Kelvin Starr hated the church for the abuse it covered up and repeated against him but eventually it was where he found healing too.
For everyone there is a time in their life where they grow up and become adults, usually around the time they lose their childlike innocence.
For Kelvin Starr that innocence was ripped away from him in 1964 when he was sexually abused by an older boy in the woods during his summer holidays.
"I staggered home bleeding and in pain ... with tears streaming from my eyes," he recalls in a booklet he wrote called "Life to Last". "It would be over 50 years before I was able to enter those woods again."
The woods had previously been a place of adventure for Kelvin where he would climb trees with his friends, play in the river and catch fish. Now he was too scared to enter them again.
When Kelvin told his parents how he had been raped and beaten, he got no hugs or compassion but was blamed for not running away and for "letting" it happen, although the boy was 10 years older than him and much stronger.
Kelvin then turned to the local priest for understanding, believing that priests were supposed to be gentle and kind like Jesus.
But his relief at being heard quickly turned to horror when he found out that the priest already knew what the head choir boy had done, and in turn sexually abused Kelvin himself.
"This time I didn't tell anyone, I didn't want the belt again, I became moody, quiet and withdrawn," Kelvin shares. "I hated them both."
Kelvin buried his pain and shame deep in his subconscious but the ordeal made him feel he was to blame for everything that went wrong in his life and that he was dirty and damaged.
At 15 he left school and started work, and at 21 married his wife, with whom he later had two children.
When his son was eight years old and part of the local boy's brigade, Kelvin was invited to attend a parade at the church.
All his feelings of betrayal and pain surfaced again.
"I didn't want [my son] to have anything to do with church." Kelvin confesses. "To me church was an abomination."
Nevertheless he eventually agreed to attend and later also went to a special service, where the preacher shared a gentle message on forgiveness and how people who had been abused could hold hatred in their hearts.
"The preacher asked those who were struggling with the past to come forward and talk to someone about it. I however couldn't move," Kelvin remembers. "I felt such a heavy weight on me. Feelings of guilt and shame bombarded my mind. How could I forgive those men? Hatred burned at my insides!
of the cross
put to rest
I carried”"Over the next few weeks I became a very unlikable person. Moody, argumentative, depressed. I wanted revenge on my abusers," he admits.
Other things were also going on in Kelvin's life: he suffered a debilitating back injury when he was 30, was cheated in a business venture, got into heavy debt and, as a result, became addicted to pain killers and whisky.
It was another invite to church that led to the answers that Kelvin so desperately needed. The preacher explained that Jesus acts like a bridge between us and God.
"He said that all of our problems could be handed over to God through this Jesus and this Jesus wanted a friendship with me. Me! All I had to do was tell Jesus that I was sorry for all the wrong things I had done."
Kelvin felt he could do that but then the preacher said he also had to forgive those who had wronged him.
"What? Wait a minute! Doesn't this Jesus know how those two men hurt me? Doesn't this Jesus know how I've been cheated? Doesn't this Jesus know how much pain I'm in?" Kelvin raged.
Then he realized that of course Jesus did know, He had also had His innocence betrayed and endured terrible pain on the cross.
"Jesus doesn't wave a magic wand to make all of our problems disappear. He does however help us to have the courage and strength to deal with them," Kelvin explains. Through counselling, he was able to deal with the past and forgive his abusers.
"The freedom that brought me was incredible. All of the shame, the guilt, the hurt, and the humiliation dissolved almost overnight.
"I became a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. I accepted the fact that Jesus had given His life for mine. The biggest life-changing event ever to hit a man!" Kelvin shares joyfully.
Kelvin went on to train as a Pastor and now uses his past experiences to help others who have gone through similar crippling abuse.
Years later, with his friend Nige Burr at his side, Kelvin was able to re-enter the woods of his childhood and find healing.
"God's Holy Spirit was my comfort. The power of the cross put to rest the trauma I had carried. The devil's work was finally destroyed."•