ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An Albany man with a troubled past hopes to change the future for South Georgia young people. He lived in a world of drugs and violence and paid the price. He turned his life around and wants to pay it forward by helping others. We caught up with him as he works to take back our neighborhoods.
In the midst of a summer basketball game in Lee County, the young players take a break to listen. "The best thing for you to do now is to stop and think," said Ferguson to the group of kids.
They're listening to some words of wisdom. "The thing you want to do is stay away from crimes," said Ferguson.
The words come from a coach who's played a hard game of life. "Life has been hard for me," admitted Ferguson.
Miles away from the afternoon basketball dribble, that life for Xavier Ferguson began at Dennis Homes in Albany. A streetlight was the spot for a dangerous game of drug dealing. "That one right there," said Ferguson pointing to the streetlight, "me and that pole had a relationship."
The relationship started with $40 and grew ten fold. "Coming up from the age of 17 years old, as we called it back then, we began to grind to make our money," said Ferguson.
Add to that running around with gangs.
"When I was coming up, it was called cliques," said Ferguson. With the combination you'll get what Ferguson got-- jail and prison time for drug trafficking and possession. He was arrested more than once.
Back out on the streets, the same thing that made him rich, made him commit crimes. There was robbing and stealing to support a $2,000 a day cocaine habit. "I became addicted to the very drug that I was selling," said Ferguson. Fast forward to 2001 and another release from prison and Ferguson knew things had to change.
"I had a dream while I was in prison that I would be doing something just like this," said Ferguson.
Four months ago he began serious talk spelled with a "C". "Continuing, never stopping. So instead of the "s", I put the "c"," said Ferguson. Ferguson talks to teenagers whenever and wherever he can.
"I'm here today to tell you to make the right decisions. Make the right choices," said Ferguson to the attentive listeners. He tells them they have a choice to avoid drugs, gangs and crime-- all the things he had to learn about from experience.
"I'm here to stand there to give them hope, to show them that that's not the way. I'm the person that's standing at the beginning of the road that you're about to go down to let you know what's down that road before you get there," said Ferguson.
The message isn't falling to deaf ears. "It's a good thing really because he's trying to keep us out of trouble," said 14-year-old Quade Barrett. So Ferguson will keep delivering the words.
Ferguson said, "Walk on that straight and narrow path."
He feels if only one person listens it'll make a difference. And soon the former incarcerated drug dealer will tell an entire congregation as Pastor Ferguson.
Ferguson is the pastor of Valor International Ministries. There isn't a building yet but donations are helping to get him there. Right now he works as a sandblaster at Albany's Marine Corps Logistics Base. He hopes to take his message to schools all over the state.
If you'd like information or would like Ferguson to speak to a group, contact Cerious Talk at firstname.lastname@example.org.