I had a hard life growing up, I was bullied in school, and my best friend died. Then at 21, I lost my father, which I never really recovered from. For 21 years I worked underground mining coal but the pit closed and I missed the camaraderie and the purpose mining gave me. I have three grown-up kids, but one of my boys is currently in prison.
But I enjoyed working security for large events and now run drilling rigs in quarries. I met my wife at 14, and she has always stuck by me still to this day. My daughter and granddaughter still live with me, and my boy is looking to join me in church when he comes out of prison.
A hard man
I know that I am a hard man. It was the bullying at school that toughened me up. What had happened to me, I began to love to do to others. Fighting was my passion.
All the boys across the valleys knew me, and many would travel from far and wide to come to our local pub and challenge me in a bare-knuckle fight. I would never back down. I would fight anyone. Even if I lost, it did not bother me; I loved the thrill of the fight. The pain and the injuries made me feel alive.
Anytime church was mentioned to me, I would laugh. I thought it was all nonsense. But a few years ago I was walking my dog down the train line in Abersychan and met an old friend, Colin. He had a similar reputation to me; he was a tough man who I dearly respected. He told me that he had found God and his life had changed. He invited me to church. I laughed and left the conversation in disbelief.
Over the next few weeks, Colin was on my mind. If God can change Colin, perhaps he could do something with me?
A new man
To my surprise, I went to church. I enjoyed it, and I kept going, but it was many months later that God spoke to me.
I was at our weekly men’s meeting on a Thursday night, and as Pastor John was speaking, God worked in my heart, and I came to the realisation that it was all true. I am saved by the blood of the lamb. Jesus is my Lord and my God.
Normally after our weekly men’s meeting, I usually go straight to bed as I have to get up at 5am for work. But this night I couldn’t sleep. I will never forget it. I called Pastor John from my bed at 11:30pm and told him that something has happened to me. I told him I knew it is all true.
A changed man
Last year I had a near miss in the car. The gentlemen in the other car was very angry. He stopped, got out of the car and slammed the door. He came running at me for a fight. I was so tempted to go back to my old ways and teach him a lesson. But instead, I grabbed him by the shirt to restrain him and calmly explained that if it were not for Jesus Christ working in my life, he would be in hospital. The man quietly went back to his car. I now take gospel tracts with me to give out if anything like this happens again. I seem to attract this kind of thing! Jesus showed me a better way, and I am not going back to who I was.
Since then, my faith has grown stronger and stronger. I am now at the door every Sunday morning welcoming people into church, and I run the homeless work for Noddfa. I have also become a Sunday school teacher – the kids love to colour in my tattoos. I am also training to become a deacon. I help Pastor John organise Carols Under the Arch and every year I meet old friends who cannot believe the change in me. They laugh as I once did at Colin. I pray for them.
The truth is that I am a different person now; the world can see it, and it is all down to God.
What I say to people is simple. If God can change my life, He can change anyone’s.