(Photo: Peacemakers International Church)
By 25-years-old, Steve Upshur was a heroin-addicted alcoholic. He tried many other drugs, leading to homelessness before God radically changed his life.
Born and raised on the west side of Detroit, Mich., in an African-American neighborhood, he and his family of 6 siblings and his mother and father were one of the few Caucasian families in the area.
At 12, Upshur was getting high by taking pills and drinking. "I directly relate a lot of my problems to being bored when I was younger," Upshur said to The Christian Post. "I was bored and wanted some excitement. I was sick of the humdrum. So I started stealing pills from the corner drug store. I started stealing boozes out of my father's whiskey cabinet."
By the age of 13, Upshur was stealing cars for the sake of joyriding, as his father prayed for him daily as he saw the bad change in his son. At 14, he decided to run away from home because he no longer wanted to follow the rules of his parents. He hitchhiked with two knives, two pairs of Levi's jeans, a pair of underwear, a pair of socks and $3 going towards the south.
Upshur ended up in a bar in San Francisco, where he was offered marijuana by an African man. He accepted the offer and smoked marijuana for the first time. He recalls, "I looked at myself in the mirror with the knife to my throat and all of a sudden I turned into the devil. I freaked out. I ran out the door to an apartment complex next door, jumped in the pool of water and got up. Then I thought, 'That was cool'."
He ended up back in Detroit and became a drug dealer getting arrested at 16-years-old for selling drugs. He was on probation but went back to selling drugs. Upshur said, "Weed is a gateway drug. It leads to stronger drugs." He went from smoking marijuana to smoking speed, but declared that he would never smoke heroin because he saw a video in 8th grade about its fatal effects. However, by the time that he was 17, he had tried heroin.
In 1967, Upshur began taking methadone pills that he got on the streets. He later began going to methadone clinics on a daily basis to feed his new habit, visiting three clinics on a daily basis using fake I.D.'s, and consuming amounts of the drug that would kill most people. Drinking alcohol, getting high on heroin and smoking marijuana every day became his way of life and it led to homelessness, a new low for him.
The pattern of jail, drugs and homelessness lasted for years until 1974, when at 25-years-old, Upshur had an encounter with God in downtown Oklahoma City. While in jail, an inmate told him about "The Jesus House." He went there after he got out of jail and saw that it was a place run by two Christian women in their late 40s. There were about 20-30 people who were addicts, homeless, prostitutes, and people from other walks of life that were often shunned by society.
A man then said to him, "I can prove to you that Jesus is real. Give your life to him and watch him change you." Three months later, Upshur recalls, "God spoke to me in an audible voice and told me that He was alive and He showed me all of these demons in a vision and it freaked me out. After 20 to 30 years of me dealing and scheming, this spirit world opens up and scared me. I was shocked to my core."
He then went back to "The Jesus House" and told them about his experience. They in turn replied, "We'd been praying for you every day for 3 months for you to get saved."
He later went to a church and was prayed over by members of the church. "My body began shaking and sweating uncontrollably. I felt the depth of God's love fall over me," Upshur shared. With his nose running profusely, and feeling the sensation of his everything in him coming out, he shared, "all of a sudden I began to think clearly for the first time in 20 years."
He ended up back in Detroit as a changed person with an eagerness to reach out to others who were searching for hope. Over the years, Upshur began teaching Bible studies to youth in Detroit's east side. As people began to attend the Bible studies, the group evolved into a church, even though there was no plan to make a church. Upshur named the church "The Breadline."
In 1980, he began and hosted the "New Life" TV program that lasted for 15 years, and started prison and jail ministries. He also evangelized on the streets and became involved with reaching out to outlaw motorcycle clubs.
After being approached by Christians from Detroit with an offer to donate their old four-story warehouse in the inner city of Detroit, he began to offer barbeques, campfires and live music in the community. In 1997, the name of the church was changed to Peacemakers International. "Everything we do is geared towards soul-winning," Upshur said.
Pastor Upshur welcomes missions groups to his church on a regular basis and also has housing for ex-felons. Congregants of his church often go on missions trips to Haiti as well.