By Mike Wiltshire
Convicted drug smuggler and addict Clint Holmes had a radical encounter in prison that transformed his life. He literally 'saw the light' in a supernatural vision – no drugs involved!
After becoming hooked on drugs, Clint was forced by an armed gang to help import a 10-ton consignment of cannabis. "We know where your family live," they warned him.
But armed police and customs officers were tipped off about the plan and Clint found himself pinned to the floor in handcuffs, as a police helicopter hovered over the warehouse and police dogs growled at the four suspects.
In a remarkable turnaround, Clint – who was sentenced to five-and-half years in prison – is a free man, a convinced Christian, and co-leader of a new church in Norwich, England.
Now happily married to Lois, Clint has a passion to help people who are struggling with addictions and relationships, just as he did partly because of his troubled childhood home.
As a teenager he longed for a career in football until his dream was dashed by a knee injury.
Like many boys on his estate he began drinking at 13, and by 16 was caught up in gangs of angry hooligans. His alcohol tolerance climbed so high that he switched to cannabis and other drugs to get a bigger 'high' and a rush of confidence.
He managed to hold down several jobs, and assisted in a night shelter where he met a Chinese man linked to the Triad criminal network. Clint was offered cannabis and pure cocaine – and then told, under threat, that he must assist the gang "which was run on fear and paranoia".
The plan was to import a huge quantity of cannabis in a shipping container which supposedly contained only candles.
After the failed crime, Clint spent 13 months on remand and saw "terrible violence" in prison. He was put on suicide watch. One inmate tried to speak to Clint about God but Clint just swore at him.
Then he saw a man "beaten to a pulp" as guards turned away, so Clint asked to be put in solitary confinement for his safety.
"I hated myself," Clint recalls. "I just sat there in total darkness and – with a razor blade – planned to end it all. I just prayed, 'Oh God..." and though my eyes were shut, I suddenly felt the cell fill with intense light. I felt pure love all over me. I knew straight away it was Jesus... I knew it was Him."
A few days later, Clint began talking with the chaplain who visited the cells to hold services with them.
In his new love for Jesus Christ, Clint avidly read the Bible, writing down verses so he could remember them. Prison staff noticed the big change in his life and Clint was soon helping in chapel services, which grew rapidly as more men attended. Clint was so overjoyed with his new-found faith that he was breathalysed to see if he had been drinking the communion wine!
He was shocked, however, when a religious worker who rejected the authority of the Bible asked: "You don't actually believe this stuff, do you?"
This only toughened Clint's resolve to follow Christ, and he wasn't bothered when other prisoners shouted, "Here comes the God squad!" as he walked by. Clint became an unofficial prison chaplain – "even the governor knew it."
Since leaving prison Clint has become a church leader and has seen God provide for his needs in answer to prayer. His desire to serve Jesus has taken him as far afield as India, and he has worked as a Street Pastor.?
With thanks to Network Norwich and Norfolk