Chris Saleone, the current Manager of Facilities at Light of Life, began his journey here as a client. Chris tells his story, and shares his moving testimony of addiction, incarceration, pain, and how God played a part in directing his path to bring Chris to the hope he has today.
Chris Saleone, the current Manager of Facilities at Light of Life, began his journey here as a client. Chris tells his story, and shares his moving testimony of addiction, incarceration, pain, and how God played a part in directing his path to bring Chris to the hope he has today.
Speaker 1:0:02Hi, I'm Kate Wadsworth. Welcome to light of life rescue missions podcast. Hope unveiled where you hear stories of hope and change from clients, staff, and volunteers today. You'll hear from Chris who currently serves as the manager of facilities, light of life keepers, came here as a client and has a great story to share about God's transforming power. Hey Chris, thank you so much for being here today. I'm really excited for you to have opportunity to share with people your story of transformation and how God's been working in your life. So, um, let's start with kind of your life before light of life. What brought you here?
Speaker 2:0:44Uh, yeah, so, um, for light of life, I was born and raised in cranberry and cranberry well before the cranberry that some of you probably know it was all fields. There was nothing there. But, um, I grew up in a household. My Mom and dad were um, you know, very good parents. Um, something in me though, felt like the need for more, you know, I just felt like I in my identity, I just felt the need to really feel loved and really feel accepted. Um, you know, and that I'm a young age, kind of got me in the wrong crowd. Um, know with the wrong crowd came, you know, drinking drugs and, and women. Um, so, you know, throughout high school I, uh, started off smoking weed, smoked a lot of weight, um, hung out with, you know, a lot of girls. I mean, you know, do those things and, you know, high schoolers do.
Speaker 2:1:34Um, and then at about 19 years old, um, you know, I tried heroin for the first time, um, and with heroin I fell in love, you know, that was my, that was my quote unquote first love 'em. And I struggled for a, you know, a long time with heroin. Um, you know, try getting clean on many occasions I make the joke that I'm, most of my clean time throughout the years of my struggle with heroin, most of my clean time started with seven words and those seven wars where you have the right to remain silent. Um, so, um, you know, I get arrested, I'd go to jail and I'd say I was going to stay clean, stay clean for a little bit. And my cycle was, after I stayed clean for a little bit, I'd get a girlfriend, um, and then, you know, wouldn't take long and would start getting high together.
Speaker 2:2:21Um, and then I'd go back to jail again. And it's like, well, just, you know, go over and over and over. Um, and 2004, I managed to get clean and stay clean for a period of eight years. In that time though, I still did the same thing, you know, I got clean, I found a girl, you know, this time, like doing something different, was getting a girl with a significant amount of clean time. Um, but, you know, at that point I still had no identity in Christ, um, believed in God, but didn't know who he was, did not have a relationship with them. Um, you know, didn't go to church, didn't get involved in a church community or anything like that. Um, so for eight years I was Kinda just like clean. I'm not doing much. But I did manage to get like a really good job and I thought things were going really well.
Speaker 2:3:09Um, and then, you know, stress happened, an overload of stress happened. I had a, um, some issues with my back. Um, work was, um, they were doing a very, very increased demand for production. I was a manager. Um, I was a manager of a coal mine, so, um, you know, the, uh, the production aspect was very, very high and it was just very, very stressful. And with my back, um, they tried giving me muscle relaxers, try doing physical therapy. Um, none of that worked. I'm a guy I was friends with in the coal mine, um, you know, said, hey, I have a, um, a percocet 30 years you're going to add that will help you with the pain. And, you know, at that point in my recovery just went out the window. Um, so I took a percocet 30 a couple of days later, took another one a couple of days later, took another one.
Speaker 2:3:53And within weeks I was, um, I was shooting heroin again. Uh, so it didn't take very long this time for me to hit bottom. Um, then three or four months I lost my job. I cashed in, my 401k on my 401k was almost $70,000 in a month and a half that was gone. Um, so I started going back to the things that I didn't for stealing, robbing. Um, so Christmas Day 2012, um, I was sick. Um, no family was around, so I walked up the street to a gas station, um, where I was living and um, I robbed at gunpoint on Christmas Day. Um, you know, a lot of the news media referred to me as the grinch that day. Um, but I managed to run off with, you know, a, a mere $160. I was living in West Virginia at the time, um, jumped in my truck, left, got pulled over, was taken at the scene.
