From Corporate Banker To Selfless Minister

The first time CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts met Gerald Bell 15 years ago, he was a typical cigar-smoking, suburban-living, college-educated corporate banker with a bad golf swing.

A lot can change in 15 years, Pitts reports.

Meet Reverend Gerald Bell, now of Roxbury, Massachusetts – one of Boston's toughest minority neighborhoods. There's no shortage of souls in need here.

"It's a faith question, it's a purpose question," Rev. Bell says. "It's a question of identity and we've lost it."

Why does a corporate banker who did well care? Well, he says, God spoke to him. And then Gerald spoke to his wife, Cynthia.

"Cynthia married a banker," Rev. Bell says. "I received a call into ministry. Subsequently, ultimately that meant our whole family had to go."

And go they did. Gerald, Cynthia and their two children traveled from the comfort of suburbia to the challenges of inner city life.

And there his ministry has grown.

Carmen Christmas is one of Rev. Bell's success stories. A former drug dealer and convicted criminal, today he's drug free and about to buy his own barber shop. Rev. Bell's his preacher, teacher and his landlord.

"I can step out my door and knock on Gerald's door, one o'clock in the afternoon, one o'clock in the morning, he's gonna come down and he's gonna give me counsel," Carmen says.

In order for society to fish out criminals, Rev. Bell says, you must "look upstream."

"What we decided to do was, stop pulling the babies out of the river," he says, "Let's go upstream, find out how they're getting thrown into the river and maybe stop that process."

By "thrown in the river," Rev. Bell means drugs, violent crime, and babies having babies.

It's not been easy. And one night it was downright dangerous, when a guy pointed a gun at Bell point blank and fired half a dozen shots.

"This is where I'm from and this is where God has placed me," Rev. Bell says.

The next day Cynthia took their daughter to a friend's house – right by the scene of the shooting.

"It really sent a message to the community, that we take this serious, that I'm willing to put myself and my daughter back in that same situation, less than a week later to play in that environment, because I believe in this community and I mean what I say when I say we need to roll up our sleeves and get involved," Cynthia says.

That old corporate banker with the bad golf swing didn't just say it, he did it.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com