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It all began in 1966 after a lot of
pushing, sweat and pain, out I popped. "It's a boy!" they shouted.
I can't remember too much about that, but I've seen some photographs to confirm the incident. The name they settled on was Graham. My earliest memories were of growing up on a housing estate in Liverpool (England), called Dodge - named after Dodge City. I think the name says it all - it was a very rough housing estate.
Mum and Dad weren't really religious but they insisted that my sister Coreen and I went to Sunday school from an early age. We found it boring, irrelevant and all the other words people sometimes use to describe "church". Mum had an unusual job, she was a fork-lift truck driver. Dad was a night-club bouncer who occasionally helped himself to the payroll of local banks. As you can imagine, I had quite an unusual upbringing so it wasn't long before I started getting introduced to crime - believe it or not it was my Dad who introduced me to my first felony! The local fruit and veg shop was broken into and Dad asked me to take the wheelbarrow over to the shop and fill it up with whatever I could. So by the age of eight the Social Services were very involved in my life and they decided I was better away from home on the grounds of being out of parental control!
I lived in a number of foster homes and assessment centres which really messed me up. At this early stage I started to get introduced to soft drugs and by the age of sixteen I was selling and supplying a large amount of various drugs. For a number of years I was getting more and more deeply involved in crime, violence and drug trafficking. Things really started to go wrong. I nearly died a few times from drug overdoses which entailed me having to be "pumped out" at the local hospital. I started to ask some serious questions about where my life was going and what would have happened if I had died. Little did I know at this stage that God had his hand on my life.
I'd come across some outrageous and wild people in my life, but nothing could prepare me for the people I was about to meet. I started going to the local youth centre to play pool and really just for somewhere to go to spend a few hours before the clubs opened. Whilst at the youth centre, I came across these really strange people, Lyn and Arthur and Chris and Margaret - THEY WERE CHRISTIANS!
There was just something about them that fascinated me. They had that "Ready-Brek" glow. They were always happy, smiling, full of joy, peace and everything else I was taking drugs to find. What these people had I was spending about £100 a night to try to find! This intrigued me so much I had to ask them what made them so happy. When they told me it was Jesus I was really shocked, had no one ever told these people he was dead? So I told them, "Isn't he dead? That's what I learned in Sunday school." What they quickly pointed out is that He rose again and no one ever explained to me that He'd been resurrected. I didn't fully understand all this but I was genuinely interested and wanted to find out more, especially the bit which Lyn said that if He's alive, you can meet Him and He can change your life!
Little did they know the kind of things I was into, so I began to confide in them about my drug problems. Lyn was quite shocked and suggested I go back to her house for a coffee. On arriving, she went into the kitchen to put the kettle on, taking an unusual amount of time. I followed her through to the kitchen and I found her talking to God on my behalf. I'll never forget what I heard. "Oh God," she was saying "I don't know what to do with Graham. Please show me what to tell him." She didn't see me so I walked out very quietly, not wanting to disturb her. She soon emerged from the kitchen and, telling me she'd been praying for me, I tried to laugh it off by saying, "I know, I caught you."
The laughing soon stopped when she said "GOD HAS JUST SPOKEN TO ME ABOUT YOU" My instant thoughts were, who's on the drugs here! Especially when she said "He has given me a vision of a man I've got to take you to." I was convinced she must have taken something to see visions and to have God speaking to her. Very confused, I asked her to explain what she saw and she began to tell me about Dave Cave who runs a project in Liverpool reaching out to inner city people with similar backgrounds to my own. I wasn't too sure of whether to go, but she told me he was all right. I had reservations because he was a minister and my experience of the clergy had never really impressed me. I had never really related to all that stuff, you know, the batman cloak, the ring of confidence and the one who dressed up like mother but we called him Father. I've still not worked that one out!
I was quite shocked when I met Dave, denim jeans, t-shirt and suede shoes. For the first ten minutes, we debated whether he was really a minister because he didn't look like one. On seeing his ordination papers, he convinced me. I told him a little bit about my past and my drug problems. His reply was quite bold, but honest. He said "GRAHAM, GOD CAN HELP YOU, BUT DON'T MESS ABOUT WITH GOD." So, I was quite impressed by his reply and on agreeing that I would come to church on Sunday morning with Lyn, I departed home. That was late on Friday night.
