I started smoking cannabis with friends at the age of 12 and by 14 I was using heroin. By the age of 16 I’d robbed everyone in my village; my dad didn’t want to know me, so I ran away to Sheffield.
I used to beg on the streets, even eating out of wheelie bins. I was just in a cycle of crime, prison, homelessness and drugs.
When I was 20, I was in jail one Sunday when this prison officer came along. He said, “I’ve got two options: you can clean the toilets or you can go to church.” So I went to church.
It was nothing special really and the wooden pews were horrible. But I met a man there and, before I left prison, he said, “If you ever need me, I’ll be in Sheffield Cathedral every Sunday morning.” It was round about February, I’d left jail and was using heroin.
I’d just sold my coat. I was freezing. I was hungry. I walked past Sheffield Cathedral and I remembered that guy. I thought, “He’s a Christian; he must be good for a bit of grub.”
So I went in and there he was. I was absolutely scruffy but was so joyful to see me. He took me to a nice restaurant and bought me some clothes.
He said, “If you come back next Tuesday, I’ll be here, but the ball’s in your court.” I went on Tuesday, and he was there. He was there every week. Derek never let me down once. Derek never preached to me, he just said, “Listen, God loves you. You know He can help you out of this.”
My recovery from drugs came through Yeldall Manor. Through Yeldall, I started using a chainsaw as part of the work programme and I found that I had a talent for it. I got employment with a local tree surgery company and I got a lot of support from my church, where I also met Beckie (now my wife, with whom I have a son, Jacob).
Now I’m back at Yeldall as the Programme Leader, helping residents with their own journeys of recovery.
I really believe that this is where God wants me to be. I just want to be able to help more guys who’ve been where I was.
Basically, God changes lives. He changed my life. I’m here today because of God.”