Speaker 2:4:50The lady said it matched the description, so they let me go. I went to go get my drugs and when I came home, um, my door was kicked in and there was a search warrant on my door. Um, so, you know, I called the police and said, hey, what's going on? You know, trying to kind of pretend that I was innocent, but, um, yes, yes, I'm trying to, trying to maintain an innocence aspect, but um, you know, I knew I was, after I got off the phone, I knew that I was going to jail, so my plan was to end it. I plan was for them to just show up and meet, be dead. So I did all the, uh, all the dope that I had in one shot and you know, amazingly a miracle from God, you know, I didn't die obviously because I'm still here.
Speaker 2:5:32But, um, you know, I got arrested. I was sent to um, set the jail. Um, they charged me with armed robbery with our robbery cam, a sentence of not less than 10 years in prison. So I was looking at a lot of time. I was very, very scared. Um, the judge that they gave me, um, you know, his thing was he didn't like people that were robbers, so he was giving armed robbers like 80 and 90 years in prison for one armed robbery. So needless to say, I was scared. So I was in jail for about two weeks, um, I was in a couple of fights and at that point in time, um, was when I really just hit my bottom. Um, so I was in a jail cell just by myself and I just cried out to God. I said, God, I said, I don't know if you're a real adult right now.
Speaker 2:6:27It's hard to believe, um, but if you are just like, show me something I need help, I need another way out. Um, and that's how I fell asleep, crying, praying to God, this God that I didn't know. Um, so in the morning I woke up and, you know, when you're in jail, they don't give you a pillow, so you usually stuff some books underneath the mat to kind of give you a story of a pillow while there was a bible underneath my mat. And um, I took it out and I had this thought in my head and said, read Daniel. So I was raised Catholic. I know the books of the Bible, you know, never read the Bible, but I knew the books. Um, so I opened it up to Daniel in Daniel Chapter Four. It talks about him King Nebuchadnezzar having a dream that he's this huge tree and easiest covering for all types of people and um, you know, and in this dream the tree was cut down and, you know, so he has, um, Daniel read, Daniel comes in, breeds this dream for him and um, you know, Daniel basically says like, you're a provider for all these people and what's, you're taking all the credit for it and this is kind of the cliff notes version, you know, um, you're taking the credit for it, so I'm going to cut you down.
Speaker 2:7:31You're going to be cut down and you're going to live in the wilderness. And it's like, that was my story. Like, you know, it wasn't a coincidence that I just opened up to this chapter and Daniel and read that. Um, and it was at that point that I gave my life to Christ, um, started going to the Bible studies at the jail. Um, and God just really, really performed a lot of miracles. That one, like alone, they just seem like coincidence. But altogether it was just the glory of God showing and how he got me out. So I ended up doing a year in prison. Um, what happened was, is the judge two weeks before my trial, the judge took a surprise retirement. Um, they gave me a, um, a new judge. I'm a day later, um, my public defender was overrun with stuff, so they gave me a new public defender who within a day found like this thing in my statement that just wasn't right.
Speaker 2:8:26So he was able to get me a deal for a year in prison. Um, so I took that plea and I, and I did my year, um, when it was time to see the parole board, they had sent me to a prison where the, um, where the parole rate was four percent. Um, so not many people were getting paroled from this prison. Um, but through my plea agreement, um, they gave me a lesser charge and it was nonviolent. So two weeks before I went to see the parole board, it shouldn't be off to another prison where the parole rate was six percent. Wow. So everything has like this two week,
Speaker 2:9:02two weeks. Um, but, um, so I installed the parole board and they granted me parole. Um, did not have a home plan. Um, so I started. I'm just writing people writing letters. Yeah. I started writing letters to see, you know, where I could go. Um, you know, I wrote places in West Virginia, but I really felt God was calling me back to Pittsburgh where I was from. Um, so I wrote, you know, the light of life I wrote like salvation army and a couple other places out here. So out of all the letters I wrote, light of life was the only place that wrote me a letter back. Pastor Harvey sent me a letter with an application. I'm hear how it turns out. My mom told me about light of life because, um, she goes to a dinner meeting in Zelienople where light of life brings the guys once a month for their dinner meetings.
