God Didn’t Give Up On Me

Written by Bethany Jarmul

Three years ago, Michael Ragozzino was a drug dealer, gangster, and thief, serving time in prison. Thanks to God’s amazing work in his life, Michael is working with children and youth and is an in-house leader for CityReach Network’s Pittsburgh Hope Home.

OUT OF CONTROL

Michael grew up in Beaver County, PA with his mother and sister, but no father. He was a rowdy kid who got kicked out of fifth grade and began smoking weed and drinking at the age of eight years old. Michael started getting high on heroine at the age of 12, and got expelled in ninth grade never to return. “I thought I was born to be a gangster. Other kids wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut, but I just wanted to be on the streets making money,” Michael says.

Michael began running the streets, and as a result of his lifestyle spent a total of six years in prison, and went through 31 rehabilitation programs.

A STRANGE VISITOR

While serving a 6-month sentence in jail, Michael had a surprise stranger as a visitor—a pastor. The pastor said to Michael, “God told me to talk to you. The time is now, Michael. God will change your life, and you’re going to impact cities.” Michael just laughed at him and returned to his poker game.

Three days later, after serving only half of his sentence, Michael was unexplainably released from prison. His mother had been in contact with a woman from Network of Hope and got Michael into the CityReach men’s recovery Hope Home in Pittsburgh.

HOPE FOR RECOVERY

After only one day at the Hope Home, God took away Michael’s desire for drugs.

“I was so weak, but God took that pain from me, set me free, and let me be who I’m supposed to be.”– Michael

Living in the Hope Home was an entirely different atmosphere then living on the streets. “Love is the common denominator between a gangster and a Christian. No matter who you are we all want love. That’s what they gave me. Nobody cared about my past,” Michael says.

With Bible studies twice a day and serving on the weekends, Michael began to seek Jesus. It wasn’t a run-to-the-altar moment, but rather a slow change. “People began to see a change in me, in my eyes and my attitude,” Michael says. “We did a lot of landscape work, and God began to give me the work ethic I didn’t even have.”

A BUMP IN THE ROAD

A short time before Michael was scheduled to complete the program, he made some bad decisions and began getting high with some other men in the Hope Home. Within a couple of weeks, they were discovered. Normally this is grounds for dismissal but instead of just throwing him out, Michael was shown grace and given another chance. He could remain in the home, but he would have to start the nine-month program over. Michael, unwilling to agree to the terms, left, bringing a couple guys with him.

The men started living in a hotel and had no money. In desperation, Michael called out to God. He said, “God spoke to me then, as audibly as he ever has, he said ‘I’m not done with you. Go back to the Hope Home.”

Michael had to wait three days for his friends to find places to live. During those three days he looked for drugs. He paced up and down streets that were normally full of drug dealers, but God cleared the streets. Finally, Michael stood in front of his house and yelled to God, “I can’t do this anymore! You created me. You know that I’m at my breaking point. Either take this away or I’m gone!”

The next day, when Michael woke up God had once again removed his craving for drugs. While previously at the Home, Michael had pursued Jesus but been “weirded out” by the Holy Spirit. But, now, he felt God leading him to pursue the Holy Spirit, so, back in the Home he hung out with people that knew the Holy Spirit, and began to learn all that he could.

Michael said, “I was so broken and in a very dark place but God literally removed my craving for drugs completely. All I could do was rejoice and be thankful!”

A SECOND CHANCE

“Now, I have Him with me. The rest of my life I’m living for him. That’s what I impart into the guys I work with in the Home now.”– Michael

Today, Michael works with men who are going through what he went through, and on Sundays you’ll find him teaching children and youth. “I feel called to reach and raise up the next generation,” he says. “Kids are hungry for a purpose in God.”

Michael, who was declared “not rehabilitatable” by the state of Ohio, was redeemed and set free by a God who told him, “I’m not done with you yet.”

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2018-01-17T00:22:02+00:00 December 7th, 2015|Hope Homes, Stories|