One80 Podcast Episode 29
Air Date: November 22, 2022
Chris Baker, Tattoos of Redemption
This transcript may have errors that do not reflect the audio found in the show.
Chris Baker: I’m sitting there listening to Joan pray and I had this thought pop into my brain and it was just follow me.
And this will be okay. Like, I’ve got you. I’ve been here the whole time.
Ryan Henry: What if you were just walking through life, doing your thing, wearing your pain, like a tattoo on your arm, and then one day you immediately take in the love of Jesus and everything changes. If you’ve never heard of someone with an immediate life transformation, listen in today to Chris Baker’s story. A simple, heartfelt prayer of a caring Christian changed everything for Chris. Like a light switching on like during the actual prayer.
Different just like that. And his 180 propelled him to start a ministry called Ink 180, helping others rewrite the stories of the pain they wear too. Welcome to Chris’s 180.
Well, Chris, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being on One80
Chris Baker: thanks for having me.
Ryan Henry: Yeah, man, of course, uh, your story. I mean, from the little that I know, uh, is just really amazing, so we wanna jump into it. But before we do that, we have got to start with our trustee random question generator so I have a question for you Okay.
Chris Baker: All right.
Ryan Henry: If you could enter a race horse in a race, what would you name your race?
Chris Baker: Oh man, Redeemer, for sure. Cause that’s what it’s all
Ryan Henry: Come on.
Chris Baker: being redeemed, like being pulled out of a pit. If you’re in last place, Jesus will pull you out of a pit and bring you to first place. And that’s what it’s all about. So I would say Redeemer for sure.
Ryan Henry: I like that, man. I would put my money on that.
Chris Baker: Right?
Ryan Henry: That’s awesome, man. so good. Let’s get into your story, Chris so we wanna start, from your before Christ. so let’s just really go way back to the beginning and just talk to us a little bit about where you grew up and your family life.
Chris Baker: Yeah. So I, um, I grew up in Southern California. In a pretty turbulent home. my parents did not have a good relationship. There was a lot of verbal and, you know, emotional abuse going on in, in the home. And, my dad did international sales, so he was, he was hardly ever there. And even when he was there, it was, it was pretty turbulent.
But, um, my parents divorced when I was 13 years. You know, we were living in orange county, California, nice middle class neighborhood, not a care in the world. Everything was good. And then my dad, and mom split and that happened to a lot of my friends, but you know, their dad got a, a place across town and they saw him on the weekends or whatever.
My dad left the country and went to England and
yeah left us without anything. No form of support financially or any kind of support. and my mom had been a stay at home mom, so she had no career outside the home. and she went to work. You know, my dad split, so we lost our house.
We lost everything left. He left us with a huge amount of, um, tax debt. And we moved. one of the places that we could afford to move was a city called Carson, California, which many people probably haven’t heard of before the Rams built their stadium there, but Carson, California, south central LA I grew up three blocks south of Compton and you know, it was wild.
I’ll never forget the weekend we moved in there. It was me and my mom and my little sister. She’s five years younger than me. And. We got everything moved into the house. And my mom was unpacking things in the kitchen. And I, I walked across the street cuz there was a park and back then I used to play basketball quite a bit.
And I saw a bunch of guys out there playing ball. So I was like, I’m, I’m gonna go meet some people. And that’s pretty much when I learned what I had moved into and I, you know, I’m in the middle of, of Los Angeles during the Lakers heyday. Right. And everybody’s wearing bulls gear. This is before Jordan. It was before Jordan I’m like, why are these people wearing bulls gear?
They’re terrible. And, uh, I learned pretty quick that I was in the middle of a bloods gang neighborhood. And, uh, friends with these guys, you know, became friends with them. I was an artist, you know, I was a, I was always an artist. my parents were never really big on me watching a lot of TV when I was a kid.
So they would buy me art supplies. And, uh, I started doing airbrushing. I started doing, um, like graffiti murals and loved doing that. So these guys knew that I was not about that gang life and they never, never tried to pull me into. over the years, I was what police labeled as a known associate, cuz they knew I wasn’t involved in it, but they knew that I knew what was going on.
So the police would always come bang on my door, drag me outside, ask me questions. And, you know, I’d never told him anything cuz I wanted to stay alive. And um, I stayed alive by starting to tattoo all my friends on my mom’s front porch using her sewing kit when I was 15.
Ryan Henry: No way. Wow.
Chris Baker: uh, and those guys protected us.
You know, my mom was kind of the, the block mom because everybody’s moms were either addicted to drugs or they were out working two or three jobs. And, um, you know, my mom was working two jobs. She’s still making dinner for like 10 guys and stuff, you know, opening the house and that’s just, you know, who my mom was.
And she was always about helping people, no matter how little we had, she was always opening the house up to people. So these guys really took care of us and, and protected us. And, you know, they were my, they were my best friends, you know, and I remember being 14, 15 years old, walking down the street in Carson and.