Inside I really wanted to look into this, I'd tried a lot of other things to bring satisfaction into my life. A bit like the song says "I Can't Get No Satisfaction, But I Tried and I Tried." I'd experimented with nearly all of the illegal street drugs that were available, and nothing ever really met the cry deep down inside of me wanting to be loved. Don't misunderstand me, the effects of drugs are very strong and you do get "high" and get a kick out of taking them, but you also come back down with a bang. Through all my drug taking I was never really satisfied.
So on the Saturday I decided "I'm going to give this Jesus thing a try." I went out on a bit of a leaving party, my last farewell with my friends and the drug culture I was involved with because tomorrow I'd decided to start a new life. About twelve of us in number hit the town. We all had large amounts of drugs with us ranging from LSD, cocaine, speed, cannabis and who else knows what we took that night. We usually shared what we had as a group, so I had quite a cocktail of drugs in my system. I still knew what I had in my pockets even after selling quite a bit to customers. I made a conscious decision to take these drugs because I did not want to take any drugs home with me because I was going to start a new life the next day. This was my strange thinking and to this day I don't really know whether what I saw was due to the drugs I had taken or if I was actually seeing what I will now describe.
I was just minding my own business passing drugs to the left and to the right of me to my friend under the club table. I glanced up quickly to make sure no one was watching us and there He was. About thirty feet away from me, Jesus was standing there surrounded in this bright light, looking very displeased with me. In my hands under the table were large amounts of drugs and there staring at me with eyes that penetrated deep down into my life was the Son of God. I felt so guilty, so convicted. A bit like a little boy discovered doing something wrong. I quickly got rid of the drugs while staring at this vision of Jesus. His facial expressions changed to that of approval and he sort of smiled at me as if to say "well done". I turned to my friend on the right of me to ask him if he could see anything unusual in the club tonight. He replied that he could not, so I turned back ready to point Jesus out to him, but He was gone. I stood up on the bench looking for Jesus in the night club, but much to my annoyance, I couldn't find him.
At this point, I decided it was time to go home and saying goodbye to my friends and, leaving them looking a bit confused, I left. As I jumped into a taxi, I was expecting the taxi driver to ask me what my destination was. I was very shocked and even annoyed when he turned round and smiling at me asked me if I believed in Jesus! This question was the first thing out of his mouth. You don't usually get asked questions like "do you believe in Jesus?" from a taxi driver. After quite nicely telling him to shut up and take me home, I started to think about what was happening to me. I thought I was dying again. My brain was racing over the events of the last two nights, talking to Lyn about her helping me. God talking to her, and her seeing a vision of Dave Cave. Meeting Dave and him saying God can help you. Meeting Jesus in a night club and then having one of his taxi drivers pick me up and witnessing to me. All of this was a bit too much for me to take in. I decided to go to see Dave and ask him to help me make sense out of all of this. It was the only thing I could think of, even though it was 2.30 a.m.
On arriving at Dave's house, I kept my finger on the doorbell until he came down. He was wearing funny pyjamas I must admit. I immediately launched out verbally at him saying "What's going on Dave? I only met you last night, I met Jesus tonight and He sent his taxi driver after me. I don't understand what is happening." What Dave said just melted me. He said "Graham, we were praying for you this morning that God would speak to you and show you that he loves you." I just did not know what to say. I just blurted out "Do me a favour Dave, go back to God and pray again and tell him to back off." You see, it was all a bit much for me. I wasn't really looking for God, he came looking for me. That was my first real encounter with God.
