The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Frank Sylvia: Renegade Redemption

By Tim Branson
The 700 Club “I don’t think very many nine-year-olds would stab somebody,” Frank says. “I don’t think very many people would play russian roulette with two bullets in the chamber just to show he wasn’t afraid of death.”

Frank was four when his mom and dad separated. His mom raised him and his two brothers in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

His father would promise to visit…

“I remember sittin’ there being glad he was going to come. Sometimes I’d be sittin’ on the steps and he wouldn’t,” Frank recalls. “I never had a father figure in my life so I just kind of went to the streets looking for guidance.”

So at the tender age of nine, he started a gang. Why? “To be needed, to be wanted to have a brotherhood where you could hang out, ask questions, or give answers… to be loved by somebody else.”

Frank got into drugs. He was violent. Once he stabbed a 14-year-old boy. He lived by his own rules.

“Whatever we felt like doing we did and when we got older, we started stealing cars and stuff like that.”

Frank’s family moved to Virginia when he was 15. He didn’t “get along” in his new neighborhood, so he took precautions.

“I carried two buck 110 knives, one in my pocket, one on my side. I would pull out a knife and set it on the table. If you want to fight me, I want it to be a knife fight. I would stand back, pull my knife out of the shield, and do whatever was necessary to defend myself.”

Frank quit school, which opened the door to more using and dealing drugs, and prison. Frank was an outcast.

He didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Then in 1983, he found a place that accepted him exactly the way he was -- an outlawed motorcycle club called The Renegades.

“It’s a tight bond of brothers,” Frank explains. “I feel like it was part of my life that I wanted to become.”

But once again Frank was arrested on drug charges. He spent much of the next decade behind bars. Then after he was released on parole, he met his future wife, Terry.

“He was decent when we first met,” she says. “He wasn’t doing drugs. That’s how our relationship grew at first.”

After they married, Frank returned to his old ways. He also became an official member of The Renegades. His reputation earned him the title of “Enforcer”. The club became no. 1 in Frank’s life. Terry was devastated.

“It was miserable [and] sad,” Terry recalls. “Before when we were together it was Frank and I. We were doing things together, and we had a normal relationship, but when got into the club I no longer mattered. It was the brothers.”

Then in 1999 a shock came. A four million-dollar drug conspiracy charge was brought against 31 people. Frank and several of his Renegade brothers were included. Frank was sure he was headed for life in prison.

As he waited alone in jail for his trial, a man came to talk to him about God…

“I said, ‘I don’t want to know a God that would put me in a situation like this. I don’t want to hear it.’ He said, ‘No, do you have a personal relationship with God?’ I didn't want to hear about no God. He said, ‘I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do,’ and leaves the Bible in the bars. ‘If you feel like you want to read it, read it. I’m going to pray for you.’”

Frank picked up the Bible and read.

“I read that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” Frank says. “I said, ‘God, I’m calling on you. If You’re real, answer me in some way. I’m asking you to save me save my soul.’”

Frank told Terry but she didn’t buy it at first. However she slowly saw her husband change.

“The change in his voice, the way he was talking, the way he carried himself, he was more caring and I started seeing it in his eyes,” Terry recalls.

The trial started. It lasted only seven days. Then the verdict came – frank had been acquitted on all charges. Neither Frank nor Terry could believe it.

Frank says, “You should have gone to jail the rest of your life, how do you explain that? The mercy of God. We have a merciful God. I should have been locked up, deserved the gates of hell, but we have the mercy of God. It’s the only thing I can answer.”

Frank walked away from a life of drugs and crime that day. And he and Terry have a relationship they never thought possible -- one based on their faith in God.

Frank also travels to prisons across the country, reaching out to those who are just like he was – an outcast of society, sitting in prison, hopeless. Frank believes all of us can help them.

“How did you get saved? I believe it was people out there praying for a lost soul to be saved. I was a lost soul, and I believe one day God rolled up His sleeve and pulled me up out of the mud. He had a lot of work to do on me, but He’s changed my life.”

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