Cops would pull us over. We’d be walking down the sidewalk, it’d be me. And like three or four friends. They’d pull us pull up on us. They’d tell me to sit on the curb behind the car and they’d take my four friends who were black and they’d slam ’em on the hood of the car and, you know, ask ’em all kinds of questions, you know, and harass the heck out of ’em that’s when, you know, the LAPD was kind of at the height of their ugliness with the whole Rodney king situation, all the violence and everything.
Um, I, if I never have to airbrush another rest in piece, t-shirt again, it’ll be too soon because I did that growing up and,
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
Chris Baker: was in very close proximity to many of those bullets that took friends out. And, you know, as years went on, I met my wife, Lisa, and we started our family. We moved out of the city.
Um, but we were still in close contact with friends. You know, one of my closest friends was a gang leader, bloods gang leader, named Dante. And Dante went to jail for two and a half years for crimes that he pled guilty to. But, um, we would go visit him every month and he would, he started telling us things that we were not accustomed to hearing from Dante or any of these guys.
He told me, I’ll never forget. The first day he told me he’s been going to church in jail. I was like, what are you talking about? He’s like, yeah, man. You know, they, they offered us extra privileges, extra wreck time if we came to church. So I went to church and he’s like, but I really started to think about it.
And he would tell me, he is like, you know, you have a lot of time to think about things when you’re locked up, cuz there’s not much else to do. And um, they had ministers that would come in there every day and just sit and talk with them and listen to them. And then a few months down the road, he told me he got baptized and I was like, what are you talking about?
Like, this is a guy that used to carry a tech nine in a gym bag everywhere he went and he was known, he was notorious. He was not known for good things. Uh, but he got baptized and he said, you know, when I get outta here, I wanna change. I wanna do something different. I wanna do something better with my life.
And I’m tired of looking over my shoulder. And, uh,
Ryan Henry: Hmm.
Chris Baker: were all, all of us were kind of dismissive of it, like, yeah, okay. Whatever, this is just like a phase. And, uh, he got his GED when he was in jail too. So, you know, he gets outta jail and we did what we always did. We threw a party for him. So we’re at his mom’s house over on center view avenue in Carson.
We were there all day, um, having a good time, barbecuing, laughing, catching up, talking, playing dominoes and, and, uh, you know, doing what we always did. You know, we were there all day. Um, all the wives and girlfriends kind of finished up the day and, and took off headed home about 7, 7 30 that night, but a bunch of the guys stayed and hung out longer. About quarter after 11, we were getting ready to head out for the night and we all kind of walked out to the front of the house to say our goodbyes and we’re just hanging out and, you know, doing what we did and giving each other a hard time. And, um, I’ll never forget. There was about six of us left that night at the end of the night.
And, uh, silver Chevy Tahoe came driving down the. And um, most of the streetlights on center view were shut out. Uh, gangs would shoot out the lights so that if cops were rolling through the neighborhood, they couldn’t see anything that was going on. So the streetlights were all shot out. And this, this Tahoe came creeping down the street with its headlights.
Cut out. Passenger side window was rolled down 12 gauge, uh, shotgun stuck out the window. They called out Dante’s street name and they shot him. Um, they shot him in the chest with a 12 gauge.
Ryan Henry: Uh,
Chris Baker: I was three feet to his left. And my buddy Tony was about four feet to his right when he got hit. And he was, he was gone immediately.
Um, both Tony and I dove towards him, um, as he was falling to the ground backwards to kind of help cushion his fall a little bit. And, um, he was gone. He was lifeless by the time he hit the ground and, uh,
Ryan Henry: Ugh.
Chris Baker: The police came eventually. Um, the paramedics came eventually. There was nothing anybody could have done.
He was, he was just gone, um, too much traumatic injury from that bullet. And, um, the, after the coroner finished their investigation, it was about 3, 3 30 in the morning when they finally let us leave. And I called my wife and I said, Hey, this is what happened. I just don’t want you to freak out when you see me.
, um, she met me at the front door when I got home with a trash bag and she’s like, take all those, take all those clothes and throw in this bag.
She wanted to make sure that I hadn’t gotten hit because all she heard was it was a shotgun. She didn’t know it was a, a buckshot and. Bird shots where we would’ve gotten peppered, but she just wanted make sure I hadn’t been hit. And I, I wasn’t. Um, but you know, we had been talking about leaving LA for a little while, um, after having our three kids.
And this was kind of the final, the final straw that did it. And it was, it was time for us to go. Now, a lot of people living here in Chicago, When they hear me say that I grew up in LA and, and moved here about 15, 16 years ago. Like, why the heck would you move out here? Like, well, the answer is there’s two answers.
First of all, Lisa is from Chicagoland originally. So she’s got a lot of family out here and, and we have ties here. Uh, but I think the, the bigger, more accurate answer is it’s what God put us. Um, for things that we didn’t know anything about, that would come later, that would become ink one.
