The Faith Project: Druggin' and Thuggin'

This article is part of a larger, ongoing section called The Faith Project.  Click here to get to the beginning.

James Jackson knows the power of faith. It saved his life.

On this Bridgeport street, he once led a very different life.

"I was a drug dealer, a hustler, druggin’ and thuggin’ is where my life was at that time.”

Now, on the same street, his faith is fueling the Prayer Tabernacle Church of Love.

“On the same street I was druggin’ and thuggin on, I’m now fasting and praying on. So it’s a complete 360, a total transformation, a metamorphosis of one person to another."

By his third arrest on drug charges, Jackson was facing a minimum prison sentence of eight years. Behind those bars, Jackson says, he found repentance and faith.

"Back then, you know, I’ve done some serious crimes. I’ve done some serious things to a lot of people -- things that I’ve had to repent for, but things that made me who I am,” he said.

That life-changing experience gave him a tool he uses to help others – empathy – and an opportunity to help save others.

"I have compassion on their needs. Without being compassionate for what they’re going through, and what they’re struggling with, you’ll never be able to help them," he said. "With that compassion and with that love there’s an opportunity for a door to open, for you to effectively minister to them. And that’s one of the greatest things that has come out of being saved, (it) is being able to effectively minister to someone and help them in their time of need."

It’s dank and dark on that Bridgeport street on this Monday night when hundreds pack into his simple church.

Parents and children, young couples and seniors all gather together wearing suits, pressed shirts and dresses. Many have Bibles in hand. Others know the words they need to know by heart.

This is not a wedding, a funeral or a holiday.  It’s regular worship.

"We'll fill up with 300 to 400 people here on any given night," Deacon James Jackson said. "On a Sunday? Forget it. This place is packed. There's not even standing room."

Services can go anywhere from an hour to three hours.  It all depends on the energy, and on this otherwise dreary Monday night, it's surprisingly high.

"People want to be here. People are coming together to share in faith and in God," he said. "Faith's not disappearing, it's growing. Our community is growing."

Outgrowing might be a better word. This church is bursting at the seams. Since Deacon Jackson joined this faith community a few years ago, it has more than tripled in size. 

"We're building a $10 million cathedral a block away," Jackson said. "In this economy, can you believe it? Our members are paying for it. They're that excited and driven in our faith. It will be the biggest cathedral of its kind in the Northeast, and it's all because of faith."

A faith entrepreneur, of sorts, he has run a catering business called Kingdom Caterers for years. In January, he will open an old-fashioned barbershop called "The Gospel Cut," where people can go for a haircut, a shave and a discussion about God.

“If I had to do it all over again, I don’t say that I would change anything because everything that I had done in my past brought me to my present, which is leading me to my future," he said.

The one thing he sees wherever he goes is people looking for God and for some kind of faith.  And God is looking for them, he said, whether they know it or not.

"God is doing great things. And without God, we can’t do it. We would not be able to do it," he said. "The Bible says, without God, you can do nothing. But with him, we know you can do anything."

Contact Us