Topekan: 'I'll never be the same'

Ronnie Lassiter, a former drug dealer, describes how Jesus transformed his life

Posted: May 6, 2011 - 9:23pm
Ronnie Lassiter, who turned his life over to God in 2007, holds a sign while standing at the corner of S.W. 21st and Wanamaker, while his 7-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, joins him on a recent Friday afternoon.

After four years living in the Kansas City area, 31-year-old preacher's kid Ronnie Lassiter is back in Topeka, determined not to walk down the path of crime and corruption that he says nearly cost him his life when he was in his 20s.

More than that, he said, he wants to lead others to Christ, sharing with them the mistakes that he has lived to tell about.

"The Lord's been good to me, man," Lassiter said on a recent Friday afternoon, as he stood holding a wooden cross on the northeast corner of S.W. 21st and Wanamaker, with his 7-year-old daughter Brooklyn by his side. "Back when I was in Topeka in my younger days, there wasn't anything I wasn't doing. I was just a bad guy all the way around."

Lassiter said he had gotten into drugs and alcohol. He made a living selling drugs in Topeka, he said.

"I wasn't afraid of anything at any time," he said. "The only thing I was ever afraid of was missing the next party."

Even an accidental shooting in 2002 — when he wounded the woman that would be his wife — did little to get him to change his ways, he said.

"The bullet went through her liver," he said of his wife, Chantel. "It should have killed her. They tagged her 'Jane Doe.' About 99 percent of people who get shot in their liver die, but by a miracle of God, she survived."

A couple of years later, she took him to a Pentecostal church called The Rock in Olathe, where her father, Charlie Watts, was pastor.

The church reminded him of the congregation in which he grew up in Topeka — Faith Temple Church, 1162 S.W. Lincoln, pastored by his parents, Bishop Ronald and Sandra Lassiter.

The difference, he said, was The Rock had good numbers of both black and white members. And all were sold out to God, he said.

"It brought things back to me from my childhood that I didn't believe I'd ever see again," he said.

Still, Lassiter didn't get his life back on track with God until April 22, 2007, when he went to Faith Temple. An altar call found him on his knees at the front of the church. Soon, he said, all the "mothers" of the church had surrounded him and laid their hands on him.

With a pocket full of drug money, he stood up a new man in Christ, he said.

"I asked the Lord to forgive me," he said. "As soon as I went home, I immediately threw all my dope away, and I packed my bags."

Lassiter said he received the blessing of Pastor Watts to marry his daughter a few weeks later. The couple and their daughter lived in Olathe for four years.

Then, in February, Lassiter felt the call to come back to Topeka.

When he came, he brought a wooden cross that he used in witnessing with Shane Patterson on 119th and Black Bob Road in Olathe. He was about to give the cross back when he said God spoke to him and told him to use it in ministering to people in Topeka — including those who knew him as a drug-dealing criminal.

"Sometimes, I just go and stand with the cross," Lassiter said. "The cross preaches a different message to everybody who sees it."

Lassiter has stood with the cross at S.W. 21st and Wanamaker and at S.E. 29th and California Ave. since his return to Topeka three months ago.

He said people sometimes come up to talk to him and other times to try to argue religion with him.

Lassiter said he doesn't get into arguments with people, but he does share with them the hope for a new life he has found in Christ.

"If he can save me," Lassiter said, "he can save anybody."

Lassiter, who runs a street-corner hot dog stand at S.W. 10th and Jackson over the lunch hour on Mondays through Fridays, said his goal is to "bring life back to this community and help people I hurt in the past. That's what I want to do."

He said it isn't always easy coming back home, especially after a radical transformation in his life.

"If I can tell you about this man Jesus from Galilee and what he's done for me," he said, "I've given you all that a man can give you."

Lassiter has been ordained a minister at Faith Temple and leads Monday night Bible studies for the Fresh Faith Ministry group, which caters to young adults. The Fresh Faith Ministry Team goes out on Topeka's streets on witnessing missions, handing out tracts to people and talking to them about Jesus.

Lassiter said he is a "living witness" to what God can do, and that his message won't change, even for those who want to see him in a different way or who don't want to let go of yesterday.

"I'll never be the same," he said. "I'll never go back to the enemy's team ever again. I want to serve the Lord all the rest of the days of my life."

Phil Anderson can be reached

at (785) 295-1195