Ryan Henry: Right, right. Now, if we could just back up a little bit and, um, Growing up. Did you guys, was there a faith in your household? Did you guys believe in God? What was your perspective of God as a kid and even kind of progressing through these years?
Chris Baker: Yeah. So growing up, my, my mom was Irish catholic. um, and we, we had to go to church every Sunday. I always joke when I speak in churches, I say that I grew up and I had a drug problem because my mom dragged me to church every Sunday against my will. And, uh, Did not like it. I did not like it at all. And, um, I didn’t pay attention.
I was just a knucklehead kid, you know, and, um, but I believed in God, I knew there was a, a power way higher than me and, and more powerful than me, but I always had this impression that God was. Like this old man that sat up in the sky and looked down and pointed his finger and told me how horrible I was and how messed up and sinful I was and how unworthy I was.
That was my impression of God growing up in the Catholic church. So I’ve always believed in God, I didn’t know God until about 13 years ago. Um,
but there was always a, I always knew that there was God and I believed in him.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I’m just thinking, you know, how many, how many people have that perspective, you know, and it’s for lack of, of knowledge, and, and really, you know, it’s the, they need to be taught, Wow. I’m just thinking about that. That’s, that’s powerful uh, so how did that cause you, as far as your, your life goes, I mean, you, you knew of a God and you thought, you know, he’s just kind of this guy up there pointing down and kind of condemning you.
How did that play out in your life? Like what did, how do you think that impacted the way that you lived your life.
Chris Baker: It didn’t honestly, I was. I was pretty arrogant. thought I knew way more than I did and I didn’t really care. I didn’t care because I was like, well, there’s worse people than me out in the world. Right. And that was kind of my thing is like, I might be messed up, but I’m not as messed up as this person over here.
So, you know, God can worry about that. But the whole situation with Dante and the, seed that he plant. The day that he was shot and killed and leading up to that too, is I would visit him in jail. It, you know, it wouldn’t take root really until I moved my family here to Chicago.
Ryan Henry: So you had not turned to the Lord, even though yet this friend who you’re like, whoa, what’s going on with him and he’s, you know, getting his life right. And got baptized. You were kind of a spectator at that point, just watching on the side, seeing what was going on. So then, okay. So what, what happened next?
Chris Baker: I, so I had, for years I had undiagnosed and untreated. PTSD, anxiety, depression, all things that were a result of all the things I experienced as a kid. Right. Um, never got help for him because I grew up in a house where my dad was like, oh, be a man, suck it up.
We don’t go to counseling that’s for girls kind of garbage. And, um,
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
Chris Baker: I was clinically depressed and, and a mess. I was, um, fact of the matter I was suicidal. And, uh, Lisa came to me one night. I was sitting in the basement watching a, a baseball game and she said, Chris, you know, I need to talk to you. I said, okay.
I said, sure. She said, um, I’m really worried about you right now. you’re not yourself. Um, I had, I had worked for a company for 20 years and I had recently been laid off. my education level, I had a G E D, because I, I was a hustler and I worked, I started working in warehousing and worked my way up into corporate operations and, and was a senior logistics manager making like a hundred thousand dollars a year with a G E D.
So when I got laid off, nobody was paying me any kind of money near that. And I was losing everything that I thought was important. My house, my cars, everything.
Ryan Henry: Hm.
Chris Baker: And I was, I was a mess and I was suicidal. And. She came to me. And, and the most important thing that, that Lisa said to me was I think that we should go and talk to somebody and she didn’t say, you know, you’re a mess.
I’m afraid of you. You’re gonna do something crazy. What’s wrong with you? It was, I think we should go and talk to somebody. I, I, I say this, not because I’m proud of it because it’s just transparent is where I was mentally. I said, yeah, let’s go, let’s go talk to a counselor and they can tell you all the things that you’re doing wrong as my wife to make me feel like I feel when in actuality it had very, very little to do with my relationship with Lisa.
But I that’s just where I was. Um, , you know, it was never my fault. It was never my problem. It was always somebody problem and fault. so we, uh, we had asked some friends, you know, Hey, you know, when you guys went for counseling, where did you guys go? And it was, you know, a few different places were brought up and, but one place in particular kept coming up repeatedly.
Uh, it’s a place called the Samaritan interfaith counseling center I was like interfaith counseling. So that’s like a church thing. And like, we believe in God, but we don’t go to church, you know? And I was like, and I don’t want to go in there and have this woman look at me with all my tattoos and brow beat me and tell me, you know, I’m a terrible person.
I’m going to hell and all this. But after like the seventh person recommended her, I looked at least. And I was like, well, let’s give it a shot. She must be good because they had serious problems. And they’re doing really well now. So let’s, let’s give it a shot. If we don’t like her, we can go somewhere else.
So we made an appointment.