Speaker 2:9:50So she's developed a relationship with God like pastor Harvey and Hutch and some other people. Um, so I wrote and you know, they sent me the application. Um, and I, um, I filled it out and send it back, but you know, I didn't want to keep all my eggs in one basket, so I kept writing other people. Um, nobody wrote me back so my life finally accepts me, you know, and, and my counselor at the prison, you know, he calls me into his office, he says, Chris, he says, listen, he says, light alive, said you can come stay there, but you know, here's the deal. He says West Virginia, because that's where I was in West Virginia prison. He says, West Virginia will not parole you out of state unless you were going to a relatives house. He said, um, you're trying to get into recovery program. And he goes, and if you want to get tactical, you're not even trying to get into a recovery program, you're trying to get into a homeless shelter. You said, so. Well I could keep right in other places is okay. So I tried looking for other places and here's this two weeks thing again. So, um, you know, like two weeks later, two, two and a half weeks later, um, you know, my, my counselor calls you back down to his office and he says, oh, how it happened, man. But you know, you're one of the first people in West Virginia history to get parole to not a state program.
Speaker 3:11:04That's amazing. And knowing Pastor Harvey, I'm sure there was a lot of prayer and all of that moving the decision because he is a man after God's heart praying and you got. I know you guys have a really special. Really?
Speaker 2:11:16Yeah. We do have a great relationship. And what's funny is when, um, when I came here and I met him, he basically sat me down. He says, I don't know what it was made. He says, but, you know, in my line of work, you said I ever wrote, I have read a lot of prison letters. He says, but there was just something about yours and you know, it can only be the anointing of God that was on that letter because, you know, I don't think I said anything different than anybody else probably have said. No.
Speaker 3:11:42Yeah, I believe that. I believe that he's very discerning too, so that's amazing. Yeah. Chris, you said so much. I mean, wow, what you've been through in your life, what God's brought you through and how you responded to him in jail and how you open right up to Daniel. All of that is just, it's amazing. I feel like I just like listened to a book on tape or something right now. I could just picture it all in my eyes, so thanks for sharing all that. Um, if you don't mind going back just a little bit, there's probably a lot of people that are listening that have never experienced what it's like to do heroin. I'm wondering if you could talk about like the darkness of that. What was that experience like for you or just like,
Speaker 2:12:25just like most sin, you know, heroin kind of started out as this, you know, fun, this fun thing. Um, you know, it was just an exciting thing to do on the weekends, you know, um, it was all boil down to, you know, I've, I've seen heroin addicts, you know, uh, you know, I've heard of it on the news, seeing how bad it can affect people, but I think all of us, somewhere in us have this, that's not going to happen to me mentality with something in our lives, you know, and that's how we were. And um,
Speaker 2:12:59and I don't know the point where I became addicted, but I know there was obviously definitely a point. But, um, you know, the dark side of it, I'm just turned into, I'm doing anything, you know, just to be able to get, you know, to get a drug. Um, you know, I, I've never, I would never even think of stealing money out of my grandmother's wallet, you know, um, have stolen money out of my grandmother's wallet. You know, I would never think about, you know, taking jewelry off of my loved ones. You know, I've taken it off my loved ones. Um, you know, um, and just the feeling of hopelessness, you know, and just the feeling of being stuck like, you know, wanting to get out of something so bad but just not feeling like there's anywhere to start. Like there's no starting point to that. You know,
Speaker 3:13:57that's what I've heard a lot of is that both of those points that you made, that you would kind of become a different person. And I think people who love people who are in the deck, addiction to heroin can see that, um, and then that hopelessness. But I am so glad that you're sharing your story today because there is hope because you're clean. You are living a productive life. You love Jesus and have seen him transform you. And I'm just so grateful that you're able to share that for people who might be listening that are in the midst of it, but also for those who really love people who they see in the midst of it. That there are, there are stories of hope out there. And, you know, God can do amazing things like all of these things that went together to shift for you to come to light of life at the time that you did. Um, so thank you for that insight. Um, okay. So you write tight of life. Harvey writes back to you, your parole officer says this never happens, but we're going to pull you out of state so you can go to light of life in Pittsburgh. Okay. So tell us about your first day, like what was it like coming to light of life?
