“I idolized him,” Markell says. “People thought he was cool. My own father was not in the picture and my mom was in and out of prison. He was the one male figure in my life. He had money, so he would buy expensive cars and expensive clothes. He would buy them for me. You’re a little kid and you’re getting hooked up. I thought he had something going on.”
In response to this role modeling, Markell became a runner for a drug dealer. He dropped out of school. He used methamphetamines and he took advantage of girls. “I had all these insecurities because I was hurting and lonely and I didn’t know why I wasn’t worth it for my real dad to stick around,” he said. “But I put on a mask of confidence to get in girls’ pants.”
From middle school onward, Markell was the life of the party. He had the drugs, so he got it started.
But while he was admired for his swagger and brazenness, his future began to dim. He variously lived with his stepdad in Wendover, Nevada, his grandmother in Las Vegas — and homeless shelters. He was arrested for domestic violence against his mother and police were investigating crimes he had participated in.
“I was out of control,” he recalls. “One time I told my mom I was going to kill the guy who sold me some bad drugs. I wasn’t really going to do it, but I acted like it. She tried to take me to the police, but I jumped out of the car while she was driving.”
At age 14, his mom and stepdad wanted to escape their reputation at Wendover and move to Salt Lake City to get a fresh start in life. Markell didn’t last one day there without his arrest.
Again it was a case of domestic violence. He hit his mom with a pillow, he says, and she freaked out and called the cops. When the police handcuffed him, they asked if there was a gun. Markell stood up to show them his arm, but the police thought he was going to attempt a fight, so they tackled him again.
The cops hauled him off to jail.
“As soon as I got into the back of the patrol car, I started crying like a little baby,” Markell says. “Up until then, I had pretty much gotten away with everything I did.”
Upon his release, he tried to change. Living in a homeless shelter with his mom and stepdad, he enrolled in school. He tried to avoid the hard drugs – meth, coke and mushrooms – though he still smoked cigarettes and pot and still drank vodka and beer.
His parents couldn’t find a job and after weeks of frustration decided to return to Wendover.
“I knew if I went back, I was going to either die because I was running with the wrong people or end up in jail for a long time,” Markell says. “Believe it or not, I prayed that God wouldn’t let me go back to Wendover. I had gone to Vacation Bible School and knew about God.”
As he and his parents were driving out of Salt Lake, he was still praying.
They called a friend, towed the vehicle and wound up staying with a Christian family who invited them to church. Seeing that God answered his prayer to stay in Salt Lake, Markell didn’t think twice in agreeing to go.
The visiting preacher talked about conscience, and Markell was panged in his heart.
“I got radically saved. Jesus just touched me,” he says. “I went to the altar weeping like a baby – snot and everything. It was an event – something happened in my life. I got up from that altar not knowing what was going to happen, but I felt that it was all going to work out. My situation was chaotic. I had burnt so many bridges with my family. But I had a peace that Jesus would take care of everything.”
The preacher also felt inspired to give Markell a special message from the Holy Spirit: “You’re going to be a demon skull basher.”
The young people at the Door Church swarmed him, shaking his hand, making introductions and congratulating him on his decision. Soon, the pastor arranged housing for him so he could get off the streets. He moved in with a family in the church.
He threw himself into all the church’s activities. He used his rapping skills to draw crowds and delivered the gospel in the streets. He cleaned the church. He led Bible studies and preached at youth group. For seven years, Markell was a living example of God’s transforming power.
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