John Turnipseed seemed destined to inherit a violent criminal life. As a child, he grew up on a rural Alabama farm in a loving, church-going family, but at age seven his father uprooted the family for a new job in Minneapolis. His father stopped attending church, became an alcoholic, had extramarital affairs, and started abusing his wife.
Feeling abandoned by his father, young Turnipseed turned to street thugs and drug dealers for mentors. By the age of eleven, the underworld of crime, drugs, booze, and prostitution had become his norm.
By the time he was 40 years old, John had robbed and burglarized countless homes and businesses. He was addicted to crack and cocaine, and survived suicide attempts, shootings and stabbings.
John was long considered as one of the most notorious gang leaders in Minneapolis—a man who would harm anyone who threatened him or his extended gang family, the Bloods. He spent many years in the criminal system, including ten in prison. During this time, he never felt remorse.
Turnipseed, who a judge once referred to as a career criminal, has written his compelling story, Bloodlineco-authored by Cecil Murphey. The book exposes the curse on four generations in the Turnipseed family, who seem ordained to a life of crime and violence. At last count, John Turnipseed had 30 family members serving time in prison – ten of them for first-degree murder.
Turnipseed reflects on why he wrote Bloodline.
“I wrote Bloodline to offer hope for those who came from despair. I never had a father who expressed love or acceptance and I felt worthless, until I turned my life over to God. Despite all my years in criminal activity, failure and sin, I am thankful for God’s forgiveness and restoration on my life.”
Turnipseed’s life changed the day a reporter came to the school where he was a teacher, intent to expose his criminal past. Knowing that his livelihood was at risk and that he would again lose his family’s trust, Turnipseed barricaded himself in his office where he cried out to God for forgiveness and a new start. After a spiritual awakening, he realized he had become like his own father – a man he hated – toward his six children.
Turnipseed still has the respect of street gangs and criminals in Minneapolis, but he is now a licensed minister and role model who guides them to make better choices through education and career training. As the Vice President of Urban Ventures and Director of The Center for Fathering, Turnipseed teaches men and women how to be more effective parents and have positive influences in the lives of their children. The neighborhood Turnipseed and his family once terrorized has become his ministry outreach. He hopes to break the cycle of crime and violence and to inspire the younger generation to turn their backs on a life of crime.
Turnipseed shares in the book how he now uses his influence to impact others.
“I am no longer part of the criminal underworld, but by the grace of God, I still have influence. I know God can use anyone’s past for His will, just like He has used me as an example of transformation. I am willing to help anyone, regardless if they come from gangs or have just gotten out of prison. My deepest longing is for my family. As long as God gives me breath, I will do what I an to remove the cursed influence of the Turnipseed bloodline.”
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.19 We love each other because he loved us first.” 1 John 4:18-19
Turn from the generational sin. Each of us is prone to return to the generational sin present in our families. For some it might be a life of crime, for others it could be an alcohol addiction or abuse. It could even be the sin of living a life apart from God. Take time this week to reflect and ask God to show you if there is anything in your family. It might not be something you struggle with personally, but maybe something to be aware of. Pray and ask God to show you how to guard yourself or if need be to get help. Many churches have recovery programs to help with addiction. They also offer support if you have a friend or family member that struggles and you need guidance.
Impact your community. God has placed each of us in our community for a purpose. He wants us to share His love with those around us. It could be with your neighbors, the people at the park that you meet or those you interact with at the coffee shop. Pray and ask God to show you the people around you that He wants you to reach. Ask Him to give you the words to share and actions to show. Sometimes it can be helpful to take an evangelism class. Grab a friend or your small group and take the class together. You can share your experiences sharing your faith in the weeks following the class.
Pray for inner-city ministry. Pray for people like Turnipseed and others who are reaching the next generation. Ask God that He would raise up more laborers and resources so that they can accomplish God’s purposes. Ask God to turn the hearts of the gang members, prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers so that they would come to know Christ and that communities would be radically changed. Pray for leaders to be raised up to show God’s love and truth to the younger generation so that they would not turn to a life of crime.