Speaker 4:15:03So, um, so at first I didn't know it was a three and a half hour drive here. My mom came and picked me up and the first thing I had to do was see my parole officer up here. Um, and so I went in to the office here and he says, um, he looked at me and he says, how'd you get here? And I said, well, don't send me back.
Speaker 4:15:23So even he always just like in all of how I got here. But um, you know, after seeing him I came in to light of life and, you know, what, I was scared, you know, because I'm now 14 months in jail in prison, like it doesn't seem like a long time, but it is, you know, I was scared enough for what I was walking into, but, you know, the fact that I was free, um, you know, and now, okay, so everything I've learned in the past 14 months from just sitting there and being able to read my Bible because, you know, being in prison like, okay, I can read, all I want to test is when I get out, I'm going to have some freedom, you know, so I was scared for that. Um, but, um, know the first person I met was, um, was dean and dean welcome me with open arms and it was just great.
Speaker 4:16:07You know, what a good first person to. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, so yeah, that was, that was very, very welcoming. Um, he, uh, he sat me down and um, gave me dinner. Um, you know, there was um, they were having pizza that night. Um, you know, um, and at that point in my life it was the best pizza I've had in my life because I hadn't had pizza for, you know, a year and a half. Um, and then, um, you know, because I didn't get here until about four or 5:00 and then I went downstairs, um, you know, at that point in time you guys first came into the program, were downstairs for a few weeks and then they brought them up so, you know, got to meet some interesting characters, you know. But it was um, the first night was scary, just love Muffin was scared point of the people there. But it's like, okay, what am I capable of? But, you know, God saw me, saw me through that first night and then that next morning is when I actually met pastor harvey. So.
Speaker 3:17:01Well, it's not like I can just picture that I just had this vision in my head of what that must have been like, you know, there's something about his, just
Speaker 4:17:10his demeanor and the smile and the way he walks and is like that. Like, that's consistent with him. And you can just tell it like God is in him and he's joyful regardless, you know. And I saw that in him. Um, so it was very comforting. I agree with that. Yeah. So, you know, we sat down and he sat down and talked. I kind of told them, you know, my story a little bit and I'm, no, he explained more about the program and how long it was going to be because we didn't have any phone calls or anything like that. It was all, you know, I sent them a letter, he sent me an application and I sent it back. So I didn't really, I didn't know
Speaker 3:17:42myself into no wonder you were scared. So, you know, so opposite of that point I had never heard of light of. So,
Speaker 4:17:50you know, I just kept myself in the dark for so long. You know, it's amazing how many times you drive by something because you know, the north side was Kinda one of my areas where I, you know, I was in the dark so, you know, I couldn't see the light. Yeah. Yeah. So you have your first day there, you, you meet Dean, the first day you meet Pastor Harvey, the second he lays out the program, could you share a little bit about what the program experience is like for you? Yeah. Um, so when I came in there were just like ending their classes. So I got really like a fresh start on, on, on the new classes and this meeting everybody was just amazing. Um, one of the, one of the good things about where I was was the counselors that I had at the time,
Speaker 4:18:37made me feel like I could just tell them anything. And the pastor that I was with, pastor harvey was just great. And then, um, I had another counselor at the time who, um, really went deep with me about core stuff, really showed me that, you know,
Speaker 4:18:59basically what I was doing, like had everything to do with my core belief but yet had nothing to do with it because it just didn't seem like it wasn't a straight line, you know, it was just, this is dragon line. He got me too. I'm really, really see some beliefs that I believed about myself. They're just warrants room. It gave me the opportunity to let Jesus speak into those, you know, those false beliefs and speak truth into my life and that's what allowed me to Kinda change from there on some healing. Yeah. You mentioned at the beginning that you didn't really have an identity, but you didn't have identity in Christ or know your identity. Could you, did you, did that change while you were at the mission or was that in prison or change? I think my identity really changed while I was. When I got out.
