Floyd Rodgers Jr. once spent his time pushing cocaine in Detroit. Now, he is a minister at a church in his home town of Fayette.
“God gave me a dream one time,” Rodgers said. “In this dream, he showed me a real flower and a fake flower in a pot. In this dream, I saw somebody was adding water and sunlight to the fake flower, but it never was growing. They were adding water and sunlight to this real flower, and it grew.”
Rodgers said his life took a turn for the worse when he was 11 or 12. The house he lived in with his mother and siblings in Fayette burned down, and they lost everything.
“After our house burned, [my brother and I] both kind of went like left field,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers said his mother was a single parent and worked two jobs, which made it hard for her to supervise him and his oldest brother. They started getting into drugs, drinking and stealing.
Eventually, Rodgers’s brother started selling drugs. One day their mother found the drugs and reported him to the police. His brother was arrested and held for about two days before he was released.
Rodgers’s family in Detroit then convinced his mother to send his brother to Detroit to live with them, and Rodgers went with him.
Drawn to the drug dealer lifestyle
At the time, Detroit had been experiencing a economic decline for multiple decades. What was once the heart of the automotive industry in the United States became one of the country's poorest cities when a housing boom brought mostly White middle-class workers into the suburbs, leaving the inner city to the lower-income Black people, a phenomenon commonly referred to as “White Flight.”
Moreover, automobile manufacturers began moving factories out of Michigan to states that didn’t require non-union members to pay union dues.
During the 1980s and 90s, Detroit was plagued by violent crime, political corruption and an influx of heroin and crack cocaine that further debilitated the population.
“It was like a warzone over there,” Rodgers said. “You may have a block that normally has about 20 houses. At this time, there were about eight or nine houses that were still standing on this block.”
Rodgers and his brother were relocated to one of the most crime-ridden areas of Detroit, the East Side. For the first time, they saw drug dealers, criminals running from the police, prostitutes on street corners and people getting killed.
“That’s all we saw every single day,” Rodgers said. “The drug dealers seemed like the coolest guys. They had all the women. They had all the money, the expensive cars and the nice houses. Me and my brother, we kind of gravitated towards that.”
One night, a dealer that lived on their block got Rodgers and his brother to help him count his money. It took them all night.
“We were country boys from a small town,” Rodgers said. “Counting all this money - big duffel bags of money - I think it ended up being close to $1 million. We’d never seen that much money in our lives … Seeing that much money, it inspired us. That was what we wanted to be. That’s what gave us that drive to want to become the biggest drug dealers you could possibly be.”
As teenagers, Rodgers and his brother started selling drugs. Rodgers said the first time he ever sold anything was when he was peddling marijuana out of a McDonald’s drive-through window.
Rodgers says when he moved to Detroit, the ministry was the furthest thing from his mind. He said he didn’t even like going to church because he sold to pastors and priests who were drug addicts.
“I always looked at people in the church as hypocrites,” Rodgers said. “We wanted to stay as far away from the church as we could.”
First time in prison
When he was 17, Rodgers was caught "jacking" a car. He witnessed another 17-year-old commit suicide while in jail awaiting trial. The boy had been arrested on the same charges Rodgers was in for.
“I pondered upon suicide myself,” Rodgers said. “But, I grew up watching my mom, my aunties and my grandma, and they always talked about this ‘Jesus.’ When you get into trouble, you know … You can also run to the church. You can always run to Jesus. I started reading my Bible. I started praying.”
Rodgers remained in jail for four months between multiple court hearings. Each time he went to court, his mother would ride a greyhound bus from Alabama to Michigan.
After listening to his attorneys, Rodgers thought he was going to have to serve at least 15 years in prison.
Nevertheless, his mother wouldn’t give up. Rodgers said she kept showing up and praying for him.
On the day of his sentencing, the judge declared him a youthful offender and gave him probation. The judge also sentenced him to 30 days of community service to be followed by his relocation back to Fayette with his mother.
“She kicked me out of Detroit,” Rodgers said. “... My oldest brother, he stayed.”
“We pretty much turned the town upside down.”
Rodgers said he didn’t learn his lesson. When he returned to Fayette, he noticed an opportunity for a drug market. He said he could make significantly more off of drugs in Alabama than he could in Detroit.
Before long, Rodgers sent for his brother to move back down and join him.
“I guess you could say we pretty much turned the town upside down,” Rodgers said. “We sold a lot of drugs.”
Rodgers’s high sales volume caught the eyes of law enforcement officials. He was finally charged with selling drugs in 2005 when he was caught with a quarter-brick of cocaine and nine pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his car.
Rodgers was given a $250,000 bond, which was revoked due to prior charges.