It was a Saturday morning and, um, I walk in there, short sleeve shorts, the whole deal. I’m not covering my tattoos for anybody. I don’t care what this woman thinks about me, just very arrogant. And, um, we’re sitting there filling out our intake paperwork and Joan comes to the front to get us. And just like this stereotypical, remember the church lady from Saturday night live like the curly hair, the
long dress, the whole. That’s Joan that was Joan, right? Like to a T like the
stereotypical like the sleeves on her dress were all the way to her knuckles and the whole deal. And.
Ryan Henry: yes.
Chris Baker: gets us. And I, I look at Lisa and I’m like, oh man, this woman’s gonna destroy me. And, uh, so she takes us back to her office and it got even funnier because we go in and we sit down and we’re looking around in her office and she’s got all those old, like 1980s cat posters, the motivational posters with cats.
And it’s like, hang in there. And there’s a cat, like hanging onto a wall and all this stuff. And I’m like, oh man, this is like a worst dream. um, but we sat down, we started talking and
Ryan Henry: to your worst nightmare.
Chris Baker: seriously, that was like the seventh ring of hell right there. But we sat down, we started talking with her and just kind of putting everything out there for her.
And it was really cool because we instantly felt comfortable with her. It was, it was kind of like sitting down and, and having coffee with your favorite aunt that you haven’t seen in five years and just talking. And she was really, um, just a lovely, lovely woman. We finished that first session. we both liked her.
So we made an appointment for the following Saturday to really start working on things. And I was grabbing my sweatshirt to get ready to leave. I’m like, this is great. This is a church place. They haven’t talked about God. One time. I’m like sneaking out and she’s like, oh Chris, hang on. I like to offer to pray for my clients.
I was like, ah, man, here we go. And I, I looked at Lisa, she was sitting next to. I looked at Joan across the room and I rolled my eyes. I said, you know what, Joan, if you think it’s gonna make a bit of difference, you go right ahead and pray. That’s just more that arrogance that I was displaying. And, um, she did.
And so Lisa and I, so she had a background kind of the same situation she believed in God. She didn’t really know God like the whole. So we’re, we look at each other and we’re like, we fold our hands. Right. And I remember my grandma always used to tell me if you don’t close your eyes during a prayer, Jesus doesn’t listen.
So I’m closing my eyes and I’m sitting to listening to Joan, right. And Joan starts to pray and. It was the most unique prayer I’d ever heard up to that point in my life, where she was asking for us to be open to new ways of communication, new ways of listening, new ways of thinking and, um, just adapting and processing things.
And it was just like, I felt this like powerful kind of feeling from it. Right. I tell people all the time, like, I didn’t hear a voice or, you know, some people say, oh, I heard a voice. Okay. That’s not everybody’s the same. Mine was, I’m sitting there listening to Joan pray and I had this thought pop into my brain and it was just follow me.
And this will be okay. Like, I’ve got you. I’ve been here the whole time. Just stop running away, follow me. And this would be okay. And it kept repeating like a, like a slot machine reel and it kept coming back. Just follow me, just follow me. And I lost it. Um, I was like the ugliest ugly cry. You can imagine, like, I couldn’t breathe.
I’m, I’m crying that I’m gasping for air and my wife’s crying, but I don’t wanna open my eyes and see what’s going on. Cuz Joan’s still praying. And I’m like, okay. And um, so Joan finishes the prayer and it took us a good four or five minutes to kind of compose ourselves. I look at my wife sitting next to me, I’m like, this is what’s wrong.
Like, this is what’s wrong with me. This is what’s wrong with us. Like, and she’s looking at me crazy because I’ve had friends my whole life that were really strong Christian people and good, not like, um, the intimidating kind, like, you know, telling me I was a horrible person and, um, I would make fun of it.
I’d be like, why are you going to church, man? Like we could go out and we’d go to the beach. We could go to this car show. We could go to this, you know, Why are you wasting your time with all that? And now I was the one going, I know what’s wrong. Like God wants to come in. And, um,
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Wow. Just like that. Like
Chris Baker: just like that. And it’s one of the biggest blessings in my life, because I can tell you exactly the moment in my life when I knew he was real not everybody can say that.
Ryan Henry: And you would say that it was that moment right there with, with the counselor, you’d say right there. You, it shifted.
Chris Baker: 100% like on a
dime it’s it was, and that’s where 180 comes from. It’s that you’re, it’s, you’re making a U-turn in your life going, you’re going from a negative to a positive like that. And, and that’s, that’s all it took to start that process in motion.
Margaret: Hey friends, we’ve got super cool 180 T-shirts and we’re giving them away. Share the show with five friends and message us on Insta, or email us at stories 180 podcast.com while supplies last. They’re really cute.
Ryan Henry: , so in that prayer, she didn’t really say anything about you giving your heart to Jesus. It was just praying for your situation that you would be open listeners and be open to new ways.
Chris Baker: Yeah, but it was the way, yeah, you’re right. A hundred percent, but it, and it was the way that she did it. It was all about, it was just the love that flowed out of this woman’s words was powerful
Ryan Henry: Wow.
