We met Dennis at the house his building team are helping to renovate. To see him laughing and joking with everyone it’s hard to imagine what his life was like before he met Christ:
I used to be what you’d call a functioning alcoholic. I was working, kept myself out of trouble and thought I was doing fine, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth. And I was in denial!
If you’d met me back then you’d have seen straight away that my life was chaotic and spiralling out of control, I just didn’t know it. The more I drank the angrier I became, falling out with everyone I met. It was only a matter of time before I lost my job, and then things went from bad to worse. I’d been angry before but I became more aggressive. In my head, it wasn’t me, it was everyone else who was the problem.
In 2013, after another heavy drinking session I assaulted someone and ended up in prison. I’d lost everything and hit rock bottom.
The shock of being locked up hit me hard, but in my despair, I felt compelled to pray to Jesus, something I’d not done since I was a kid. I still can’t explain why I felt like this, but I had an overwhelming feeling of needing to be forgiven and that this was the only way it would happen.
From that moment something in me changed. There was a shift and I just needed to find out more about Jesus.
The next Sunday I headed straight to the chapel. There I found a place filled with God’s presence and holiness. Since then I’ve not looked back.
In prison, I met Richard from the Message in Prisons team who, knowing that I was into music, offered to give me guitar lessons. He was amazing – not just because of his guitar playing – but because he was interested in me. I was used to people avoiding me but Richard wanted to spend time with me chatting about my new faith and showing Jesus’ love to me.
One day, he said, ‘Dennis, you’ve only got four weeks left, what are your plans for when you’re released?’ I was blown away as I’d been praying hard about this but not told anyone. I was desperate not to head straight back to my old life. I’d found Christ in prison and wanted to live my life for him. I needed a fresh start.
Richard told me about The Oaks – a place where ex-offenders could get the home, support, job and discipleship they needed to rebuild their lives and grow in their faith. This answered my prayers – I was truly amazed.
Four weeks later I headed straight from prison to The Oaks and found there the caring home I needed. I was loved and supported by my instant family. They were there to cheer me on every step of the way. That’s not to say it’s all been easy. There have been times when I’ve struggled and it would have been easy to give up, but my Oaks family have been there for me.
The support of The Message didn’t stop with providing me a home in The Oaks, they wanted to help me rebuild the confidence and self-esteem I’d lost, so offered me an apprenticeship at the Message Enterprise Centre.
Fast forward two years, I’ve graduated from the Oaks and I’m completing my training as I work a full-time building job that I love. I have a purpose in life, a future and I know I’m loved unconditionally by God. I could only have dreamed of life being this good!
Find out more about the MEC at themec.org.uk