“This small town had a smaller jail, so you could pretty much do what you wanted to do, especially if you had a little money in your pocket,” Rodgers said. “My oldest brother was already in there on some charges that he had caught. Before long, we started selling drugs inside of the jail.”
This time, Rodgers remained in jail for about nine months. He was facing 30 years, but before he could be sentenced, the drugs he was caught with came up missing from the evidence room. Consequently, they dropped his trafficking charges.
“God had saved me again,” Rodgers said.
Even after the charges were dropped, Rodgers kept selling drugs inside the county jail until the police came in on a drug raid and caught him with cocaine, cash and cell phones.
“We’d just gotten this good news,” Rodgers said. “I was still being hardheaded, then I catch another charge.”
In prison, Rodgers got his GED and completed a long list of inmate programs. He wasn’t supposed to come up for parole, but his family fought for him to get paroled.
“I had charges,” Rodgers said. “You’re not supposed to make parole when you have charges against you.”
When he got home on parole, he went to see his attorney. His attorney told him that some paperwork was lost, and his charges were dropped again.
“Using God like a spare tire”
Rodgers came home and got a job but began to miss the money he was making selling drugs, so he started selling again. This time, he started selling meth but arranged it in a way where he was never keeping it on his person.
Rodgers said he was “using God like a spare tire.”
“You don’t try looking for a spare tire until you need it,” Rodgers said. “... That’s how I used God in my ignorance.”
Rodgers said that he drank a pint of alcohol every day and smoked cigarettes and marijuana. He thought his dream to become a big drug dealer was coming true, and his income was reflecting that.
Rodgers was raking in $46,000 to $47,000 every week. He was only 20 at the time.
“I felt like something was going to happen,” Rodgers said. “At the same time, I didn’t care. Most of the friends that I grew up with in Detroit, they all died or got killed before the age of 21. In my mind, you know, I won’t make it past 21 anyway, so I’m just going to have the most fun that I can have. If it was my time to check out, it was my time to check out. That was the mind-frame that I had.”
While still on parole, Rodgers received a federal conspiracy charge. He was sent back to state prison to wait for a parole hearing, which would determine if he would be allowed to be reinstated or get his parole reversed.
Rodgers said he looked for the best lawyer he could find in Montgomery and was willing to pay as much as possible. He hired a man named Bob Humphries.
When he first met Humphries, Rodgers said he was wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.
“He looks exactly like the guy from Quaker oatmeal,” Rodgers said. “... I judged the man, until he told me something that changed my whole life.”
Humphries asked Rodgers if he believed in Jesus Christ. The attorney then stood up and gave Rodgers a hug.
“That’s not normal with attorneys,” Rodgers said.
Release and rearrest
Humphries told Rodgers he wasn’t expecting him to get reinstated on his parole. He hadn’t yet been informed about a parole hearing, so he assumed he wasn’t going to get reinstated.
Nevertheless, Rodgers said he had a strange sense of peace. He said he was walking around the facility track, singing a song he heard from a church service, “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus,” when his name was called on the intercom, calling him to the office.
When Rodgers entered the room, officers asked him how he planned on getting home. They were letting him go.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘You can’t be serious,” Rodgers said. “The officer didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Rodgers said he thought they released him on a fluke. He said he forgot about God yet again and partied over the weekend, then visited his attorney to figure out what he did to get him out.
Rodgers discovered that his attorney hadn’t done anything. More documents were lost. He told Rodgers to remain at home until he got everything straightened out.
Rodgers stayed at home for a while but later decided to go to his niece's ball game that was out of town. There, he ran into a police officer, who took him back into custody.
Daniel in the lion’s den
“Long story short, police in this town re-arrested me,” Rodgers said. “They took me to the nearest county jail, and this county jail is very racist. They got all the Black people on one side and all the White people on another side … I got a big name at the time. [The police officers] know who I am, so they put me on the White side of the jail, I guess because they thought I’d get beat up because that’s normally what happens.
“... I kind of felt like Daniel in the lion’s den,” Rodgers said. “Those lions were supposed to beat me up and eat me up and shoot me up. Those guys welcomed me. That was another ... turnaround for me that surprised me.”
Rodgers said he found a scripture written on his bed one night. It was Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
“[I was] in trouble again,” Rodgers said. “I’m calling on God again. I’m praying.”
In about two weeks, the U.S. Marshalls picked him up from the jail. They took him to a federal facility in Shelby County.
At the federal facility, Rodgers met a crack addict who was clean for 20 years. The addict told Rodgers about God turning his life around.
One day, Rodgers said the addict looked him in the eyes and said, “I don’t know who you are or what you’re going through, but God told me to tell you that the only reason why you’re going through what you’re going through is because He wants you to get His word.”