Eventually, when I got home, I got a bit of sleep and woke up in time to get myself ready for church. On arriving, I sat by Lyn and I was quite shocked to see people were clapping, dancing and shaking tambourines. I thought "Wow! This is really good!" Nearing the end of the service, Dave asked if anyone wanted prayer and people would pray for them. At my request, Dave asked a friend of his from Manchester to pray for me. When he prayed, I was a bit confused as the language he used was not in a Mancunian accent! In fact, it sounded very foreign to me! While this man was praying for me in this funny unknown language, I nudged Lyn next to me and said quite loudly, "He's not from Manchester!" They just laughed and said that he was speaking in tongues. I didn't know what tongues were but I did know that while he was praying for me something was happening. I felt really warm and loved and a presence of peace and security just filled me. It would be really nice had I come off drugs straight away, but I didn't and for about a month I still dabbled. I was not taking anywhere near as much as I had been used to. I still has one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom. Accepting Jesus as my Saviour was easy, receiving him as my Lord took some working through.
The second encounter I had with God put an end to that. I was in my Dad's house one evening. I'd taken a small amount of drugs with two friends of mine called Rod and John. These were probably not the best people for a new Christian to hang around with. John was into witchcraft and he told me on a number of occasions how he had sold his soul to the Devil in a contract. Rod was a hopeless alcoholic. We were in my bedroom when the room became very bright and a feeling of heat and fire filled the room. God spoke to me in an audible way. He said "Choose this day what you are going to serve. Serve either me or drugs." Not being very religious I quickly replied, "God" I said, "You just can't take drugs away from an addict and leave him with nothing. You've got to give me something better to keep me off drugs!" On saying that, it felt as though someone attached a 2000 watt hoover to the top of my head and hit the power button. It felt as though everything was sucked out of me. I was just lying there in the chair so weak and so drained and helpless. Then from my feet to the top of my head, I started to get filled with such a peace and a presence that I would never forget. I was just so overwhelmed with love and a feeling of joy. I was so clean I felt as if I'd been given a brand new start. The amazing this was that the whole desire and craving for drugs was gone. I was on a different "high". Rod and John then asked me what on earth had happened. Trying to pretend ignorance, I said "What was what?" They asked me what was the voice and the bright light. I then went on to explain to them what was happening in my life and how I had been trying to run away from God. Their comment was not surprising. They said I was stupid. Here we all were mixed up in all this stuff and God came along and put his hand on my life and He chooses me and I was trying to run away from Him - stupid!
From that day on, I've really been impacted by God. I have such a passion for Him and a desire to serve Him. I have been involved in many evangelistic events and missions including a number of church planting initiatives over the last ten years. I just have a desire to tell other people about my experience of meeting Jesus.
Turning now to the present, the most exciting challenge took place in January, 1997. God really began to speak to me about using my past, relating to the experience I had with drugs. Spending much time in prayer over this, and committing myself to being used by God, things have really opened up. Since then, a friend of mine told me about a drug kit which was apparently available for prevention purposes. I made some enquiries about this and an appointment was made for me to meet an Inspector from the Manchester Police. A drug kit was made available for me, including around 180 slides describing all various aspects of drugs and their statistics. The local paper in Kidderminster heard about my ideas about going into schools and trying to warn young people about drugs. They ran an article on the front page of the paper after which Central TV News picked up on the story. They asked me if they could film me giving a live presentation and then show this on the news which is quite amazing. "Here I am Lord, use me." This was my prayer, and the Lord has given me the most amazing opportunities as a response to this prayer. I receive a number of phone calls from worried parents whose children are taking drugs. Invitations are coming in from all over the country asking me to give seminars and presentations regarding the work we are doing. We have set up a drop in centre for parents and drugs users who want help in coming off drugs. We have obtained places in a number of rehabilitation centres for users and they are doing quite well. The name of the work is "Jubilee Outreach". The work is all about binding up the broken hearts and setting the captives free.
Due to the demands of the work, I have now left my full time job, which was driving HGV's, and I have thrown myself into the work with the Jubilee Outreach. This gives me the opportunity and time to help people with my own experiences and background.
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If you would like to know more about the work of the Jubilee Outreach, or would like us to take any seminars or give drug prevention teaching, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you would like me to come and share my testimony in an evangelistic setting, I would be happy to do so. I feel very strongly that the church needs to be equipped to understand and to recognise what is really happening in the drug culture. The slides and the drug kit are tremendous visual aids.
Our contact address and telephone number are as follows:
C/O Rhyl Baptist Church
15 Sussex Steet
Telephone: 01745 339933
Email address firstname.lastname@example.org
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