, Daddy said he going to come he's going to come and pick me up.’ But he never came.  He lied to me, so like, you know, as a kid, that kinda hurt.”

For Tony Askew, the pain of that rejection grew into anger.

“I couldn't deal with nobody saying nothin’ to me. I would get conduct notices almost every day for fighting in school even at the lunchroom table, kids say something, sometimes I jumped over the table to fight. That how I dealt with my, you know, my emotion,”  he says.  

Tony’s hard-working mom tried to steer him the right way by making sure he was in church. But he couldn’t grasp the idea of a loving God.

“I didn't know nothin’ about God, I just thought that the people in church was fakin’ and runnin’ around with their hands up,” Tony remembers.  “I didn't know that He loved me and cared for me no matter, you know, wanted me to come closer to him, wanted me to be a part of His life.”

Despite his mom’s efforts, Tony’s would enter a life of crime. At ten, was stealing candy to sell at school. Later he stole from stores and homes.

“I had no conscience as far as stealing. I did it like it was just a natural thing to do I always thought I would be able to get away.“

Then, after graduating from high school, Tony started selling drugs. Soon he was living the party lifestyle of a successful drug dealer.

“It made me feel powerful,” he says.  “Went to Cancun, you know, at 19 with your own – we had our own apartment at 19, own cars, partying, girls, I just – I felt powerful.”

Dealing drugs was a dangerous world, but over the next decade, Tony would make millions. He enjoyed a lavish life filled with nice homes, cars, and world travel. He gave little thought to anyone but himself.

“I felt important. I felt like Superman. I felt on top of the world. I felt that, you know, anything I could do, I could do. Nobody could tell me I can't do nothin’,” Tony explains.  “I was cocky and arrogant. And I remember this female asked me how did I feel? And I said, ‘Perfect.’ I said, ‘Perfect.’ I really felt that way, you know, at that time.”

But as more years passed, Tony grew paranoid about getting caught and decided he wanted out. About the same time his girlfriend, Natassia, became pregnant. Tony wanted to be there for his child, since his own dad wasn’t there for him.

“When we were dating, “ Natassia says, “he was really into family and I picked up on that a lot, and he often talked about what it would be like whenever he had a child, and so, I really really loved that about him.”

The problem was, he felt trapped by the high cost of his lifestyle.

“I didn't want to be selling drugs, to be honest with you,” Tony admits.  “Like I sold drugs just for the money. I knew it wasn't right, but I had to do – I had to keep doing it.”

Tony didn’t have to wait long for an out. Another dealer squealed on him to federal agents, and tony was arrested in 2005 for drug trafficking. Now desperate, he wondered if God could help him.

“God had to be tugging at my heart.  In my spirit, something was happening in me like "Grab that Bible, open that Bible up,” he remembers.  “That's the only person that's going to help you right now. You can't get yourself out of this. You need a greater power to get you out of this."

Tony asked to go to the Christian block of the jail, where he read God’s word and came to a life-changing decision.

“The presence of God was on me so strong - like it changed me. I had that peace that surpasses all understanding came over me. And I looked at life differently. I said, ‘Lord, you real.’ I gave my life to Christ and I know that Jesus died for my sins,” Tony says.  “I wouldn’t think that God would forgive a person like me, you know? But he did. He loved me that much. That's when I, you know, started thinking about the people that I – you know, that I hurt, you know? Even from the people who bought drugs from me. A whole new gate had opened up for me of caring about people and caring about caring about people's feelings. I have a conscience now.”

Tony was convicted and would spend the next nine years in prison. During that time he grew in his faith, and started to heal from the hurt of his dad’s rejection all those years earlier.

“I forgave him for not being there for me when I was little kid. God repaired that hurt from my youth. You know, He transformed my mind, renewed my mind.”

Through all those years, Natassia and their son, Princeton, waited for Tony. After working through many issues, the couple married in 2018.

“When he came home there was no partying or anything like that,” says Natassia.  “He’s always home, wanting to be involved with the family. He definitely became more humble. He was able to talk about not just how things benefit him, but how they benefit other people.”

Tony started his own trucking company and works hard to provide for his family. His main goal is clearer than ever.

“I want to make God proud. I – when I go before him I want Him to say ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant,’” says Tony.  “Also, showing love. That’s a real man - showing love. Showing compassion, showing empathy for others, something that I never had before. Letting people know that it’s Christ that changed me and that’s why I am who I am today.”

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