FROM GANG LEADERSHIP AND CAREER IN GANGSTA RAP, DANIEL DOUGLAS CELEBRATES HIS NEW CALLING – SHARING THE GOSPEL WITH THOSE ON THE MARGINS.
Ten o’clock on a morning in Waterloo. Daniel Douglas, a missionary with London City Mission (LCM), is pouring morning teas and coffees outside the Webber Street Day Centre as an excited guest shows off pictures of his new flat on his phone. There’s no mistaking his joy and relief at getting a safe and stable place to stay: ‘I was sleeping in a tunnel,’ he says. ‘And now this!’
‘That’s beautiful Bro!’ bursts, Daniel. ‘I’m so happy for you! Bless you!’ Then he points upwards with both hands. ‘And you know what? We give thanks to Jesus!’
It’s a life-changing turnaround for the guest. It’s also an insight into how much Daniel’s life has transformed. ‘You know, the Lord is just incredible,’ he says later.
‘A lot of the guys who come to us have substance abuse problems – crack and heroin. These are guys I used to sell drugs to – now I’m here serving teas and coffees.’
Daniel grew up in a Christian home in Brixton, the son of parents who came to London from Jamaica soon after the Windrush era.
He always believed in God, and the gospel was familiar to him, but it never really connected. By the time he was 14, he stopped attending church, then stopped attending school.
Instead, he got in with a bad crowd and focused on his musical talent, taking on the name Cerose and recording a 12″ vinyl at the age of 16, and first getting arrested at around about the same time.
He had successes in Gangsta Rap, but they weren’t enough to fund his lifestyle. For 20 years he financed this by gang involvement, selling crack and heroin.
By 2014 he was on the cusp of wider success and recognition. He left his Los Angeles mansion to stay with his parents in the Jamaican mountains while he waited for his tourist visa to renew. He was devastated when his criminal convictions and spells in prison barred him from a US work permit.
Without much TV or internet in rural Jamaica, there was time to reconnect with his father who he had neglected in pursuit of fame.
Every conversation would come back to a biblical theme, drawing on his father’s lifetime in Christian ministry. Daniel was unconvinced, but intrigued.
He returned to London knowing two things: he was not going back to America, and he had to find out who God is. For six months he threw himself into reading the Bible, researching other religions, devouring all the information he could get his hands on.
His mind was blown reading the Bible. Slowly the pieces started to fit together. Until one day in June 2015, he was reading through Matthew’s gospel when with irresistible force it hit him that Jesus really died and rose again.
‘I started bawling like a baby. It came with a mix of emotions I can’t describe – mourning, liberation, rejoicing – all sorts of emotions, and that feeling lasted for three days. There was an orchestra inside me, violins and trumpets. I’d go to sleep at night and wake up feeling the same’.
‘Jesus, I love him. He’s all that matters. Before, I used to care about money and success, but not so much now. I just want to be living for Jesus.’
Daniel met Christian rap artists who were linked with LCM and encouraged him to apply to LCM’s Pioneer Programme, designed to train and support people from diverse backgrounds into urban gospel ministry. And so, with no school qualifications, a long criminal record, and being a new-born Christian – he was accepted on the course and followed it with working at Webber Street, LCM’s day centre for people who are homeless.
‘Everything I do now is about Jesus,’ he says. ‘our calling is to preach the gospel, wherever you are and with whatever ability God has given you.
‘The path I’ve chosen isn’t easy, it’s very hard. Especially when I see old friends celebrated in the newspaper, knowing that I’ve passed the opportunities of that lifestyle. It still stings a bit, you know?
‘And then I think, why would I go back to that? Jesus is real and he’s saved me.’
Daniel was fortunate that he had his father to tell him about Christ Jesus. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people in London are unlikely to hear the good news of Jesus in their lifetime. This is because they do not have a friend or relative who can share the gospel with them and invite them to church
Homelessness in London has doubled over the past decade and is expected to rise after the furlough ends.
JOIN DANIEL, FOR THE GOSPEL, IN YOUR SLEEPING BAG
On 20th November, will you sleepout to bring hope to people who are homeless?
Take part in our Big Winter Sleepout raise vital funds to give hope to people living on the streets of London. Your support will enable Daniel and the team at Webber Street Day Centre to continue to provide food and practical care, and an opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus, to people who are homeless in London.
Join us on the night at Webber Street or online, where you can get together with your youth group, school, church, friends or family for your own Sleepout!
It will be a night to remember.
Find out more and register at lcm.org.uk/sleepout
Written By: Grey Msonthi