Victor Torres was just 12 years old the first time he stabbed a man. At the age of 14, he was heavily addicted to heroin. By the time he was 18, he was one of New York City's most feared gang leaders and had been incarcerated three times.
Today, he's a leading evangelist who has helped thousands of young people find freedom from drug addiction and gang life.
"My story is proof that no matter what the circumstances are, no matter how you feel or how negative it looks, redemption is possible," Torres told The Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview. "I want people to know that whatever you're facing, whether it's drugs or any other kind of addiction, nothing's too hard or difficult for God."
Torres' amazing story is the subject of a new film, Victor, based on his autobiography "Son of Evil Street." The film stars stars Patrick Davis, Josh Pence (La La Land, The Social Network) and Lisa Vidal ("American Horror Story").
"God has really used this film in a mighty way, and it's impacted my life," Torres shared. "It's given me a new understanding of hope, of what hope can do, and the fact that this is what this world needs today. This is what the movie has done, not only for me, but especially for those that are hurting today just as much as I was when I was on the streets."
In the 1960's, Torres found himself immersed in a dark world after moving from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn as a child.
"The environment was pretty heavy," he recalled. "I had to fight my way in and out of school every single day. Things were pretty rough, and my life started to go downward real fast because of the neighborhood where I was growing up."
Enslaved by the power of gangs, a hunger to make fast money and an addiction to heroin, Torres expected to die on the streets, just like the majority of his friends.
And then, God intervened.
"About that time, my mother found Christ," Torres revealed. "She had an encounter with God, and brought God into our home. Right before then, she was in a dark place; she felt the bulk of the burden of what was happening to her son."
Torres' mother prayed for her son tirelessly, holding on to the belief that God would rescue him from his drug addiction.
"Sometimes, I would walk into the home at 3 am and the only person that would be up would be the voice of my mother, praying from a small closet," he told GH. "I used to get mad at her for that. I would scream at her, but she was determined that God was going to change my life."
Eventually, Torres was convinced to seek help at a faith-based rehabilitation center started by David Wilkerson, founder of teen challenge.
"I was so desperate in my early 20's," Torres recalled of why he decided to enter rehab. "But, my mother didn't tell me the clinic had anything to do with Christianity; she knew I wanted nothing to do with religion."
While at the Christian home, Torres was forced to give up heroin: "We had to quit drugs cold turkey, no substitute, no medication," he said. "The only thing they gave me was prayer and the Bible."
By day three, the young man found himself experiencing severe withdrawals from drugs. Desperate, he fell on his knees, crying out to God for deliverance.
"I said, 'God, I can't live this way anymore. I need to change. If it's true what my mother's been preaching, please God, give me the strength and the power to change.'"
He continued, "When I got up from that encounter with God, I knew I had the power and the strength to overcome this addiction, and I didn't want to go back to drugs anymore. From there on, my life changed. It took a completely different course."
Torres has since dedicated his life to giving hope and healing to those struggling with addiction, and in 1971, he and his wife, Carmen, opened New Life for Youth in Richmond, VA as a place to help teens. Over the last 46 years, they have helped over 20,000 young men and women overcome addiction.
Since that time, they have also opened some of the most successful drug recovery programs in the country, including The Men's Ranch, Mercy House and Mercy Mom's House. Torres believes his story is an example of the power of prayer - and that God is stronger than even the darkest of forces.
"I believe the drug culture it's demonic, and I believe the enemy is using it to destroy lives, especially young people," he said. "I believe that in the Last Days, revival will take place, that young people will see visions and have tremendous encounters with God. But, at the same time, there's going to be another revival: The awakening of evil powers that satan is going to use to destroy young people and children. I believe we are living in those times."
For parents whose children are struggling with addiction, Torres has a message: Never give up.
"Remember that Jesus died on the cross precisely for your loved one, remember that it's not them - it's the power that is behind the drug world today," he said. "Jesus can break those chains. Seek for every source available, because there are sources out there, there are doors to be open. I tell youth pastors today - preach the Word of God, preach it like never before, because kids today are looking for something to hold onto."
He added, "When I was a kid, I remember teachers telling my mother I was doing to die in an electric chair; they told my mother to give up on me. But, she never did. My mother would tell those people, 'I believe God is going to answer my prayer.' And, He did."