From a vision in 2004 to reach young people in prisons, our work has grown and today we’re seeing the lives of countless prisoners transformed each year as inmates discover the love and hope Jesus offers them.
I grew up in what you’d call a ‘normal’ family. I always knew my parents, brothers and sister loved me and I felt supported by them, I just made some bad choices.
Everything was going OK until I left school and fell in with the wrong crowd. I started living for the weekend and no night out was complete without drink, drugs and a fight at the end.
One night things got out of hand. The group I was with got into a fight with a guy over a taxi and he ended up in intensive care, fighting for life.
The police quickly caught up with us and I found myself in prison serving a 12-month sentence for affray – I was only 20. How could this have happened to me?
If I’m honest I expected to serve my sentence and for life to go back to normal when I was released.
I’m unrecognisable from the guy I was, Jesus’ love has transformed my life
In prison I made no secret of how much I loved and respected my grandad who had served for years in the army. Knowing this, a prison chaplain invited me to the chapel’s Remembrance Day service and it was there I met the Message’s prisons team for the first time.
They invited me to go along to their Bible study group the next week. It seemed like a good way to get some time out of my cell and escape the boredom of the prison routine for a bit, so I went along. I wasn’t really too interested in listening to what they were talking about. But the team were unlike any people I’d ever met before – they accepted me straight away and there was something different about them. It was the love they showed me that meant I kept going back to the meetings.
I was still learning more about Christianity and asking endless questions about faith when I was released from prison, so after some encouragement from the Message team I went along to the church my uncle went to.
Back on the outside, I quickly fell back into my old routine of living for the weekend, but this time with church added in too. I’d be sitting in services coming down from the night before, feeling like I had a battle going on inside me. Did I want to be who I’d always been, or find out more about the love and hope that people told me Jesus offered?
Although I was out of prison, Tim and the Message team were still there for me through all of my highs and lows, cheering me on. They encouraged me to go along to an Alpha course that the church I’d been going to were running, and it was here the penny dropped. My endless questions stopped, and I knew once and for all I was loved beyond measure by God. I realised that there is hope and that Jesus gave me a future.
I then understood that the team I met in prison were different, not because of what they were doing, but because God’s love was shining through them.
I’m unrecognisable from the guy I was. Jesus’ love has transformed my life. I turned my back on drugs and started looking to the future, wanting to live each day for Jesus and share his love with everyone I met in word and deed.
Since then God has been with me every step of the way. That’s not to say it’s always been easy. From being at my lowest point in my cell ten years ago, I am today blessed with an amazing wife, Amy, and beautiful baby daughter, Lydia, who we prayed for for a long time. God has also miraculously provided me with my dream job and is giving me the skills I need to run men’s ministry at my church and play bass guitar in the worship group.
I don’t know where I’d be now if it wasn’t for The Message team.
Read more stories from our prisons work at message.org.uk/prisons