Hi, my name is Derek Steele. Many of you may know my father the Reverend C.K. Steele who pastored Bethel Baptist church here in Tallahassee and who also served as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s first vice president as one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Growing up in a wonderful Christian home was definitely a great blessing in my life. But, Daddy had Myeloma, bone cancer, and passed away when I was eighteen. And then three years later my mother passed away. She died of a massive heart attack. At the time my father died I was trying to answer the call to ministry. At eighteen I told him, “Daddy, you know, what do you think if I told you I was called to preach?” He said; “If you’re called, you won’t be able to help it.”
It was a really trying time because they were the backbone of our family. If anybody had a problem, they were always there to fill in the blanks, and to support you. Then to be without their support in the many ways that they supported you was just devastating.
After much nurturing, I, the last youngest son of Reverend C.K. Steele, went astray. I went far astray, I got caught up in drugs and alcohol and eventually did some time. I eventually ended up living on the streets and being a junkie. I was on the streets, whatever kind of scam I could come up with to get money, that’s what I was about. And all of my money was used for drugs so at the end of the day I didn’t have any money for bills or for going anywhere to have a place to live so I lived on the streets.
One of my routines was to go up to the county courthouse where my brother worked and to visit with him at times. Maybe get me a cup of coffee, maybe bum a few dollars from him if I could. But this particular time I had gone to the restroom and he came in looking for me and said “You’re not going yet are you?” I said “No.” He said “Come on back in my office before you leave, man.” So I did, and he had a subpoena for me. He had a sheriff deputy come in with a subpoena ordering me to court to determine if I needed drug treatment.
I had been to treatment programs before but it didn’t work for me. And so, I was just jubilant by the fact, I was really moved almost to tears by the fact that he was doing something to try to help me because I knew I needed help. But when my brother did this it really moved my heart and so I was like “You know, I’m a drug addict! I’m going to get treatment!”
But I had a few dollars in my pocket and I was on my way to get high one more good time before I go to treatment. And what happened was, I ended up getting busted for selling possession that night to the undercover police. I was arrested that night and I haven’t used drugs since. That was in 1992.
Somehow when they began to educate me and talk to me about the effects of drug addiction and how drug addiction works, somehow something clicked in me and I saw hope for me. You know, I saw hope. When I was arrested the first thing I did was get my bible. I remembered from a child; when you’re in trouble, call on the Lord, and that’s what I did. And every time, God was there.
He showed up in mighty miraculous ways. I mean I would find found great favor amongst the officers and amongst the workers in the jail. The kitchen man would bring me wine and crackers so we could have communion and God would show up.
I think even then, there was some grace upon my life because out of all the trouble I got into out there with other people, here I am today by the grace of God. And after a lot of struggle and a lot of wrestling, God came in and brought me through. It’s the only way I can explain it, it’s really a miracle the way the Lord came in. There is hope after dope and God will bring you through.
It’s only after we submit and surrender to His will and to His calling upon our lives that we really understand the blessing of life.