God Changes Everything

Emily Fischer Profile
Article by Emily Fischer
Communications Administrative Assistant

When you were 16, what were you up to? Most likely in high school and extracurriculars, probably a fresh driver’s license in hand, and maybe working on landing your first job.

At 16, Reginald Blackmon had risen the ranks — fueled by his reputation of being the toughest guy around — to a chief in the gang he’d been a member of for 7 years already. He had over 80 people under him, most of whom were older than him. As the only gang of the Conservative Vice Lords not located in the projects of Chicago, his name quickly spread. Drugs, robbery, assault and battery, breaking and entering – he was their leader.

"The only piece of advice my dad ever gave me was this: 'Son, go into the military and make a career out of it.' It was the best and worst piece of advice I ever received. Because I followed it and hated every minute of it." Through boot camp, he seriously contemplated taking several guys out who were constantly in his face, telling him what to do, acting like the tough guy, when Reginald could have clearly leveled them with a single punch.

It's our job to teach them how a relationship with God changes everything.

Eventually, he found himself on a ship in the US Navy, also loathing every minute of this experience. He found a way out through the boxing coach: "If you can become the All Navy Boxing Champion, you can get off this ship." And Reginald did just that — in his first fight.

For the next 3 years, he boxed and won as many championships as he could, trying his best to stay off that ship. Coming back from leave one December, he phoned a friend about one more hurrah before leave ended. "I'm wide open this weekend and it's Friday night — let’s do something, man!" "Alright. I’ll pick you up at 8:30…Sunday morning…for church." Reginald immediately knew he couldn’t back out — he just told him he was available.

It was the first time he had been to church in his adult life and he went reluctantly. "But then the preacher got to preaching and I got to listening. He was going through the 10 Commandments and I realized I was guilty — of every single one of them. My heart broke over my sin and I wept right there in church. Then the preacher said ‘if you’re guilty of these sins, there’s only one way to not be: let Jesus take them in your place'." Reginald gave his heart to Christ that day and has never looked back.

Today, nearly 30 years later, he's serving the youth of Gateway Woods, using their similar backgrounds as a connection point. "I came from the same culture of poverty that most of them come from. They've never had anyone believe in them before. Gateway is their first hope of possibility."

But Reginald keeps the end goal in mind, too. "We can offer tools to bring about success in life and help them redefine what success is — but that has to start with Jesus. If we don’t change their hearts, anything can wipe out what they’ve heard or learned at Gateway. It's our job to teach them how a relationship with God changes everything."

Emily is currently the Communications Administrative Assistant for Gateway Woods. She has also worked as the Office Secretary.