Drug-Dealer-Turned-Pastor Reflects on a Life of Miracles Bestowed to Bring God Glory

Courtesy photo David Zamora and his wife, Bianca.
Courtesy photo
David Zamora and his wife, Bianca.

As a young man straddling the cusp of adulthood, David Zamora saw two ends to his life: Either he’d be butchered in the streets by rival gangs or die shivering in prison as a drug addict who robbed, lied, and cheated just for a moment of drug-induced bliss.

Those two possibilities didn’t bother him too much. After all, drugs, gang-banging, and imprisonment were all he learned to expect growing up in Ontario, Calif., a predominantly Latino, working-class city 35 miles east of Los Angeles. His parents divorced when he was 8, leaving him to grow up without a father. He watched the men in his life rotate in and out of institutions.

“Guys like us, we don’t make it out of el barrio,” said Zamora, using the Spanish term for “neighborhood,” or in this case, “ghetto.”

He grew up in the barrio, living the barrio lifestyle, and he anticipated nothing more than a barrio-style ending to his life.

So Zamora followed that trajectory: He started smoking marijuana when he was 9, progressed to methamphetamine and PCP by age 12, and was injecting cocaine, heroin, and meth by the time he was 13. He dropped out of school in eighth grade. When he was just 11, he joined the Ontario Black Angels, a notorious 450-member Hispanic street gang that law enforcers say is aligned with the Mexican Mafia prison gang. His mother, Carolina Gonzalez, recalled running out the door whenever she heard sirens, thinking, “That may be my son!” Her nightmare eventually came true: At age 18, Zamora’s drug activities landed him in state prison.

After serving time in seven different institutions, a fellow inmate on fire for Jesus asked Zamora, “If there is one thing God can do in your life, what would you request from Him?” Zamora didn’t know who God was at the time, but he answered the question seriously: “This drug addiction. I’m tired of being a dope fiend.” The inmate then said, “If God could take that away from you, would you give him your life?” Zamora replied with despair creeping into his voice, “If you could take this away from me, I would giveyou my life!”

That night, Zamora couldn’t forget that conversation. He remembered his mother taking him and his three older brothers to church every Sunday when they were kids, even recalling the songs they sang in Sunday school. He remembered his mother’s miserable tears at home transforming into bright smiles after Sunday service. He even remembered the many discussions about God he had with his homies while smoking and sniffing, always concluding, “Well, there has to be something out there.”

So Zamora prayed to that “something out there,” this time with a sincerity sealed with desperation: “If you’re the God of the Bible, the God my mom says you are, then take this drug addiction from me. If you do, I’ll give you the rest of my life. And if you don’t, then I don’t need you, and I’ll die a drug addict.” The next morning, Zamora woke up without the slightest urge to use drugs. He has not touched a needle since. That day, he knew he’d just experienced a miracle.

“I can’t explain it, I just can’t explain, but I knew right then that nobody can tell me there isn’t a God,” he said.

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Sophia Lee