Chris Baker: it,
it it was crazy powerful. I still, I get chills thinking about it still. And it was years ago.
Ryan Henry: Wow. They just ran through my entire body.
Chris Baker: yeah,
Ryan Henry: Wow. Powerful. How powerful.
Chris Baker: But, um, I, then I got excited and I, I asked her, I go, Hey, um, do you know any churches I could go to that? Won’t throw me out or run me out the door with like Tiki torches. And, uh, she had a couple suggestions for me. And, um, and I went, I went in with shorts and a t-shirt on again. So I, you know, I’m not trying to hide who I am. This is, this is what you see is what you get, you
know, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming.
Um, they were just so down to earth, super welcoming. It wasn’t fake at all. Introducing me to different people. Um, showing me around just, you know, being there, uh, at a time when I needed it the most, because it was almost like Satan was like, Hey, watch these people don’t really want you, you know, they don’t really want you, so I’m gonna show you, they don’t want you
here. And he was wrong because they did want me there. And, um, the pastor gets up and he had just gotten back from Haiti. So this is about the time of the Haiti earthquake. And he had just gotten back, um, from visiting Haiti, where, where they had been doing work for years. And he’s talking about a mission trip to go back six months later to help finish building a school in the mountains in Haiti.
And he said, you know, if anybody’s interested in making that trip, come see me. And we’ll talk about. I had just met the pastor before church started and he knew it was my first time in church of my own decision in my life. And I said, Hey, I wanna go on this, this trip. What do I need to do? And he said, okay.
He said, if, you know, if you’re sure it’s a $700 deposit and then we can help you fundraise the rest. It’s like 2200 total. And I said, okay, cool. I’ll be right back. I went out to my car and I grabbed a checkbook and I wrote him a check for $700. but the crazy part about that is before Lisa had left for work that morning, before I went to church, we sat down and we balanced our checkbook and did our budget and we didn’t get paid for nine days from that point.
And we had $719 in the bank and I just go and I write a check for 700 of it. So I leave. I’m excited. I’m like floating on air the whole afternoon. Lisa comes home from work and I’m, I’m making dinner for the family. She walks in, she was working at target during the holidays. So you can imagine how she was and just exhausted.
And she comes and sits down and, and we’re talking and she’s like, Hey, how was church? So I tell her the whole story and I was probably talking 150 miles an hour and I was just purely excited about it. And then I start telling her about Haiti. And, uh, you know, cuz like so many people, we had watched that news coverage of the earthquake and you know, we would sit there and watch and be like, man, I wish I could.
I wish there was something I could do to help these poor people. It was horrible. And then, oh, I’ve seen enough click, what else is on? And I was like, this is just a real way for me to go and, and do something. And she was super supportive of it and she’s like, okay, well what do we have to. I said, well, they’re gonna help me fundraise the rest of it.
I said, but I had to give ’em a $700 deposit check today. Now, most people that I know most wives that I know would’ve flipped out and said, We only have $719 in the bank for nine days. Like, what are you doing, Lisa? Wasn’t that at all? She was a hundred percent onboard, supportive, never questioned it.
Uh, I went to Haiti on that
Ryan Henry: Hey, that’s a miracle right
Chris Baker: It’s huge. It’s huge. You know, how many stupid things I’ve done in my life that most women would’ve just been like, yeah, peace. I’m outta here. I, I’m not, I’m done.
Uh, but Lisa was truly placed in my life for a many specific reasons. I mean, she’s incredible.
And, and um, most, most would’ve run a long time ago.
Ryan Henry: Praise God. Wow. That’s amazing.
Chris Baker: It’s it’s
Ryan Henry: Yeah. So keep going. What, what happened next? I’m like, I’m like at the edge of my seat here. Okay. You first day at church and you sat up for a mission trip.
Chris Baker: yeah. Yeah. So I go, so six months later, I get on the flight and, and before we left to go down to Haiti, the pastor kind of pulled me aside and he said, Hey, um, You’re gonna go and you’re, you know, we’re gonna go and do this work and you’re gonna love it. And you’re gonna work hard and you’re gonna sweat.
And it’s 120 degrees and we’re up in the mountains putting a school together and there’s no air conditioning, no running water, no nothing. And he said, it’s gonna change your life. And he said, but you’re gonna come back. but a part of you is always gonna stay. And it, your heart’s gonna stay in Haiti for the rest of your life.
And he was a hundred percent, right? Because here I am, we fly into Port O prince. We stay in Port O prince overnight. And then the next morning we took an eight person plane to the far Western peninsula of Haiti. And we’re up in the mountains. So we take this short flight on this tiny plane, and then we take a two hour truck ride up into the mountains.
Then we had to walk another three miles from there cuz the truck could only go so far. And uh, I’m seeing people for the first time in my life that have literally nothing. They have nothing. And um, they’re walking 10 miles. Each way to get water that we wouldn’t even consider using here to wash and to cook with and to drink.