Speaker 4:19:44No, when I was out of prison, I got into light of life. You're just working with my counselor at the time. I really got us. I really got to hear from other people, well, you know what Christ says about me, you know, it's, there's a big difference in just reading something and hearing someone speak it to you. You know? So I actually got to hear people speak those things over me, you know, and that really helped shape my core identity in Christ. Would you mind sharing what that means to you? Like what is your identity in Christ? So the Bible refers to us this crown jewels of his creation. Um, you know, I never saw myself as a crown jewel. You know, I never thought of myself as the most important thing in God's heart. Um, you know, that God is constantly thinking about me.
Speaker 4:20:33You know, that God is constantly wanting to change me and molded me into the person that, you know, he created me to be, you know, um, so, um, the fact that, you know, yeah, my mom and dad made me, but I was created by God for a purpose. You know, that is where my head is. What I believe my identity is, is that God has created me for a purpose. You know, what that is, is to glorify him, you know, sometimes, you know, on a day to day basis how I do it. That may change, you know?
Speaker 3:21:03Yeah. And I think it's so powerful to think about how you wanted to die. You tried to kill yourself when you thought everything was completely hopeless. And then look where you came to this place of like seeing yourself so differently, finding healing and seeing yourself with purpose, but there's a reason for you specifically. I love that transformation. And that's so beautiful. Um, is there anything else about your time in the program?
Speaker 4:21:33I met a lot of great people, you know, um, everybody that I met while I was in the program was just, you know, amazing. Um, you know, there wasn't anybody that wasn't willing to sit down and have a conversation with me. I think that was one of the key things is I never experienced that as, you know, from childhood, you know, it was all surface level stuff.
Speaker 3:21:52Yeah. And I would imagine coming directly from prison to that, that's so like behavior based and modifying your behavior through a punishment or out outside sources where a light of life. We really try to have more of this community where it's about going deeper. And so what a change.
Speaker 4:22:11Yeah, it was, you know, it was kind of one of those changed from prison is okay, I don't want to do this because I don't want to go to the hole right here it is. Now when I came out here, you know, it changed you. Okay. You know, I shouldn't do that because I'm a child of God, but I may and if I do, there's God's grace, you know, [inaudible]
Speaker 3:22:31and I can talk about it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's awesome. Okay. So how long were you in the program total?
Speaker 4:22:38I was in from February of 2014 until March of 2015, so 13 months. Fourteen months? Yeah. Alright. So what was next for you? Um, I wasn't sure what was next. Um, this is kind of a, uh, another amazing God story. So I went to a meeting and I had a guy prophesied over me and he told me that I was going to choose a path and I was just going to hit roadblocks, but then out of left field just some guy was gonna get me a job and then I was going to work for him for a little bit and then it would bring you back to where I started. So, um, you know, I really wanted to work with kids. Um, so me and I'm Filipino. One of the guys that worked or he was in education, employment at the time, he took me to, um, life works to kind of show me around there.
Speaker 4:23:34Um, I was hitting, um, I was sitting in a lot of roadblocks with the, you know, with the clearances, you know, just because nobody really wants a convicted felon working with kids. Um, and so I was hitting roadblocks there. Um, while I was at, um, lot of life though, um, I had the opportunity to, um, be a maintenance intern. Um, so, you know, in the life skills program I was the first guy to be on the maintenance aspect of the life skills program. So I'm working with a guy I know the head of maintenance and um, we developed a great relationship. We're still really good friends today. Um, and I was in, you know, the final phase, that light of life and that was kind of looking for employment, stuff like that. Um, and you know, and Tom, the maintenance guy had, I had a friend who needed help for two days. No, didn't know the guy from Canada paint. I said, sure, I'll make some money home. So he picked me up. I was supposed to work for him for two days, you know, 10 minutes into the ride to work.
