Gangster turns good

Nick was saved from a life of drugs, gangs and violence.

His mother gave him up at birth, so Nick was raised by his grandparents who filled his life with love and support. When Nick was 11, his mother, who worked on the carnival circuit, wanted him back, so he lived a transient life with no stability.

"At 13 I joined my brothers and friends breaking and entering businesses," Nick admits. "I started using marijuana daily, which led to methamphetamines, all paid for by the proceeds of our stolen goods.

"When I finished school, I hooked up with a notorious motorcycle gang and started doing 'jobs' for them that paid for my drug habit. This lifestyle was drug and alcohol fuelled, full of extreme violence – my life was secretive, dark, and violent."

Nick met his first real partner in 2006 and his daughter was born soon afterwards. Nick started a gardening and landscaping business, but his relationship fell apart.

"I returned to drugs, alcohol and a street gang lifestyle," Nick states. "My business collapsed so I made money by dealing in drugs which paid for my own addiction, and I pushed my daughter away, choosing drugs over her."

Life on the streets with the gangs became extremely violent for Nick. Over a 12-month period, 24 of his associates died, and although Nick was attacked and shot at many times, it seems he was one of the lucky ones. Once, Nick spent three weeks in ICU and several months in the wards before discharging himself, only to return to the drug and bike scene.

"During this time, I met Louise*, my current partner," Nick shares. "Together we kicked our drug habits and lived a good life. She was what I needed at the time and it seemed my life was going to be on track. We had four children, but somehow drugs entered our lives and our world as we knew it collapsed around us. This time, I was addicted to ice and with it came violent outbursts.

"My first prison term was for drugs and violence towards Louise," Nick continues sadly. "Child safety stepped in and removed our children. I had hit rock bottom and there seemed no way out and nowhere to turn."

During Nick's second jail stint, he watched other inmates who seemed to have it together. What did they have that he didn't? Nick wondered.

"One of these inmates handed me a Bible and invited me to church where I met our chaplain," Nick says. "I would chat with him each week about how I was travelling. He was genuinely interested in me and my welfare. Each week he offered me a bit of inspiration by sharing God's Word, so I made it my task to follow it up by reading the Bible each day.

"I met other Christians walking in the faith and saw God working through them. I burned inside to learn more about Jesus; I couldn't explain the feeling but it made me feel good. Through church, study and prayer, for the first time in a long while I felt whole again, like the man I knew I could be."

It didn't take long and Nick was inspired to engage in improving his educational standards by returning to study. He willingly participated in drug counselling and successfully completed the course that The Salvation Army runs. At the centre of the program was God.

"Now I can clearly make plans, set goals and build a life without drugs and violence," Nick states joyfully. "I have confessed my sins and repented of them. My walk with God has just begun and I know the journey will be long, and it won't be without problems or trouble, but I am reassured by God (and by His angels like the prison chaplain) that I can make it.

"Louise and I have plans together, built on a solid foundation – Jesus. Time will tell but I have faith that I am not alone and that God's path is set securely before me."

*Not her real name

Based on an article that first appeared in the Salvation Army's Warcry magazine

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