A new film from convict-turned-pastor Galley Molina combines high-powered stars with a story of redemption

A new film from convict-turned-pastor Galley Molina combines high-powered stars with a story of redemption

While in prison on federal drug trafficking charges, Galley Molina wrote the movie I’m in Love With a Church Girl, starring hip-hop artist Ja Rule and Michael Madsen of Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill fame, which is scheduled to hit theaters October 18. The film is accompanied by a powerful soundtrack with songs by some of the top Gospel and Christian music artists of our time, including Israel Houghton, Darlene Zschech, Lalah Hathaway, Anthony Hamilton and many others.

More than a trafficker-turned-children’s-pastor, Molina is now CEO of Reverence Gospel Media and is busy producing films, albums and even a new sitcom. An ordained minister, he serves weekly at his home church and believes everything he does within the entertainment industry must be part of his personal ministry to inspire and serve others with his testimony. Here we talk about his film, finding God in prison, and the sitcom he’s developing with Israel Houghton.

JM: Galley, did you grow up as the “stereotypical” street kid headed for trouble with the law? Tell us about your journey.

GM: No, I actually grew up in an upper-middle class home. My parents were self-employed: my mother owned a hair salon and my stepfather was a bar/night club owner. I was a pretty good student. I did a little college, was heavy into music, band, choir, and became a D.J. and started making records. I was actually the one in my entire family that was not expected to get trouble. I was the “golden child.”

For me, it happened like this: I was a D.J., and I used to make tapes—shows my age!—for people. This guy moved in across the street from me. He was a young guy and he didn’t live with his mom and dad. There were nice cars in the driveway and all that. He started coming over when I was in my garage and he was actually a really cool guy. We became good friends and I started out by going to a few places with him, meeting a few people, etc. The next thing you know I’m in the drug game. I quickly rose up the chain and became a supplier. The rest is history.

JM: Help us get inside the head of a young adult who traffics drugs. Are you thinking about consequences? Are you thinking about the damage it does to others?

GM: I don’t think anybody ever wakes up one day and says I’m going to be a drug trafficker. It sort of just happens if you happen to be in that world and, more importantly, are connected. There’s a big difference between a dealer and a trafficker. I can honestly say that I’m lucky—blessed—to not have caught my case after 9/11, as the charges would have been considered a terrorist act due to the infiltration of the US borders. Yes, you always think about the consequences in the back of your mind, but you never think that they can actually happen to you. Especially on a federal level. The sentences are much more stringent on the federal level, sometimes 10 times more.

I never used to consider the damage it does to others, as my first few months in the drug game I never sold to users. So I never saw the strung out people or the addicts. I was three to four times removed from that scenario. But as I look back, and as my mindset, heart, understanding, and God’s will all caught up with each other, and also becoming a parent myself, I truly see that anybody in that area of life is responsible. I don’t take that lightly or for granted.

JM: How did you find God? Or how did God find you?

GM: I guess we can all say that “God has always been there”. But it takes a certain moment in life that is nothing less than God’s timing for a true meeting and relationship to happen. I grew up Catholic and never looked at God to be more than a statue or face on a candle jar in my home. I respected the name of God but that was about it. Everything that has happened in my life, all the way to meeting my wife—The Church Girl—was all part of God’s plan. The original tag line for this film was “Sometimes God needs to use extreme measures to deal with extreme circumstances.” I was an extreme circumstance. He knew that the only thing that was going to get me to church, to listen to His word, was a woman. So off to church I went on a first date. It was a weird feeling at first but an amazing place to be nonetheless.

My wife’s aunt, Yolanda Calderone (“Aunty Yoyo”), is a very notable woman in the women’s baptist association. When she first met me at a concert where I was performing, she looked me up and down and placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “I claim your talents for the kingdom of God.” True story. I looked back at her, and with every ounce of gentleman I had in me, I smiled and said, “Okay, cool.”

My friend and partner Israel Houghton says that we are all a sum total, an amalgamation, of all of our rights, wrongs, goods, bads, highs and lows. That’s what makes us who we are. So everything that I’ve done in my life, regardless of intent, good or bad, it’s all for God to get glory in the end.  God has been working overtime on me. We had some really close calls and rough moments together! I know this to be true, that when I get to walk through the gates on that great day, He’s gonna say, “You…come here…I’m glad to see you, my son. Now I know you had a rough start, but job well done my faithful servant.”