Speaker 3:24:32I hadn't fulltime job, not two weeks, two weeks, but um, you know, I got a paycheck in two weeks. Um, yeah.
Speaker 4:24:44Um, and um, yeah, I worked with him till for three years. So that was kind of the opposite path that
Speaker 3:24:52do what you were thinking. So then what, what are you doing now?
Speaker 4:24:56So now I am, I serve as the manager of facilities here a lot of life. So, you know, God brought me back to kind of one of my starting points.
Speaker 3:25:05Yeah. That's nice. I didn't know about the prophecy. That's amazing. Yeah. Um, how long have you been on staff?
Speaker 4:25:11I've been here for five months. And what do you do? Like typically? So being a manager of facilities, um, I oversee the maintenance department for one, so I have one maintenance guy now and then to maintenance interns that reports to me, um, I handle a lot of the accounts like um, like cleaning accounts, um, contractors that come into, you know, to serve as furnaces, to service our roof, to do all that kind of stuff. So I deal with all those guys.
Speaker 3:25:43And what is it like now being on the staff end of things here?
Speaker 4:25:47Um, it's humbling because I get a chance every day. Remind me, remind me of where I was at one point in time. You know, it's, um, it's amazing because I feel that, you know, I can actually feel a real empathy towards the men and women that we're serving here. So it's, um, and it's been amazing because I'm, one of the beautiful things about God's grace and God's community is when I started here, you know, one of the worries that I had is when I started here as people would see me as Christie x client and nobody acted like that, you know, I was, you know, I was respected and seen as who I was at this point. Yeah.
Speaker 3:26:30That's awesome. Yeah. That's great. And to have your life experience and the experience specifically in this program and then to be able to, especially with your interns that you're working with that are in the program currently, like you have a and a message into their life that has a weight that a lot of us don't have. And so I think it's so cool that God is using you to bring that hope. I'm from a really real perspective of really real place. Um, have you, is there anything that you want to share about your time in employment here that has surprised you or that you, you know, didn't expect?
Speaker 5:27:09Peter has been good.
Speaker 4:27:13I didn't expect all the meetings. We like to meet management, you know, sometimes I make the joke that we need that we need to have a meeting scheduled the next, you know, that's, that's just. And it's not that I don't like it, it's just, it's, it's different. Right. I understand that going to work and just, you know, no, I did construction most of my life so I'm used to just, you know, working straight through for eight hours so I'm not used to a management limit, you know? And even in the management side I was a working manager for, you know, for year or so.
Speaker 3:27:50Yeah. Yeah. Well I kind of feel. Yeah.
Speaker 3:27:55But um, okay, cool. Well as we wrap up, is there anything that you wanted to share that you didn't get a chance to or any messages that you want people to be left with?
Speaker 4:28:06Yeah, so I, I go back to a lot of times of what my pastor says, you know, someone may be listening right now, um, and um, you know, maybe you want thinking about is this somewhere I want to go, um, you know, or I want to make a change in my life. You know, it's usually at that point in know that pastor likes to talk about like, you know, he started getting, you know, a little, a little sore throat or a little twitch or your heart starts beating real fast or you start sweating a little bit nuts. That's God just prompting you saying, just come, you know, I want to work in you, you know, I want to do something in your life, you know, just come, you know. Yeah. So yeah, if you're, you know, if this is something that you're thinking about doing, if you want help, come. Yeah.
Speaker 3:28:48Yeah. Awesome. Chris, thank you so much. And I mean, what a story of hope really. I mean, I really thank you for being so honest and vulnerable and sharing exactly what you went through to get to this point now. And the way that you're giving back is just incredible. So
Speaker 1:29:04thanks for sharing. Thanks for listening to wildlife rescue missions podcast. Hope unveiled. We hope you join us next time for another story of hope and change.