I began my walk with Jesus just before the Covid-19 lockdown, so I was beginning my journey of faith in difficult circumstances and without church as we know it. Here is my story.
I grew up in a broken home in the Welsh valleys, I enjoyed skateboarding and had some good times in my school, although I didn’t achieve much. I went off the rails at the age of 15. I was drawn into the twilight world of drink and drugs and everything that came with it. In 2004, I was admitted to an acute mental health unit, Talygarn in Pontypool, South Wales. This was the beginning of a 15 year battle with paranoid schizophrenia and copious amounts of medication.
A broken man
Fast-forward to 2019 and you find me in a place where my dear mother had died suddenly and I was broken. I was massively overweight, addicted to drink and drugs, and emotionally numb from the medication being fired into me. I had done some very evil and bad things over the years and by November 2019, I had attempted suicide for the third time in my adult life. I had condemned myself to perish because my guilt was so great.
I was in the intensive care unit in Nevill Hall hospital, Abergavenny, after having a seizure and in a coma. Pastor John was beside me in the hospital praying for me. It was unknown whether I would ever wake up, and if so, how damaged my brain would be. Pastor John spent an hour there with me. He left me a letter so that I could call him when I woke up and left me a Bible verse for encouragement.
Moments after pastor John left, unbeknownst to me, I woke up in the intensive care unit. This I believe was a miracle!
I spent time recovering on a ward in the hospital and then they sent me back to the acute mental health unit at Talygarn again. Pastor John continued to visit me and he asked me the question, ‘Do you believe Jesus died for you?’ Whilst I was at the lowest point of my life, the penny had dropped, the lights went on, I believed God and this was my salvation.
At the time I didn’t realise what had happened but I left the hospital a new man, I was justified by grace through faith!
A transformed man
In January 2020, I returned to Noddfa and everyone was shocked as I was transforming. Little did anyone know, but by March 23rd, the whole nation was about to go into lockdown because of Covid-19. The church was closed and hard times were ahead. I was a new believer and being out of fellowship was shockingly difficult. During the lockdown, by the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power I came off the medication, stopped taking illicit drugs, quit drinking alcohol and lost 6 stone in weight all by the grace of God. This took a huge toll on me and I could feel emotion for the first time in a decade and a half – my stony heart had literally been softened.
I was diagnosed with adjustment disorder which is a bit like post-traumatic stress disorder, but this would never stop me because I had a new principle of grace in my heart and Jesus was with me.
The church stayed in touch with online services and I had fellowship whilst helping with the compassion ministries during the lockdown. We packed and delivered food parcels, supported the homeless, cleaned and maintained the church and grounds. When we were allowed, a few of us would walk up the valleys to pray and take communion.
I was baptised at Noddfa on August 16th, 2021 along with 14 other people. It was the first time we could meet together for a long time because of the pandemic and it was such a joyous occasion. Since then I have continued to stay off the drugs and alcohol, and I’ve kept the weight off. With the church’s support I went back to college and recently got my English GCSE. I now have the first job I have had in 19 years, working in customer service at a Tesco store. God is providing for me during the cost of living crisis. My diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia has been removed and my mental health has drastically improved.
So as you can see, I have suffered and experienced heartbreak and mental affliction. I hit rock bottom during the lockdown, but God can work bad for good, so have faith in the risen Lord. Believe in the only name under Heaven by which a man must be saved, the wonderful name of Jesus.
Amen to that!