We wouldn’t even consider drinking this water for any amount of money, but the whole time they’re walking that walk or whatever they’re doing, they’re praising Jesus for what they have and what they’ve been blessed with. And I’m looking at it like, but you have nothing like really nothing. It opened my eyes because for so many years, you know, when my dad left, he told me and it stuck, it stuck with me for a lot of years.
He said, you’re probably not gonna do anything incredible in your life, but just do the best you can. So my whole goal in life was to show my dad how wrong he was. My measure of success was how much money I could make, how much stuff I could buy, what trip I could take my family on what car I drove, all that garbage that the world sells us is a bill of goods that you cannot fill a Jesus shaped hole in your heart with stuff.
It doesn’t work. I know because I tried it for years and here I’m seeing these people that have nothing.
They love Jesus more than anything. And it just changed my perspective on life as a whole.
And, um, I got back we did a ended up having to do a short sale on our house, cuz it was going into foreclosure.
I’m like we don’t need it. We don’t need that house. And um, as I was flying back, my wife left a voicemail on my cell phone to tell me that my truck had been repossessed. As I’m flying back from Haiti and I didn’t care, I didn’t care. My response was okay, cool. That’s a payment that I won’t have to try to make every month anymore.
I want, I wanna pay my bills, but I don’t care about the stuff anymore.
Um, so I did a bunch of serving, you know, whatever I could, you know, whatever opportunities came, came up and working with the youth group kids. And they said, uh, we we’ll give Chris all the crazy high school boys. Right. So we are, we are running through this whole project of, you know, trying to explore and look at the gifts that God blessed us with individually and how we could use those to meet needs of people in our community.
you don’t have to go to Haiti or Africa or Thailand or whatever. so we did, we, we, uh, we. Seeking that, and I’m, I’ve never been the kind of person that’s gonna sit with a, a room of high school kids and tell them what they have to do and not do it myself. I believe in leading by example and I, I did, I started asking God, pretty heavy questions.
I was like, Hey, I just wanna serve, you know, whatever, whatever you want me to do for the rest of my life, you just tell me, and the answer was, go do what you love to do and do it for free. I wrestled with that for a. Because, you know, I had, like I said, I started doing tattoos for people when I was 15.
And then I had learned how to professionally tattoo, but it was a side thing. It was because I was passionate about the art form of it. but I loved it. I loved doing that more than anything. And I was like, God, yeah, I get that. You’re what you’re telling me, but I’m not, I. Seeing what your, your vision is for this.
And I happened to be watching the news and in between the Cub score and the weather report, they talked about how many kids got shot and killed in Inglewood that day on the south side of Chicago. And it broke my heart
yeah. They shot. They did, but they would not go and just randomly shoot up a party or randomly shoot up a house or anything like that. There was like a code. And I know that that’s incomprehensible to most people. but it’s true. Um, but I’ll tell you, these, these kids now. The gangs here in Chicago, they have no regard for human life whatsoever.
They don’t care if they hit a, a child or an elderly person, or just a, any, just any person in general police. They don’t care. It was, it was just God’s way of saying you didn’t leave the mess.
You just came to a different part of it. And I, this is where I need you. And that’s where we went. We started in 180 from there.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Yeah. I wanna, um, I wanna just, uh, go back real quick. Would you say, I know that you said that in the counselor’s office there, that that was the moment that you first like really felt God, and that was kind of a 180 moment for you. Did you have, aside from that moment, did you have a what a lot of times people would say saying the sinner’s prayer type of thing.
Did you have a moment like that or was that your
Chris Baker: That was definitely my moment. Um, cuz after we left the counselor’s office that day, I spent a lot of time just sitting by myself, thinking about all that and praying, as well as I could, I didn’t really know how to pray. Um, but it was more just me talking
to God saying, you know, like, are you sure I’m not too messed up for you?
I wasn’t a bad person at all. I just didn’t wanna let people in because anytime I did, I got hurt by it in some way. But Lisa was like the one constant in my life, you know, and I know God put her there because, I can honestly say 100% that if I did not have, my wife, I would, I would not be here.
Ryan Henry: Praise God
Chris Baker: Yeah. Amen. I, you know, I tell people all the time in the Bible where it says, you know, a man who finds a wife has found a, a good thing. Like that’s the biggest understatement in the world. For me, it’s like, I’ve found the most incredible thing, um, besides Jesus, right? So, but Jesus put her in my life.
I’m, I’m a hundred percent certain of that. I have no doubt at all. And despite my, my faults, my, my brokenness, my stupidity she’s been there. And, um, I, I love that woman more than anything.
Ryan Henry: Man, what a testimony to her in her life. Um, when, when you, when you, um, you know, had your, your 180 moment as things progressed, what would you say was a foundational, biblical, like, truth that you started to embrace or came to know?
