Interview with Eric West

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
For my first six years, I grew up with my grandmother in a small Arkansas town during the 60s. She was a godly woman who taught me moral values with love and kindness. At that point, my mother—who was almost a stranger to me—decided to take me with her to live in the violent Watts area of L.A. My severe stuttering problem hadn’t been a problem in the earlier small town setting, but in the brutal neighborhoods of south central L.A., I became a target for continual bullying. I suffered as a victim and had no protection or support and feared for my life on a daily basis. Finally, I chose to join the Crips gang and did receive all the security and family-feeling I craved. Over the years I’m afraid I became a hardened and ruthless leader among them, always intent on representing Grape Street Watts Crips with all my heart and soul. But after years of that, my spirit was broken; the lifestyle began to seem empty and disastrous. In fact, God was calling me, convicting me of my evil ways, using a channel instilled by my spiritual grandmother in my early years. When I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and source of strength, my entire world changed. I left Watts to join World Impact and learned step-by-step to follow Jesus in my daily journey, eventually serving as a Christian youth counselor with as much passion toward God as I had earlier felt toward the Crips. In this book I wanted to show my journey out of the darkness and into the light with severe honesty and detail, so that you as a reader would never again doubt the startling power of God to change lives.
What’s the story behind your book?
The background for my book goes back to the Los Angeles riots in 1992 that exploded as a result of the beating of motorist Rodney King and the acquittal of the officers who were involved in that beating. Shortly after the riots had ended, World Impact, the ministry responsible for helping me to come to Christ and bringing me to Wichita, asked me and my friend Alex as well as our wives to come back home to L.A. and spend a week or so, to be an encouragement to our people in Watts. Because of my gang background, I had access into circles that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I was able to talk heart-to-heart with family and with many of the homies who had seen the change in me up close and to encourage them. I also had the honor of leading several to Jesus Christ.
When I got back home to Wichita, God began speaking to my heart about writing my story. He impressed on me that people need to hear what He has done in my life and what He can do in theirs as well if they are willing to put their trust in His Son who loved them enough to die in our place. I knew in my heart of hearts that God loved them too, just as He loved me. But I never imagined it would take more than 20 years for that dream to become a reality. Still, God knew it. He knew that I had to heal from the past before I would be ready to write, and I needed to understand just how His hand had been there all along.

This, then, is the background in a nutshell of why I wrote From Crip to Christ. My story is about a loving and compassionate God who valued a broken little boy enough to rescue him from a life that was headed for prison or death and has given him an eternal hope that no one or nothing can ever take away. Christ is the greatest love the world will ever know, and this is the point of my book.
What is the greatest joy of having written your book?
My greatest joy in having written my book is knowing that I accomplished something God put in my heart to do. And I feel joy in knowing that He didn’t let me quit during all those twenty years when sometimes I wanted to. I was afraid to complete the book because of my speech impediment, not knowing what doors would open to me as a result of completing the book and not certain how to handle potential speaking engagements or media interviews with so stressful a stuttering problem. Still God led me to a sense of peace enough to complete the book and put it out into the world.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
To be flat-out honest, just knowing that I'm a part of something bigger than myself, realizing that I exist to please my Lord Jesus Christ is what drives me to get up each day. The more I grow in my knowledge of Christ, the more the realities of life are put into their proper perspective. I believe that life outside of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is not worth living because He gives me my value, and that value is irrevocable; it can never be lost or stolen. Every day that I wake up is a new opportunity to please my Lord, whether that is serving those around me as He calls me to do, loving people right where they are, doing my best at work or play, and standing without shame on His word in the face of this sin-stained world. His love for me drives me to please Him because He is that good to me; it drives me to apologize when I'm wrong, to encourage those who need encouraging. These things are what inspire me to get up each day.
How do you spend your time?
I live in Wichita, Kansas, and am married to my wife Andrea of 23 years; and together we are the parents of two children whom we love dearly, Ashley (19) and Isaiah (17). I presently work at Central Christian Church here in Wichita, where we are also members. I am in my sixteenth year serving in the maintenance department.

I go to work during the week, where I get to come along side the church, preparing for meetings, patching walls, and assisting wherever the needs are. I enjoy being with my family in the evenings as well as reading and studying God's word. I also enjoy talking with people whenever God arranges one of those opportunities to encourage someone or to discuss the Bible, topics of the day, or even sports. This often takes place in the aisle ways of WalMart or various other random spots. I meet with some brothers in the Lord weekly, where we encourage one another in the word or concerning family, etc. These are godly men whom I've invited to hold me accountable in my daily life as a Christian man. I also play lots of basketball several times a week. This is how I enjoy spending my time.
Published 2015-07-24.
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