My name is Damian. I've got three children but the oldest two I'm not allowed to see. I'm 27 and I've been jailed five times. So far I've spent a total of six years of my life in prison.
All my offenses have been drug related, either caught in possession or arrested for shop-lifting. I have to steal to pay for drugs. I started experimenting with cannabis when I was 14. I was told that cannabis doesn't lead to harder drugs but, for me, it was a stepping stone to amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. I'm still addicted to heroin and I nearly died once. I woke up in hospital with a load of tubes sticking out of me.
Every time I come to prison I manage to get off the drugs and every time I leave I say I'll never go back to them. But, despite all the rehab groups and the doctors’ prescriptions, I always have. One cheap shot and I'm hooked again.
Something different has happened this time, though. I’m in prison for possession of Class A drugs but I don't want to live this life any more. No more Christmases in prison or explaining to my daughter where daddy has gone. One day somebody at school will tell her that I’m not working on oil rigs but I’m in prison. This has to stop.
My cell mate has a bible and he goes to a bible study with the chaplain. I watched him for a few weeks, praying when he wakes up and before he goes to sleep. When he started thanking Jesus for his food I had to ask him what was going on. This wasn't the usual Sunday chapel and back-to-normal-on-Monday routine. He told me that Jesus loves him and that Jesus loves me. Would you believe that?
He said that Jesus loves me… someone who has ignored him for 27 years, who has used, sold and pushed drugs and always laughed at people who follow him. I had to think about that and decided that Jesus has a funny way of showing that he loves me because my life is so bad. If Jesus has that much power why doesn't he fix things for me?
It was the middle of the night and that question was going round and round in my head. I couldn't shake it and I couldn't get to sleep. In the end I said to him, 'If you're there Jesus, show me.' And then I fell asleep.
The next morning my cell mate went off to work and I stayed in the cell. There was a knock on the door and the chaplain stuck his head in to ask if we could have a chat. My cell mate had sent him to see me.
We had a talk and he asked me if I'd ever read the Bible. Well, no, I hadn't. He said he'd get me one, then picked up my cell mate’s copy and turned to John 3:16. He told me that Jesus loves me so much that he died to pay for my sins and mend my broken relationship with God. He told me that Jesus died to fix my biggest problem, the one that was even bigger than my addiction to drugs or the separation from my family. He said that all I need to do, in order to be forgiven by God for all my sins, is repent and believe in Jesus.
That started me on a journey. Now I go to bible classes and chapel on a Sunday. I pray to Jesus for help and that he will look after my children. I'm starting to think that the Bible I’m reading might just be true. I'm thinking that I might tell Jesus about all the bad things I've done and ask him to forgive me. I'm starting to think that this might be the thing that will change my life.
Damian is not a real person but his story reflects that of very many real prisoners. His story was written by Gillian Pegler - a prison chaplain and author of 'The Promised Child'.
‘The Promised Child’ is a book of bible studies for December that simply and clearly teach why Jesus was sent and how he works in the lives of men and women like Damian today. This book is being distributed freely to prisoners across the UK. Would you like to be part of the story? You can support its distribution by prayer and giving - click here.
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