Chris Baker: So one day I, I had no idea why, but this verse popped into my head and it was very early. Um, I didn’t know the Bible. I didn’t, I mean, of course I knew John three 16, cuz I always saw guys holding up cards with it at, at basketball games and stuff. Right. So I knew John three 16, that was about it. The one that really came to me and affected me in the biggest way, um, is second Corinthians five 17. And I didn’t know why it just popped into my head. I had never read it, never heard it, but it popped into my head. So I went and started digging into it and says, therefore, anyone who was in Christ is a new creation.
The old is dead and the new has come. I read it like 10 times and I’m like, that’s the, to me, like, that’s the most powerful thing I’ve ever read in my life. Like, wait a minute. So you’re telling me I could have been the worst human being on the face of the earth yesterday. But if I believe in Jesus today and I start living my life accordingly, I’m a new person.
I don’t have to be defined by who I used to be. And he’s like, yeah, that’s right. I’m like, count me in that’s me all day.
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
Chris Baker: Ever since that, that is what I share. I haven’t painted on my wall here in the shop because I’m working with people who think that they’re useless, that they couldn’t be loved by God or anyone.
And I read it to ’em like, no, and I, you know, I give out Bibles all the time and I highlight it and I flag the, the page. I’m like, when you think you’re, you’re beyond, God’s love you read this because, and it’s a hundred percent true. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday. If you accept them today and you, you give everything, you’re a new person and you don’t have to be defined by that.
That’s why we do what we do. You know, it’s, it’s not just your heart. It’s not just your soul. It’s your exterior too. You know, we tell people all the time, Jesus transforms your heart and your soul. We transform your skin and we try and meet in the middle because that’s what it is.
Um, it’s hard to live your life as a new creation when you’re wearing your old life all over your body.
We’re just trying to help people
get that second chance.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. And would you, would you give our listeners, uh, you know, just sneak peek, really about the mission of ink 180.
Chris Baker: All right. So in 180 was formed in 2011, to help provide free tattoo removals and free tattoo coverups to former gang members.
Um, but since then, we’ve expanded to help sex trafficking survivors who were branded by their traffickers with tattoos, um, domestic violence survivors to have a tattoo of their ex’s name or just a tattoo from that time period that reminds them of that time. Um, we also. Provide free tattoo coverups for self-harm survivors who have countless scars from cutting themselves.
Um, we’re blessed to say that we’ve been able to help over 7,500 people in 10 years, and we’ve given away over 1.3 million in services, free of charge, um, to give people a second chance. And it’s, it’s beautiful. And people will say, people tell me all the time, like, you’re crazy. I have other tattoo artists, some of ’em hate my guts and I don’t really care, um, that they don’t like it because they look at it and they say, oh, you’re taking money off of my table.
I could be making money doing that cover up or that removal. And like the folks that we help, they don’t have the money to eat a lot of times. Um, I’ve had people come in for this work and they just, they look kind of foggy. And I’m like, when was the last time you ate? I’m like, oh, it was yesterday. I’m buying them sandwiches so they don’t pass out while we’re removing the tattoo.
Um, so I’m, it’s not hurting anyone at all, you know, they just don’t understand. Um, and that’s fine, whatever. Uh, I don’t have any hard feelings about that, but, um, you know, we, we tell people all the time. Like Chris, you know, you could have made that 1.3 million. No, I couldn’t. They didn’t have it. And besides I’m not working for my money here, I’m working for my money.
When I get called home, like I want my reward when I go to heaven, not here on earth, I don’t care. Um, cuz as long as I have enough money to pay my bills and feed my family, I don’t need anything else.
Ryan Henry: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. And ink 180 is just, yeah, such a powerful ministry in that, in that area, but not even just that for, for that area too. I mean, I’m sure you have helped people from all over the
Chris Baker: Yeah, we go all, all over the country. We go all over the country. Um, we’re a national provider with FBI and Homeland security and US attorney’s office, department of justice. So yeah, we’re all over the place.
Ryan Henry: Praise God. That’s amazing. Well, Chris, I, you know, I, I would love to, um, get to our, our final question here and just ask you, it’s been so good. It’s just been so good talking to you and I really appreciate everything you’ve shared, but I do have this one last question. I mean, what do you think would’ve happened?
If you can go back to that, that night in the basement. And, uh, when your wife comes down, Lisa comes down and she tells you, Hey, I think we need to go see somebody. What do you think would’ve happened if she never, came to ask you that.
Chris Baker: I can tell you, with 100% confidence that I would be dead. I would’ve ended my life because that’s where I was. Um, I was making plans for it. I’d I had written I’d written notes. I can tell you without a doubt, I would not be here on this planet at all. if she hadn’t done what she did and I’ve told her that many times, I want her to hear that it was the way that she, she told me about all that that made the difference and was the start of
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
Chris Baker: crazy adventure we’ve gone on.
