*Sammy’s family went to church every Sunday, and put on a happy façade, so no one knew what was really going on at home.
He learnt very early on that home wasn’t a safe place to share the issues that weighed heavily on his heart. He didn’t tell anyone when something happened to him at the age of four that changed him forever. Something unspeakable that filled him with shame and desires he couldn’t understand.
At home, Sammy was beaten every day until he left at 15. He was already addicted to drugs and pornography, visiting prostitutes regularly. By 18, he was drinking a cask of wine a day to try and drown out the voices that tormented him.
The voices wanted him to kill everyone, including himself. He thought there was no love in the world, so there was no point in living. He attempted suicide a couple of times, but each time, something stopped him from going through with it.
He went to rehab and stayed on as a volunteer for a couple of years. He really wanted to change. Sammy believed in God but he hadn’t repented. Striving to live the Christian life was impossible in his own strength.
He continued to struggle with porn and heroin addiction, losing his job as a result. He committed armed robberies to pay off debts and support his addiction. That’s when he found himself in prison.
When he got out, he went straight back to drugs and soon went back inside for a second armed robbery charge. But this time was different.
When Sammy looked back over his life, he realised that his struggles with sexual immorality, drugs and addiction all came down to one thing: a matter of the heart. The trauma of his childhood had taught him that he had to carry all his burdens himself. But the burden was too heavy. He finally handed it all over to God.
Sammy said: “Finding God in prison was the best thing that ever happened to me. He had been walking with me the whole time and lead me to a place of repentance.”
Every conversation in prison revolves around drugs, perversity and crime. Sammy became reclusive because he couldn’t tolerate it anymore. Everyone was so messed up and self-focused because they are so lost in their own mess.
The prison chaplains were a breath of fresh air in a dark place. Sammy lived week to week, waiting to talk to them about good, wholesome things. He looked forward to the weekly Bible study. Having someone to pray with him, minister to him and show genuine care was like an oasis in the desert.
One night, God showed Sammy his future wife and children in a dream and told him that he would be a shepherd one day. Sammy is holding on to that promise.
Today, Sammy is ‘outside’ and studying a Diploma of Counselling so he can fulfil his calling to shepherd others. He’s in a positive relationship and is looking forward to God fulfilling his dream of marriage and family.
He’s become part of a ministry helping ex-prisoners integrate back into society. And he’s now able to be a light to others after escaping his own darkness. He has a heart to be a pastor one day.
Sammy said: “My life was one big rubbish tip and God has come in, cleaned the whole thing out and is turning it into something beautiful beyond anything I could’ve have ever dreamed.”
* Name has been changed