Rodgers said he drank a lot of coffee and stayed up all day and all night reading the Bible. He also started praying and fasting.
“I guess the Word of God consumed me,” Rodgers said. “I started seeing myself for who I really was. It humbled me. It broke me down. I remember being in tears one night.”
“A peace that came over me”
A week later, Rodgers saw on the news that his brother was killed. He called one of his friends, who confirmed that information.
In the same week, his attorney told him he was facing a federal life sentence for conspiracy.
“I just told God that ‘whatever it is you want me to do, I’ll do it,” Rodgers said. “I’m thinking that things are going to turn … In my mind, I’m thinking that things are going to start getting better. In my natural mind, things started getting worse.
“... But there was also a peace that came over me,” Rodgers said. “ … Before I knew it, the Word had gotten to me, and I started sharing [it] with guys individually.”
Rodgers said a group of guys eventually encouraged him to teach a Bible study on Wednesday night.
“I was still at peace with everything that was going on,” Rodgers said. “Because I knew God was going to work out the situation.
“... Jail and prisons have some of the most talented people, and we never realize our talents until we hit rock bottom. You’ve got guys in there that can sing their tails off.”
Some of the prisoners formed a choir and asked Rodgers to be their pastor. He accepted the offer and started hosting services.
“I started seeing guys drop to their knees in tears, and they accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior,” Rodgers said. “... I’m blown away by this. I remember breaking down in my cell one night. I just started crying, and tears just started coming out of my eyes. I remember praying, asking God to use me, and now I’m starting to see God use me to bring people to him.”
Eight years in federal prison
When his federal sentencing came around, Rodgers had a handful of unexpected individuals step up for him, including the mayor, city council, his probation officer and other pastors. They urged the judge not to give him a life sentence.
Rodgers pled guilty to running a drug organization, but he was only sentenced to ten years in federal prison. He served eight years, then was released.
“The whole time I was in there, I never stopped,” Rodgers said. “I was doing Bible studies, preaching, teaching people the Word.”
Rodgers said he saw the conversion of Jehovah's Witnesses and even Muslims.
When he got home, he asked to visit county jails so he could preach to the prisoners.
“In this same city that I turned upside down, God has allowed me to go into this same jail that was like my second home,” Rodgers said. “... God is still using me, but now, instead of me having to wait on somebody to make my bond, all I got to do is knock on the door and tell the officer I’m ready to leave. That’s a miracle in itself.”
While he was in prison, Rodgers’s wife was working to become an attorney.
“That goes to show you how God has a sense of humor,” Rodgers said. “I was always in trouble. Now, God allowed me to marry my high school sweetheart, who became an attorney.“
Since his turnaround, Rodgers has maintained relationships with some unlikely people. Recently, Rodgers bought a house from the same judge who sentenced him in 2005. He also has a good relationship with the federal judge who sentenced him. Rodgers now helps her with the reentry program she runs by speaking at the graduation.
“These same people who were used to prosecute me, God has turned it around,” Rodgers said. “I’m able to help them. I’m able to help other people who are going through different situations.”
Now, Rodgers is a minister at Peaceful Rest Missionary Baptist Church. He also does travel preaching, visits prisons and visits the juvenile detention center in Tuscaloosa.
Rodgers said he looked up to the senior pastor at Peaceful Rest. He was a pastor during Rodgers’s youth and stuck out to him by having a clean record.
“He exemplified that Christ-like character,” Rodgers said. “So, I looked up to him as a spiritual father. That’s [why] me and my wife felt led to join that church.”
Problems with youth today
Rodgers said he sees the same problems he faced as a young man in the youth today.
“It’s kind of like how Satan when he took Jesus on top of the mountains and promised him everything, promised him the whole world,” Rodgers said. “I think our youth, they get that same type of influence today. They see the fancy cars and the women and the nice houses. Drug dealing - that’s the avenue to get it. Most people think it’s the only way to get it.”
Rodgers said he likes to inform parents to watch what they allow their children to be exposed to. He felt his exposure to the drug-dealing culture in Detroit drove him into dealing himself.
“I didn’t lose anything"
Aside from being a minister, Rodgers is an investor in real estate and stock options. He teaches courses on investing in order to show people that there are legitimate investments people can make that are more profitable and much safer than selling drugs.
“I’ve lost over ten years of my life that I can never get back,” Rodgers said. “Which I really don’t consider losing it because to die is gain and [I] died to myself then, but I gained Christ overall, so now I’m able to give people hope … Spiritually speaking, I didn’t lose anything. I gained everything.”
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.