By Chris Eyte (Good News)
The stepson of one of Glasgow's most feared underworld figures lifted his head up, expecting the man standing outside the church building to hit him.
Gripping the hand of his friend and future wife Ashley, Gary Faulds awaited the punch.
The large man walked nearer and suddenly wrapped his arms around Gary and hugged him.
"Welcome home," the stranger said.
Gary, now one of Britain's up-and-coming comedians, recalls this encounter to Good News years later.
"I was quite nervous because normally, when I met people for the first time, they either wanted to hurt me or take something from me. And this really big guy just hugged me and said, 'Welcome home'.
"My biological dad, who I have never met, was involved in a botched up bank robbery during which a man was shot dead, so I was brought up by my stepdad, David, who was a key player in the Glasgow underworld," Gary explains.
"I never wanted to be like my biological dad or my stepdad, so at 16 I joined the British Army to avoid the path to prison."
Gary was later pulled back into his home territory after leaving the army. With his stepdad fighting terminal cancer, he was left to run the family security firm.
"This industry is plagued by some of Britain's most notorious gangsters, and with that came turf wars and daily death threats," he says.
"One minute I am a respectable soldier enjoying my career, doing something with meaning, and the next my stepdad has passed away and I am involved in street battles with other firms."
Stand-up comedy provided Gary an escape from reality. Gary's natural gift meant he had a growing audience of people appreciating his humour.
"I made people happy with my jokes and that felt really good," he says.
It was doing stand-up that led to Gary talking with childhood friend Ashley. He explains she was unlike the women he had known in the past.
"She had confidence, she was intelligent, and the thing that really caught my attention is she had so much faith. It was mesmerizing. After our first date I fell in love and could not stop thinking about her and her faith. She spoke about Jesus with such conviction that I wanted to know more."
Ashley asked him to church for a service. He was reluctant, remembering the boring services he attended as a child with his grandmother.
"When I told her that, Ashley laughed and said, 'My Jesus isn't boring'," Gary recalls.
After Gary was hugged by the big man manning the door of the church that night, he found himself in an auditorium with 400 people. Many had their hands raised and sang songs "like something you would hear in the charts, but with more passion and meaning in their voice," Gary describes.
"One minute I am this guy who is involved with crime, and the next I am crying into a girl's shoulder like a baby peeling an onion – and it was only our third date!"
The church became his new home as Gary learned that Jesus Christ died to save him.
He says: "The way the church spoke about Jesus and the trials He went through to save us made me think, 'Wow! I thought I had problems – but this guy died for me!'"
Two weeks later Gary was baptised, which he considers the best decision he ever made. He still has difficulties in life, but accepting Jesus has helped him get away from his past and "move forward with conviction and meaning".
"If you are reading this article and you feel you can't cope anymore with life's harshness – maybe you feel like you made a mistake in the past you can't recover from, or you are in a way of life you can't get away from – you can!" he exclaims.
"Go find a good church and get to know Jesus. He is there for you, and you are already forgiven.
"Since I have found Jesus, He *has broken the chains that were holding me in the past and set me free to have the life He wants me to have."•