FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

Former youth minister Jeffrey London cried while he was on the stand Tuesday, as he defended himself against accusations that he sexually assaulted four boys.   

The four boys, who are now ages 16 to 26, said the pastor abused them for years when they were teenagers. London, who was charged with 27 counts of child abuse, said he allowed the boys to stay in his home, because they were in need of a paternal figure.

As defense attorney Lourdes Gonzalez questioned him, he stared at jurors when he said he was helping boys in need.

"I had a need to help," London, 50, said in front of Judge Michael Usan in Broward County court in Fort Lauderdale. 

He met the neglected kids when he was a counselor at the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Lauderdale, a youth pastor at the Bible Church of God in Fort Lauderdale, and when he was a dean at Eagle Academy, a Lauderdale Lakes charter school.

None of the boys were in the foster care system and the house was not registered with the state as a foster home. The New Vision Children's Foundation subsidized residential expenses and extracurricular activities such as trips to New York and the Grand Canyon.

London said the first time he allowed a boy to stay at his home was in 1990. The boy was covered with fleas, he said. Earlier in the trial, prosecutors argued London turned the boys into sex slaves.

Despite cell phone records that showed he had sent sexually explicit text messages to the boys, the pastor said Tuesday he never sent them.

London also said his ex-wife Aretha Wimberly was a liar. During her testimony she said she found her then husband in bed with a 16-year old boy. She also said her husband took dozens of boys in who would otherwise be homeless.

Broward Sheriff's Office detectives said there were dozens of men accusing London of sexual abuse.

Closing arguments begin Wednesday. If found guilty, London could spend the rest of his life in prison.