I gave my life to Christ September 18th 2009 in a cell at Dovegate prison at 10.30 at night. Since then my life has changed with such a force, that I daily thank Jesus for the love that he shows me and allows me to share with others.
I started life in 1975, weighing in at 2lbs. Hard to think now I'm 6ft 1. That is my start; you could say I was having a battle to survive as soon as I entered the world.
At 2 I was in a children's home in Clacton on sea. This was of a breakdown in my mother and father's relationship. Once I entered this system it seemed to be my life until I met Jesus.
My earliest memory is abuse, and I remember going from this children's home to various foster parents and back to the home. Later in life I found out I had 25 placements in my care order, 18 of these in the 1st part of my life before I was six. Even today I am amazed that in my early life I was in a system that was to protect me and it didn't. To be blunt I was abused, I was scared, I was very lonely and by the age of six I hated the world, and did not trust anyone. This feeling of loneliness was to become so deep that it over took my whole life to a level of pain and destruction that became normal from day to day.
My dad and step mum managed to get me to live with them at six. By then I was messed up, also I went from being the youngest in the home to the oldest, as I now had siblings. We moved to stoke on Trent; I had a strange accent, I felt lost and couldn't fit in at home or in my new school.
By the age of 9 I was in care again as I became a danger to my siblings. I was out of control. This place was a nightmare for any child, 20 years later this home and others in the area were exposed for abuse and cruelty to hundreds of children in Staffordshire.
Then my real mother wanted me back. I had been told that my mother stood in court saying that she didn't want me or any more children - and she turned up with two children and a husband. I didn't know her; I had no recollection of her. I was asked if I wanted to stay in Stoke on Trent with all my family or move to Essex with people I didn't know. I was nearly 10, scared, confused and I wanted my family in Stoke. I asked to stay.
But off to Essex I went. Once again, I was the oldest, again I had a strange accent and living with people I didn't know or love. I couldn't connect.
At 14 my mother and step-father dropped me in Stoke to visit my father and step-mum, and I never saw them again, only once, when my step father told me to keep away from my mother's parents in stoke, saying they didn't want me. This, 22 years later, turned out to be untrue. They believed I just stopped visiting.
At 15 my auntie and uncle fostered me; I went into a care home again at 17 and finally into prison. By this time, I was on a path of destruction and was at home in the criminal world, looking up to the wrong kind of role models.
From burglary to car theft, to drug dealing to debt collecting, to violence, and everything in between. I owned a roofing company with many men under me. I had money, cars, vans and status; all the trappings of a man doing what he wanted, when he wanted and to whom he wanted. Chuck in a couple of police sieges, more violence, and many threats on my life, from the drug gangs I'd robbed or upset. Life seemed great to me - I loved it!
Then I discovered crack cocaine. This is when my life got really dysfunctional. I had to move up a step with the madness, which resulted in me getting a life-sentence for armed robbery, with a minimum of six years.
I was 13 stone when I entered prison. My head was messed up, but I had more in me yet; more wheeling and dealing and drug-taking. Now I was addicted to medication on a massive scale and with that came more of violence, even smashed glass jars at my throat: "Hey you have drugs on you!" There are always other predators after what you have; they need to fuel their madness too.
Two and a half years into this sentence I couldn't cope any more. My relationship broke down; I wasn't seeing my daughter and I was heavily addicted to prescription drugs. I made a decision: no more violence in my life; no more madness.
The only thing was, the world around me didn't want me to stop, and I didn't know how to ask for help without reverting back to my old ways, so it came to an end. Lost, confused, a total mess, and I'd lost two stones in four weeks. I was at a snapping point in stress trying to cope, and then I found a solution. Death.
After taking packets of paracetamol and other pain killers and writing letters to my loved ones, I awoke to spewing up. This was not the plan.
I was rushed to hospital cuffed up to the prison officers and in a bad way. The events after this were so mad that I look back now and can see the Holy Spirit at work. The prison said I was not trying to commit suicide, because of my past, violence, manipulation and generally being a bad guy. They put it all together and worked out that I had tried to escape.
Now was in more trouble and was shipped straight off to a more secure prison, down to the segregation unit and into a 24-hour camera cell. I was truly at my lowest point.
In this situation was given a Bible. Hey I'm at my lowest point here! I've tried everything else and it led me here, so why not try reading this book? What happens?
I did not understand a word. I thought, Come on, please, give me a break! I threw it onto the floor and said, "God, I know you are real, but you'll have to show me."
Four days later I was in Dovegate Prison, vulnerable, lost, scared and two stones under weight.
I heard the words, "Who do you know in this prison?" from the reception staff. They were concerned for me and thought it would be best to put me with people I knew.
My head worked over-time. I needed drugs are to sort my head out. I wanted to be around people I knew from stoke so I could be in the pack and get what I wanted. I answered, "Anyone from Stoke my age will know me, or know someone who knows me."
"House-block 3 it is then."
I'm buzzing now, it's all going to be OK; I'll be OK, and I can see a way out. Sorted.
No, that's not how it turned out. Didn't I challenge God only four days before? A governor walked past and said, "You're going to House-block 1."
So I'm off to House-block One. I'm nervous, it's all new and I'm not feeling good about this. I'm in that mode again, fight or flight. Who knows what I'm about to do? I walked onto A-Wing, looking around, seeing many men and all giving me that prison look. Who this? What's he in for? Where is he from?
Into cell 15. It was like walking into a church! Bibles and crosses. My head was swimming here, what's this? There were 1100 prisoners in that prison; over 700 cells and I end up in this one. I sit there and the door opens, in walks a man: "Hello, my name's Darren, I'm a born-again Christian. Do you want me to pack all this stuff away?"
How humble he was! "No," I said. "I think me and you need to talk."
On September 18th, 2009 at 22.30 in cell A-15 in HMP Dovegate, my friend Darren lead me to the cross, where I gave my life to Christ and have never looked back. That's when my life really began to get interesting. If you ask the Lord to come into your life, He always does. Go on, give it a try. My life is now awesome! I thank the Lord daily and every day I share the Gospel, the good news, Jesus loves you.
Simon Paul Edwards.