How This World-Famous Body Builder Went from Heroin Addict to Minister
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: This story is part of our Faith in Hollywood series. For similar stories, click here.
Franco Santoriello, a famous bodybuilder, told the 700 CLUB about his life and the challenges he faced that led him to Jesus Christ.
Santoriello initially gained prominence as a teenager, becoming one of the best bodybuilders in the world. While media hyped his strength, no one knew the weaknesses he endured at home.
As a child, Santoriello’s parents had a strenuous relationship.
“What I remember about my parents fighting is it was frequent. . . the whole neighborhood heard it,” Santoriello tells the 700 CLUB. “I would run to my room and have this fear in me of, ‘What’s gonna happen now? Is someone gonna get hurt?’”
When Santoriello’s parents divorced, and his father walked away, “it ripped a hole in my heart,” he recalls.
By middle school, Santoriello began experimenting with drug use. First marijuana, then pills. During this tumultuous time, Santoriello’s brother found Christ, and tried to share the Gospel with his brother.
Santoriello immediately recognized his sin, but he says he “Didn’t want a Lord. I didn’t want anyone taking over my life and surrendering myself of being in control of me.”
As Santoriello’s fame grew, so did his addiction.
At a competition, he was offered heroin. He accepted, feeding the addiction.
Then came the overdose that should have killed him. He was clinically dead, but doctors were able to resuscitate him.
What should have been a wake-up call did nothing to deter him from addiction. He continued feeding the monster until a hit-and-run accident landed him behind bars.
“For six weeks, I lay in a rack in prison crippled in fear,” Santoriello says.
“I remember I was on top of the world, to now I’m on the bottom bunk in prison.”
At the foot of his bed was a Bible, and he began reading. He prayed to the Lord for strength and help.
Daily Bible reading became a staple of his prison routine, as did working out and eventually leading his fellow inmates in Bible studies.
At 10 months in, he ran the prison gym and fitness program and saw the difference the Bible studies made in the lives of his fellow inmates.
Once he was released, he determined to live his life for the glory of God and launched a ministry called Jack’dUp4Jesus.
Santoriello shares his testimony in his book, Before and After.
He says that his mission statement is “to encourage motivate inspire the broken bound and bruised to living and victorious and purposeful life in Christ”.
Santoriello’s life is an inspiration to all those who seek perseverance and redemption.
His story shows that it is possible to turn those things that the Enemy uses into an outlet “to bring glory to Him.”