From looking at their childhood, few people would have guessed Isaiah and Carol Reed would spend much of their early adult lives deeply entwined in an international web of drugs and prostitution. Probably even fewer would have expected the two to suddenly shake off that lifestyle — which left their bodies scarred with knife and bullet wounds — and become powerful evangelists for the Lord. Now, instead of traveling the world in search of drugs, sex and money, they are planning an overseas trip to share their moving message of Christ’s love.
That message, says Carol, is: “Jesus can save your life, and there’s hope for the sinner.”
Neither is shy about telling their story of how they sought love and power in drugs and prostitution before finding it in the Lord.
Isaiah grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., in a family, which featured five generations of preachers, missionaries, deacons and others involved in church work. Although his family was Baptist, Isaiah attended Catholic school for the values that were taught there.
“My life was basically ‘Mayberryish,”‘ he says. Across the country, Carol grew up as a member of a middle class black family in South Central Los Angeles, also attending a Catholic school. But while Carol attended school in a Christian atmosphere, she lived in a neighborhood where gangs prevailed, often warring over turf. She started smoking marijuana and shoplifting at age 13. A few years later, seeking both attention and money, she became a prostitute.
“I was 17, almost 18, when I did that,” she says, noting that she and several other girls took the step after learning about prostitution from simply watching TV. “I liked the fast cars and fast guys and I wanted to do whatever was needed to be in their company, she says.
Isaiah, meanwhile, discovered he had an uncontrollable urge for power after coining to the aid of his little sister. He defended his sister against a much bigger guy and surprised both himself and others when he came out the winner in a fight.
“I felt like David stoning Goliath,” he says.
That good deed, however, earned him praise as a fighter and created an ego that he couldn’t control. Isaiah’s reputation gained him the praise of gangs, and he soon found himself in fights on a regular basis just to maintain his image as a tough guy. Then he turned to, gun and drive-by shootings to give him the sense of power he needed. When a judge gave him the choice of prison or the Army, Isaiah chose the military. But instead of straightening him out, Isaiah’s military service and stint in Vietnam just got him deeper into the same lifestyle.
“I got involved with the wrong guys,” he says now. “They were officers but were involved in the black market.” When he came out of the Army he felt more powerful than ever.
But seeing no profit in simply sitting around in a world of drugs and sex, Isaiah says he learned the power than could be gained by manipulating people. That’s when he became a pimp and drug dealer.
“I laid down my gun and started lying and manipulating,” he says. Having sought a star-studded (l lifestyle, Carol had focused her prostitution efforts in Hollywood.
Carol says she had lived with NFL hall-of-famer Jim Brown for about a year and a half when they were both arrested in 1982 and charged with raping a schoolteacher. The day their lawyer — the now-famous Johnny Cochran — got the charges dismissed, she met Isaiah, who invited her to come with him guys and I wanted to do whatever was needed to be in their company, she says. The money Isaiah raked in from pimping and dealing drugs allowed him to satisfy his longtime desire to travel and see the world, taking his pr9stitutes with him to ply their trade wherever they could.
“I was very good at being a drug dealer and a pimp,” he admits. As a prostitute, Carol says, she could earn anywhere from $900 to $1,500 a night. Their lifestyle, Isaiah notes, was plush with mink coats, diamond rings, fancy cars and world travel. But both stress now that it was a hollow lifestyle that virtually imprisoned them.
“We had prisons of gold and pearl bars — but prisons never-the-less,” says Isaiah. Carol agrees, “On the inside there was a big price to pay and I began to do drugs. I was in love with a man and sharing him with 17 other women.” They eventually parted ways — and found themselves in separate life-and-death dramas. Returning to LA to live with her father, Carol befriended a young drug dealer who became obsessed with her — stalking and threatening her when she tried to end their relationship. That relationship finally ended when the man was shot dead by Carol’s father, a licensed gun dealer who came to his daughter’s aid with the gun he always carried in his car. “He shot him five times at close range with a 9 mm and he died that day.”
The event got Carol to wondering about her life. “I just wasn’t happy that someone had to die because of me. It was tearing me up inside,” she says. Isaiah’s life almost ended in a similar burst of gunfire. With his “business” having taken him to Denver, Colo., and Isaiah says he was riding around with two other men when one suddenly pulled out a gun.
“He pulled out his .38 and shot me in the head then shot me in the face,” recalls Isaiah. They then stabbed him 16 times and dumped him in an alley, where he was discovered only when a lady struck him with her car. “I literally bled to death in that alley,” he says. “They pronounced me dead at the scene.” Isaiah says he was taken to a hospital in preparation for an autopsy.
Authorities called his mother and informed her that Isaiah had bled to death, one bullet lodging in his brain and the other in his spine. Instead of accepting the death, however, Isaiah says, his mother simply began praying for her son.
“She prayed and stood on the promise — that God promised her a preacher, not a pimp,” he says. It was then his vital signs slowly returned. That brush with death didn’t turn Isaiah’s life around, however. “I went right back on the street,” he says.
It wasn’t until three years later, during a Christmas-eve night of drugs and sex, he says, that his life finally changed. When one of his pr6stitutes was threatening suicide’ and wouldn’t respond to his usual offers of money and drugs he surprised himself and those around him by offering to pray for her. Although admitting his prayer was only a halfhearted attempt to keep the woman from ruining their party, Isaiah says the Lord responded.
“In the middle of all this talking I heard God,” he recalls. So did the woman and the two others that were with them. “All four of us saw Him and we began to worship Him.” Isaiah accepted Christ three days later. “I never picked up a needle or smoked cocaine again,” he says.
His past problems, however, landed him in a Hawaiian prison where he was ordained and released after serving only five years of a 20-year sentence. Ready to commit suicide in 1995, Carol went to Hawaii when Isaiah called and asked her to marry him. She went not to get married, however, but to drop off her son with his father so she could commit suicide.
“I was either going to shoot myself or smoke drugs till I died,” she says. Before she could do that, however, she went to a Thursday night church service, which changed her life. “I could feel the spirit reaching me,” she says. “I could feel the drugs leaving me and the prostitution leaving me.”
She also had a dream in which she saw herself and Isaiah behind a pulpit. “The next day I told him I would marry him,” she says. And now they can indeed be found together behind a pulpit, sharing their message of God’s salvation.