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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Reggie Dabbs

Changing Futures

Reggie Dabbs was born to an unwed teenage mother, Vera, whose own parents abandoned her after she had given birth to one child and then became pregnant with twins. Vera resorted to living in a dilapidated chicken coop in order to survive. To afford food for her babies one night, she agreed to a one-time $20 sex exchange with a man who would become Reggie’s father.

Vera remembered the words of a former schoolteacher, Leila Dabbs, who offered to help if Vera ever found herself in trouble. Leila, and her husband, Bill, took baby Reggie into their home. Although they already had six grown children, the Dabbses raised Reggie as a foster child and later adopted him.

Despite his hardscrabble beginnings, Dabbs went on to graduate from North Central University, an Assemblies of God school in Minneapolis. He became a saxophone player on the stage with artists such as CeCe Winans and Whitney Houston and embarked on a motivational speaking career.

In poignant presentations, Dabbs addresses 2 million people annually, many in public school assemblies. Dabbs also is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and staff evangelist with First Assembly of God in Fort Meyers, Fla.

Dabbs is the author of the newly released Reggie: You Can’t Change Your Past, but You Can Change Your Future. He and his wife, Michelle, have one son, Dominic, who will be a first-year student this fall at Valley Forge Christian College, an AG school in Phoenixville, Pa.

Dabbs, 47, recently spoke with Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.

evangel: What is the biggest need of students today?

DABBS: Young people need to know someone believes in them and is willing to fight for them to reach the goals they have for the future.

evangel: Why do young people resonate with your message?

DABBS: People can relate to me growing up in foster care and being adopted. Everyone has something in the past: a time they wish they could forget, maybe a night they wish they had stayed home, but didn’t, and something horrible happened in their life. The question is, how do you get past that hurt and pain? My mom slept with a man for 20 bucks to get food for her kids. The world says I’m a mistake, but I know there is a purpose, and Jesus is that purpose. People realize if I can make it, they can make it too.

evangel: Review how you got on the lecture circuit, via evangelist Dave Roever.

DABBS: I was playing saxophone at the AG Tennessee District youth convention. When Dave Roever’s plane was late, the district youth director asked me to speak to fill time. Dave arrived, but he let me keep speaking for 15 minutes, telling the story of my pain and hope. I was with Dave for eight years, as he helped me fine-tune the gift God had given me.

evangel: With your family background and people insulting your physical appearance, why didn’t you sink into self-pity or addiction?

DABBS: My adoptive parents wouldn’t let me. When I came home depressed they would sit me down and say, “What’s wrong?”

evangel: How did love from your adoptive parents change your life?

DABBS: They were relentless. I learned the love of Jesus from my foster care parents. They worked multiple jobs just to take care of me.

evangel: But you also found acceptance in the Assemblies of God.

DABBS: My family became AG because my foster mom was in the hospital and a pastor’s wife at an AG church in Knoxville, Tenn., went into her room looking for a different patient. She ended up praying for my mom, who was so impressed she asked, “Can black people go to your church?” That sister, Alice Jane Schaffer Blythe, said yes, and she was the one who later prayed a dedication prayer over me.

It turned out there was a problem with having black people in the church. They lost more than 100 people because we joined, but the pastors let them go and never said anything to my family about it. If they had said we couldn’t be in the AG, where would I be today? I’m a product of the AG. I thank all the AG pastors and leaders who believed in me.

evangel: What about Christians along the way who told you that you would never amount to anything? Why is that so harmful?

DABBS: It’s harmful because we never know what God is going to do. God wants us to succeed. If we take it upon ourselves to tell someone they won’t amount to anything, that doesn’t come from Christ.

Even if I’m not sure a kid will make it, I still put my arm around him and say, “I believe in you.” Hope is what kids are lacking today. In our words and deeds, we have to give hope to the next generation.

evangel: It seems as though you could have been a professional saxophonist — or comedian — if you had not become a speaker.

DABBS: When I was growing up I would hear Billy Graham on the television. On the radio going to church I would hear C.M. Ward and Dan Betzer on Revivaltime. At camp I got to hear people like David Grant and Alton Garrison. There was no way I could end up being like Eddie Murphy when I could pattern my life after these men instead.

More information on Reggie and his ministry can be found at


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