From the Streets to the Path of Righteousness

Published on by Urban Impact.


DeSean was known as “Hot Boy” because of his quick temper and notorious street activity. When I initially met him in the detention center a few years ago when he was 15 years old, he wore an angry look on his face. His reputation and behavior from the block followed him into juvy as he got into fights and other trouble, letting his inner rage get the best of him. 

DeSean shared much of his upbringing with me: his move from Chicago to Seattle, his unstable home life, and his undertakings as a gang member. He often expressed thanks to still have breath as he recalled times when death got very close. I remember asking him, “Why do you think God still wants you alive?” 

“Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that.” Even at 15, DeSean was a deep thinker. 

In subsequent conversations, he expressed a desire to change. “I don’t want to be Hot Boy anymore,” DeSean stated. Just before he was sent to a long-term prison, he achieved ‘honor level,’ the highest tier in juvy that allows for privileges, such as extra snacks and going to bed later. He left juvy a few days later.

I tried calling DeSean, but I later found out that he was sent to a different prison than he thought. I lost touch with him, but never forgot about him. I put a daily reminder in my phone to help me remember to pray for him.

A few months ago, I reconnected with DeSean at a group home as I was visiting another young man. I wasn’t sure if it was him at first. It had been over two years since I last saw him. But we recognized each other and got to catch up. 

As I visited him over the following months, I saw no signs of Hot Boy. Conversely, I saw and still see one of the kindest and most generous people I know. One afternoon, when he brought some pizza back to the group home, he made sure all the other youth got a slice, even though it meant less for himself.

A few weeks ago, DeSean saw a distraught youth with a broken CD player. DeSean approached him, put his hand on his shoulder, and said with genuine compassion, “Don’t worry, I’ll buy you a new one.”

When I asked DeSean if he would want to perform a spoken word or rap for our fundraiser, he agreed to without hesitation:

It feels good knowing God loves all cuz all the stuff I done I shouldn’t have love at all.
...but one thing I know for certain,
is that I’m worth it.
Don’t be a follower… be a leader…  guide yourself into the path of righteousness.

I was reminded of God’s power to transform. I praise God for transforming DeSean from Hot Boy into the man he is destined to be.

Jon Abe is the Director of King County Youth Chaplaincy and has been a chaplain since 2009. Learn more about King County Youth Chaplaincy and how to partner in this ministry at