From noodles to a new life

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The offer to share black bean noodles was about to change Johnny Chang’s life of anger, violence, drugs and prison forever.

His mother had become a Christian during his last stint in jail and asked him for a lift to church. But it was about to become much more.

“The pastor’s like, ‘Hey, Johnny, heard a lot about you. Glad that you’re home. Your mom has kind of talked about you a little bit, but, would you like to have some black bean noodles?’ And that’s actually my favourite dish,” Johnny (pictured above) told CBN.

“I just parked the car, went inside and ate the black bean noodles. It was really, really delicious. And he starts to kind of ask me some … some questions.” 

Among the questions was a statement: Johnny needed Jesus as his personal saviour.

“And I’m like, ‘Wow!’ And he talked about emptiness, void, you know, this feeling that I felt,” said Johnny.

“It was as if he was dissecting my heart and pulling out pieces and showing me and giving me the antidote. It’s almost like a light bulb turned on.”

That light was about to overpower a darkness years in the making. From age five, Johnny had been mercilessly beaten by his father, prompting anger so strong that he’d black out during his many fights. 

“I was filled with rage,” he said. “I would see red. And then I would come to like, oh, snap. I either have something in my hand or the person’s on the floor or we’re bloody – everyone’s bloody. It was really bad.”

There were many outlets for such violence in Johnny’s Los Angeles housing project, where he joined a gang at age 12.

“I had seen the gang members with money. They had cars, clothes, notoriety. There was some kind of pull. And on top of that, I noticed they were very tight-knit. They were very family-oriented.”

PRISON

He was sent to a juvenile detention centre at just 12 years old, then adult prison at 17 for assault with a deadly weapon, serving more than eight years.

His prison past ruined attempts at a crime-free life on his release, prompting even more rage when his job applications were ignored.

He resorted to selling drugs, making tens of thousands of dollars every week. 

Johnny recalls there was “death all around me” as a fellow gang member was shot during a robbery attempt on a rival drug dealer and, a few days later, a friend was killed.

Amid all that death, though, was the unexpected offer of a new life.

It was supposed to be a simple lift to church. But the pastor was clear, after those black bean noodles, that Johnny needed to accept Jesus.

He agreed, gave his life to Christ, and changed. A friend noticed it immediately: “He says, ‘It’s obvious that you’re so peaceful. You’re not what you used to be. I could see that emanating out of you.’”

Johnny is now podcasting and ministering in prisons, even reconciling with his father, who has also become a Christian.

Johnny told CBN: “There is hope, but it’s not in this world, it’s not in money, it’s not in fame. It’s actually in God alone. And that’s what I’m here to do – to shed light on that.”

From New Life Newspaper issue 353

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