JM: We know what God called you out of. What did God call you into?

GM: He called me into ministry. I’m currently an ordained and licensed pastor at Evergreen Valley Church in San Jose, California. I’m the worship pastor there. I’ve been on staff for about seven years. I started as a children’s pastor, believe it or not. I would also lead worship once a month as part of my job description. I then became the youth pastor, then I became the worship pastor and that’s where I serve now. I also get to preach every now and then which is just so crazy to me.

JM: You wrote the film, I’m In Love With a Church Girl, starring Ja Rule, in prison. Tell us about the shakedown that happened in your cell.

I'm in Love with a Church Girl is scheduled to release on October 18

I’m in Love with a Church Girl is scheduled to release on October 18

GM: The big shakedown! So, inside, prisoners are responsible to pay for their own typing ribbons, to be used in the typewriters in the law library. I began writing a ton while I was on my last stretch in Talledega, Alabama. In fact, I couldn’t stop writing. I wrote four books and I’m In Love With a Church Girl was one of them. At the time, it was just to escape (no pun intended). The problem was that I kept running out of ribbons, and you were only allowed to buy one ribbon per week through the commissary.

Because I was always either in the chapel serving and leading worship or in the law library typing, people assumed I was some type of clerk. So they would come to me and ask me to help explain some type of legal document that they’d gotten served with, while inside. Most of the time they were either motions or outside warrant issues or the other big one was “child support.” Either way, they had to be dealt with prior to being released. A lot of guys either couldn’t type or didn’t understand the papers that they had been served with. So I always tried to help them out. They would ask me what I needed from commissary for my help. It was a way that people paid each other in there. I never wanted to charge anybody, but I always asked for them to just buy me a ribbon. Or I would ask my friends to give me a list of something that cost the same as a ribbon and swap with them. This way I could continue my typing without running out of ribbons.

Well, one day the guards shook down our cells and they noticed I had abundance of ribbons. They assumed that I was in the tattoo business. People use the ink from the ribbon cartridges to do tattoos. So I was on my way to “the hole” and in danger of losing any good time and my RDAP time. Then this lady, “Miss Bibbs,” who worked there, and was in charge of education, spoke up and said, “Leave that boy alone. He comes in here and minds his own business and helps a lot of inmates out. If the ribbons are a problem then leave them here with me and I’ll give them to him as he needs them.”

Man, the things we take for granted!

JM: What projects are you working on now about which you’re most excited?

GM: Well, now God has given me/us “Reverence Gospel Media.” We’re a company that produces God-honoring film, music, TV, and books. God blessed me with an amazing and talented business partner, as well as probably my best friend now, Israel Houghton.

Aside from Church Girl, which is about to be released, we’ve co-written the next two films: The Promise and BOJ (“job” spelled backwards).  These are epic films and require an even bigger method of approach to film. We’ve also released a few records under our own label—RGM-Newbreed Music—and, wouldn’t you know it, we won a Grammy this year for Israel’s record, “Jesus at the Center.”  God is so good. We also signed and released Darlene Zscech’s record “Revealing Jesus.” We have a real powerhouse roster on deck for the next few record projects.

One of my other favorite projects that I’m looking forward to is a made-for-TV faith-based sitcom that we’re developing. It’s going to be awesome. I describe it as Full House meets Friends meets Growing Pains meets Everybody Loves Raymond. But a Christ-honoring version of all of these shows.

5 Comments

  1. What a great interview. I really hope his movies, music, books, etc. can really touch our youth of today. We certainly need more people with his kind of passion and talent to spread the word. God bless you Mr. Molina!

  2. Yolette Yturralde-Owen

    Galley has always had a huge heart & other than his time in prison, he always had a smile & was never less than a gentleman whenever I talked to him. I’m glad to see that he’s turned this negative in his life into a positive experience that not only he benefits from, but extends out ten-fold to others. I say “CONGRATULATIONS GALLEY,” you’ve earned it. God definitely has a plan for you :D

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