Ryan Henry: well and you know what I’ll say, too, it’s powerful. It’s so powerful that she, she, you know, she did that and the way that she went about it, but, you know, what’s really powerful too, is that you agreed to it because there’s a lot of people who would say no to something like that,
you know? And it was a small yes.
For you, or I should say it was a big yes for you, but it, you know, um, Small yes. To the rest of the world, probably, but it had big implications for you, you know, and for your family and for look at all those people. I mean, think about all the people you guys have been able to help and what would’ve happened.
Had you done that? What would happen if there was no Chris baker here? You know, all those people, all these lives, you said 7,500 people.
It’s amazing. Praise God for that. So thankful for you.
Chris Baker: Thank you. Oh, I’m, I’m thankful for God. I’m thankful for this, for the calling and my wife and everything. It’s, it’s, uh, you know, I, I count my blessings every day for sure. And, um, every day is a tremendous blessing. I wake up now and I, I, wake up and I say, man, I get to go and do what I love today.
And I get to go and watch Jesus work on people when I’m working on these folks, you know? Um, so what I mean, what could be better?
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Amen. Well, everybody, if you wanna learn more about, ink 180, um, we. going to make sure we link up the, uh, in our show notes, um, you know, how people can get to, information about Inc 180 and, and find out either how they can, you know, learn more about it or support it or whatever it is. Um, but we will make sure we put those in our show notes.
So, uh, Chris, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been amazing interviewing you really blessed by you and your, your faithfulness and, and just, yeah. Praising God for your life, brother.
Chris Baker: Thanks so much, Ryan. Appreciate it. Thanks for the opportunity to share.
Ryan Henry: Yeah, I have one more question for you. Um, Do you consider yourself an evangelist?
Chris Baker: I do. I mean, I here, so here’s my, it, it’s interesting. It happens. It comes up quite a bit. I love to share Jesus. I love to share what Jesus has done in my life, because I know there’s other people out there going through the same thing and he puts people in our path for a reason. Right. Um, my thing though, I’ve, I’ve had people come in here for regular tattoo work.
They just wanna get a regular tattoo. They come in, and they tell, they’ll tell me in conversation. They’re like, I almost didn’t come to you. I was like, well, He said, well, you’re a Christian, right? I said, yeah, I am. They’re like, well, I just didn’t feel like getting talked at about God the whole time I was getting a tattoo.
And I was like, well, did I do that? They’re like, no, no, not at all. And they, and then they ask why they’re like, I’m surprised you didn’t because most of the Christians that I know that say, oh, this is a Christian business. They would do that. My thing is this. I had people my whole life who were Christians, some good, some, not as great.
and when I say that, I don’t mean to judge. I’m not judging their character, I’m just talking about their approach. and I know , when they came at me and said, you know, you really need to accept Jesus, you need to do this. You need to do this. When somebody told me I needed to do something, I didn’t want to do it.
And I tell people, I would rather, you know, how much I love Jesus by the way that I treat you with respect and love and, and caring. And I said, in my opinion, that’s do we share about our faith all the time? Absolutely. Um, people and people will ask and I’ll be more than happy to talk about anything. And I’m not afraid to talk about it ever, but I know that with some people, your approach has to be different.
It’s much more methodical. Um, so yeah, no, definitely. I share Jesus with people all the time and I love it. And we’ve seen amazing things, um, happen from them meeting Jesus and, I’ll never change that. That is the whole reason that I’m here
Ryan Henry: that’s amazing, man. Keep doing what you’re.
Chris Baker: Thank you.
Ryan Henry: Yeah, awesome dude. Thank you so much.
Margaret: Sending us off. Today is Drew Neal. He wrote this song called Closer in honor of Chris Baker’s story, find links to his work in our.
Drew Neal: Put me closer to your love. I can’t live without, I say this, I’ll stay long. I know I’m dead without you. Every day that I wake up, I hold. To your promise, and no matter are you though, I love you regardless me closer to your, I can’t live without it.
Your promise and no matter I love you
sweets baptized. I’ve Finn to get cat stunt on. They mesmerized with co. I still trying to play both sides on, on my stomp on like Kirk and I lean back like dirt I’ve been caught with since bet I’ve been caught with since bet I clutched up, went. Worst. That’s time. None bro. That’s by the time I wake up. Br Hey, draw lines in the dirt.
Like we didn’t do that first. Hey, no, I didn’t come in and play. I pray for my enemies and get outta the way. Yo. The real recognized real. Yo, we can tell who fight. Who gonna turn the pressure And we going see who. I’m going on in your raise up. This states, her love is just something that you can to your love.
I can’t live without it. I say this, I’m, I know I’m dead without you. Every day that I wake up, I’m hold on to your promise and no matter are you though, I love you. Regardless. Put me closer to y’all. I can’t live. I’ll stay and I’ll stay known. I known I’m dead without every, that I, I hold to your promise and no who I you.
I love you regardless.