“I WAS put in care at the age of three,” explains Dave, now 24.
“If someone had been honest with me as a child and explained why I was in care, I might have been OK. But I was adult before I was told Dad was violent towards Mum. She was struggling with alcoholism and five other children. I was the youngest. So I went into care. Unanswered questions created so much pain inside. I rebelled against every type of authority.”
Because of his behaviour, Dave was transferred from one home to another, like ‘pass the parcel’. At twelve, he ran away, stealing clothes off washing lines and robbing shops to survive. The following year he did it again. Staff said they’d had enough and screwed down the windows to keep Dave in.
“My last two years in care I was fostered by a brilliant man called John Hyde. He didn’t judge me but treated me with respect, spending hours letting me talk and helping my reading and writing. But as soon as I emerged from care, I drifted into crime.
“Prison made my rebellion against authority worse. I listened to services in the prison chapel, but hearing about Christianity didn’t change my lifestyle.”
The cycle of crime and prison went on until March 2003, when Dave landed up in Coventry with no money, feeling hungry.
“Downtown there’s a Jesus Centre, where you can fill yourself up with a batch and tea,” suggested a friend.
At the Jesus Centre, Piers started talking to Dave, whose defences went straight up.
“What does this guy want to talk to me for – he doesn’t know me. What’s the catch?” But it didn’t take me long to start to trust. I started to go to the Centre’s worship meetings and, one day, let someone pray for me. This amazing feeling came down on me – love, joy, happiness. Some weeks later, the power of the Holy Spirit touched me so powerfully I found myself on the floor, with no idea how I’d got there!
“Finding God hasn’t just been about feelings. It’s practical, too. I ‘m getting sorted out, leading a different life.
“Before I arrived, I was down, lonely, depressed, upset and homeless. Now, I’ve found God. I feel safe and comfortable with the people around me. I’m happy with myself.
“In today’s world you’re a fool if you open up your heart and life seems that much harder because you have to bottle things inside. I’ve learnt, here, to speak freely and open up who I am.”