I grew up without a Christian faith, my father took his own life when I was 4, and this left me growing up with a gap to fill in my life. I tried filling that gap with all the wrong things, alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, crime. I never felt that I fitted in anywhere, but I was always chasing acceptance and would do almost anything to find it. I grew a bit of a reputation for being someone who had lived on the fringes and always had drugs in my pocket and was happy to share.
In 2007, I met someone and became a dad in 2008. I thought this was my shot at being a grown-up and settling down, but it was always an incredibly tricky relationship. After our second child came along in 2011, my partner’s mental health was severely affected and home life became a whole lot tougher for us all. I eventually became a stay-at-home dad and took care of my partner.
In September 2013, my brother suddenly passed away and I needed to go back to my hometown to lay him to rest. When I returned home, I found my partner had ended our relationship and changed the locks. In one fell swoop, I had just lost everything: brother, partner, children, home and income. My sister encouraged me to pray, but I didn’t see how it could help. I tried a couple of times, but nothing happened. Then a few days later, I asked God to show me if He was real. I got a text message minutes later from someone I didn’t know, my sister’s friend. It was about something she had heard from God for me. I didn’t understand what it meant, apart from the final words that this is the word from God. Immediately I began shaking and crying and shouted “All right! I believe!” Then I got a call from my sister to say she had booked me into a B&B for 2 nights and put some money into my account so I could get some food. From there, I got some help from a homeless charity, and was placed into a hostel who supported me to find some housing. From the moment of that text message, my life began to turn around. My faith has been cemented, my life is now built on a foundation of trust in Jesus. The life that fell apart has been pieced back together. I’m happy to report that I’m now married, back together with my children and have two lovely step children. The gap that I was trying to fill all my life is no longer there.
I have found a job in the church that was instrumental in helping to piece me back together. I run the Keystone Project at St Andrew’s church in Cullompton. I had decided to take up a degree in Theology and Mission so that I could find a way to be more informed about God, the Bible and the history of Christianity. My church allowed me to do a placement there and just as my degree ended, the job opportunity came open. My role is to help people who are living through some of the same things I have lived through, helping them practically, emotionally and spiritually. My calling is to come alongside people who find themselves in the dust of life’s traumas. I love that God has taken all my failings and heartaches of the past and turned them into something so positive. It is such a blessing to see people begin to turn their lives around. I have seen several people find faith and fulfilment through the work the Keystone Project and I do.
God is clearly at work in my community. Our church is very visible in our little town and people come knocking on the door looking for prayer or advice. The people they encounter are always exactly the right person for the job. I am always blown away when people come in with problems such as homelessness or heartbreak after being separated from their families and I’m the one God has put in their path. I have a real understanding of how this feels and a knowledge of the first steps they need to take and the right connections with people who can help them.
Being appointed as a guide for The Willats’ Trust has been so affirming to me. The Willats’ Trust fund differently to many other funding bodies as they fund the person in an organisation rather than the organisation itself. I feel so blessed that they have decided that I should be somebody they would invest in. There is extra support available from our Grants administrator and from the other guides via a WhatsApp group. I feel valued by The Willats’ Trust, as they recently sent each of the guides the gift of a book that will encourage and guide us on our journey with God, helping us to be more open to His voice, which will in turn help us to do the same for people we aim to guide. This may sound like a small gesture, but I’ve never experienced this with any other funders and it’s so encouraging!