A Publication of WTVP

A Come-to-Jesus Moment, and a Business Is Born

by Phil Luciano | Photo by Ron Johnson |
Steven Snook with his religion-themed frames
Steven Snook with his religion-themed frames

After a life of crime and imprisonment, Steve Snook founded Jesus Speaks LLC, a religious frame business

Amid a deadly swirl of drugs and danger, Steve Snook had a dream, a life-changing vision sparked in prison and now under development in Peoria.

Along the way, the former narcotics dealer and current business entrepreneur has been changing lives, his own and others’, inside and outside of prison. He credits a providence in lifting him up from what looked like a low and wasteful destiny behind bars.

“I was in such a state of life, life or death didn’t matter to me,” Snook, 46, now says.

A rough and Godless start in life

Born in Virginia with three siblings, he was moved at age 2 to Danville, Illinois, where he was raised by a relative. At best, she was indifferent to young Steven as well as a parade of alcoholic and abusive boyfriends.

“I was … raised by wolves, in a sense,” Snook said. “There was no love. It was madness. There were guns shot off inside my house. I was sexually abused. I was beaten more times than you could count.”

He yearned for meaning and belonging but had no spiritual guidance. So, he began to experiment with pot at age 9, eventually moving on to harder drugs.

“I never read a Bible,” he said. “There wasn’t a Bible in that home.”

So, as he sought to rise above the chaos, something else caught his attention.

“There didn’t seem to be an escape out,” Snook said. “But I was able to see in my neighborhood that some men had escaped. Some men had nice things. And they were all drug dealers.”

At 15, he started dealing. By his 19th birthday, he had become a full-time marijuana and cocaine dealer, often flying to the Mexican border to buy, package and ship drugs to Illinois and other Midwestern states.

Eventually, drugs and other trouble lead to arrests and a prison time. At age 24, he got out of prison for the first time.

“I got out and started trafficking cocaine again,” Snook said. “It was just all I knew.”

Same with the lifestyle.

“You’re living that life,” Snook said. “That life almost always encompasses using drugs and drinking alcohol heavily, because every day is life or death many times. You don’t know if you’re going to get robbed or killed that day. You don’t know if law enforcement is going to kick down your door and put you to prison that day.

“So, there’s a lot of factors going into numbing that experience, that stressful life.”

Finding that ‘good person,’ deep down

But there was another side to Snook.

“All sense of a moral compass and love and affection and things like that — they just didn’t really exist for me, even though I knew that deep down I was a good person,” he said. “A lot of times, I would take large amounts of money that I would make through drugs and I would buy people vehicles. I would walk up on a stranger that doesn’t have a vehicle and buy them a vehicle.

“Now, I can’t explain that. And I don’t really understand why that would happen. But I would do that.”

Meantime, from his priors, the DEA agents had Snook in their sights. At age 26, he was arrested with six kilos of cocaine (worth hundreds of thousands of dollars) and slammed with a 22-year term in federal prison.

Yet behind bars, he quietly continued to run drug operations, at one point asking a brother to drive to an address and collect money. En route, the brother crashed his car, leaving him on life support. The news shook Snook.

“That was the come-to-Jesus moment,” he recalled quietly. “I made a deal with the Lord. I didn’t know anything else, and I didn’t know religion. But I had heard about Jesus. We all have, because we’re from America. We’re blessed to have heard that. And when there’s nowhere else to go, nowhere else to cry, you’re really in a great spot, because that’s when you can come to God with a real heart. And I went to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, if you save my brother’s life, I will give you every breath in my body for the rest of my life.’

“That was my prayer. And that’s what happened.”

His brother lived. Snook began reading the Bible. His rough edges smoothed out. Inmates asked about the change.

“I couldn’t explain it,” he said. “I said, ‘All I know is I found Jesus and this thing is real.’”

Inmates ask him to hold Bible studies. At night, he would yell out sermons so others on his cell block could hear. Many accepted Jesus.

“I was baptizing guys in the shower in prison,” Snook said. “We worked with what he had.”

A vision, and a business startup

Years passed, with Snook continuing to share the Bible and messages. Early last year, after serving the mandatory 85% of his sentence, he was sent to a halfway house in a place he’d never visited: Peoria.

Snook took a job working construction. But he remembered a prison dream he believes came from God: framed scripture verses that kept changing. The technology flummoxed him.

“I told Him when I woke up, ‘Lord, I can see it but I don’t understand it,’” he said. “I’d never seen a smartphone. Facebook hadn’t been invented when I went to prison. There was no TikTok. I didn’t know how to send an email. I didn’t know how to send a text.”

In Peoria, he nonetheless decided to pursue that vision. Armed with a new cellphone, he began Googling suggestions regarding entrepreneurship. One thing led to another, and he ended up at Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, Bradley University’s startup incubator. Snook shared his idea with Director Michael Stubbs, who appreciated Snook’s enthusiasm as well as his humble lack of know-how.

“That was kind of the unique aspect and opportunity, working with someone who is very intelligent … but hasn’t been able to participate in society for so long, to really get him up to speed,” Stubbs said.

Peoria NEXT helped Snook formulate plans, find investors and hire a manufacturer for his business, called Jesus Speaks LLC — the LLC standing for Limited Liability Corporation, of course, but also “Life, Liberty and Christianity,” said Snook. He also earned a $5,000 business grant from Peoria County and a $10,000 grant from the City of Peoria.

Snooks’ office remains at Peoria NEXT and he sells his frames online at He looks forward to the upcoming holiday season, as “our Christmas season sales last year were 1,500% higher than any other month. The Scripture Frame is a very unique gift that makes everyone stop unwrapping and say, ‘This is so cool!’”

Meanwhile, he is working on an autobiography. And his ministry, Extraordinary Solitude (, works with homeless people while sharing his nightly sermons online. To credit it all, he points upward.

“You can’t really hear my story without hearing about the supernatural, how God does things,” he said.

Phil Luciano

Phil Luciano

is a senior writer/columnist for Peoria Magazine and content contributor to public television station WTVP. He can be reached at [email protected]