“My abuse, misery and pain led to ministry”
Gigi Tinsley | 10/31/2013, 9 a.m.
When most young boys, between the ages of five and six years-old were riding their bikes, just beginning to learn about junior football and playing games with their peers, Leroy Smith, Jr. was being taught other lessons.
Leroy was left alone at night on 11th St. and 3rd Ave., while his mother, thinking that he would sleep all through the night, went out to be with her friends and “to party.” Leroy would wake up during the night. screaming for his mother and not finding her, he would run out of the apartment, frightened out of his wits calling for her. An older man in the building constantly noticed what was happening and befriended Leroy. He allowed him to stay in his apartment until his mother came home, most of the time, early the next morning. After a while, the actions of the man turned to sexual abuse. Leroy never told anyone about what was happening in the man’s apartment at night.
“I would wake up scared out of my wits,” Leroy said. “I knew if I said anything, I would still be left alone and then who would look after me? I was bullied at school so I didn’t really have any friends. I began to like the attention I was getting from the man, so I kept quite about his touching me.”
Like sin, salvation is a process
Those early experiences taught Leroy many lessons, he says: “Lessons I wish I had never learned. After being taught to perform repetitive homosexual acts at such an early age, I became an excellent student.”
His mother died when he was eight years-old on May 18, 1969.
As an adult, Smith said, “I discovered there were many men like the one I had met in my childhood and if I was nice to them, I could get money and other things I wanted from them.”
“This was the beginning of being in a different world,” he said. “That world included prostitution, alcohol, other drugs, transvestitism and robbing my ‘clients’ when I wasn’t pleased with the money I was given. In the beginning, I loved that lifestyle but in the end, it almost cost me my life.”
A disgruntled ‘client,’ [one who had been robbed by Smith] came after him and shot him in the left leg with a 12-gauge shot gun near their interlude spot off Biscayne Boulevard.
When Smith came out of surgery, his doctor informed him that he was HIV-positive and infected with Hepatitis C.
After three months in traction, unable to move without assistance, Smith was transferred to what was then called The Human Resource Health Center [currently owned by Jackson Health Center] on 25th St. and 25th Ave. and remained there for an additional three months in a body cast.
“After that process, I had to learn to walk again,” he said. “Then came the wheelchair, a walker, crutches and canes. It was at this point in my life that I begged God to take me from the lifestyle I was living. The hospital chaplain introduced me to a man with a similar past, who helped me get through my deep depression by counseling and praying with me, on a daily basis, for six months. I then started going to church.”
Smith, an eighth-grade drop out, also returned to school.
“I took the GED test six times — now I have two doctorates in education and divinity,” he added.
In May, 1994, Smith organized the More Than Conquerers Outreach Ministry and in 2000, he founded the Community Hope Health & Human Services Corporation.
“I spent 27 years in sin and 27 years being saved,” he said. “I pray that others will chose salvation. There is nothing like it in the whole world.”