“Somebody Save Me!”
By Monica DeLaurentis with Scott Harrup
July 01, 2012
I heard the scream at 4 a.m. that summer night in 1987. In the Bronx in New York City you get used to the sounds of humanity expressing a jumble of emotions. But this was close by and desperate. I stumbled out of bed and looked in horror from my third-floor apartment at the scene unfolding on the street.
He was just a kid. A teenage crack addict. Maybe he was trying to break into a home to steal for his day’s habit. I’ll never know. But he had pushed his fist through a window and severed an artery in his arm.
“Somebody save me!” he screamed out in fear and pain.
Neighbors were grabbing sheets and towels, but no one seemed to know how to stanch the flow from his arm. He kept screaming his three-word plea. Then his cries grew weaker. Within the hour, he died. The ambulance didn’t get there in time.
The next morning, someone was photographing the pools of blood as I walked to the subway. Amid the jostle and the drone of voices on the train to Manhattan, I kept hearing his cry: “Somebody save me!”
I worked with a group of financial traders to earn money for college. At North Central University (Assemblies of God) in Minneapolis, as far as I knew, I was preparing for overseas ministry. I come from a family of immigrants, including my Muslim Iranian father, whom I lost to cancer as a child. I had a passion to share my faith in regions where the gospel is never heard.
With that young man’s scream still ringing in my ears, I tried to convey the horror of the previous night to the up-and-coming young financial wizards in our office. Their response was chilling.
“Will you shut up?” one man blustered. “We don’t care about some kid in the Bronx. It’s just another troublemaker dead.”
His words stung me. Not just because of his calloused attitude toward a boy I had watched die, but because I was very much like that boy. I had been a “troublemaker” big time. The only difference between that crack addict and me was Someone had stepped in to save me before it was too late.
I spent 14 years of my life as an addict. My craving for heroin, cocaine and a host of other drugs could burn through hundreds of dollars in a day. For 14 years, I told myself, “This is my last day. I’m not going to use tomorrow.”
To support my habit, I was embezzling money at the car dealership where I worked. I stole the money I needed for my drugs, and I made sure everyone else was making money too. I was so sick from my drug abuse, I was literally dying right in front of my co-workers. But as long as I made money, they didn’t care.
In despair, I finally realized my little drug-free slogan was a lie. This was not my last day to use. I was going to keep using tomorrow and the next day and the next. I couldn’t bear that thought. I drank a fifth of vodka to wash down two bottles of barbiturates. Then I tore up my apartment, yanked the phone from the wall, and lay down to die.
I woke up three days later in a hospital. A chaplain was there, praying for me. He tried to tell me about Jesus and I didn’t want to hear it, so I just kind of humored him. I asked how Jesus could help me with all the drugs I was on.
“There’s this place you can go, and they’re going to pray for you,” he said.
I’d been through seven different hospital programs. They never worked. Now here was this guy telling me someone was going to pray for me. I cussed him out and told him to leave. When he came back in the room a few minutes later, I grabbed for the nurse’s button.
“I’m serious,” I shouted as loudly as my weak voice would allow. “I don’t want you in here.”
“I just want to leave you this Bible.” He held out his gift.
“Put the Bible down and just GO,” I said.
I took the Bible with me when I left the hospital. I threw it in a closet at home and went back to the streets. This time I didn’t go back to work. The next year was the worst of my life. I was using, hoping to die, saying any outrageous thing I could say, hoping someone would shoot me.
Someone nearly did.
The attempt on my life came after the police raided my drug dealer’s home while I was there. In the melee, the lead officer decided I wasn’t part of the operation and let me go.
My drug dealer thought I was an informant, and he hired someone to kill me. The assailant first tried to run his car into me. When a friend pushed me out of the way, the driver got out of his car and began shooting. My friend and I ran down an alley. At any moment, I expected to catch a bullet in my back.
I didn’t know God, but I remember crying out, “Please don’t let me die like this. Not like this.”
In that moment, I was just like that dying boy in the Bronx. I needed someone to save me. And Someone did.
Through a series of miraculous interventions, my mom convinced me to enter the Christian drug rehabilitation program the hospital chaplain had recommended. We found the number in the Bible I had thrown into the closet. At New Life for Girls, I finally gave my life to Jesus Christ. It was like thousands of pounds lifted off of me.
From nearly ending my life in 1985, I now had a passion for living and for introducing other people to my new life. I went to North Central University, where I met my husband, Chris. Since marrying in 1991, we have enjoyed more than 20 years as life and ministry partners.
Thanks to that heartbreaking encounter in the Bronx in 1987, I discovered my calling was not to reach people on the other side of the world. Instead, Chris and I have dedicated ourselves to reaching the forgotten people of America’s cities. God has so faithfully opened doors for us to establish churches among the very kinds of people that New York City trader would have dismissed as “troublemakers.”
Today, Chris and I lead Inner City Christian Ministries, which touches more than 1,000 inner-city lives per week in Minneapolis and Chicago. We have planted churches or launched teams in St. Paul, Minn.; Miami, New York and Seattle; as well as a Spanish church in the Twin Cities. And we believe this is just the beginning.
Sometimes I still hear that young man’s cry, “Somebody save me!”
God answered the same cry in my life. Somebody saved me, and Chris and I are determined to share that saving message with America’s forgotten inner cities for years to come.
MONICA DELAURENTIS is ICCM Life Center (www.changingourcity.org) executive director. SCOTT HARRUP is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Email your comments to email@example.com.