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From crime to Christ

December 2021 | by Terry Wighton

Terry Wighton
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My father died when I was seven, leaving my mother with seven children to raise. I was the third youngest, and as a result of the sudden loss of my father, I developed a terrible stammer.

I was sent to a speech therapist who eventually gave up on me after three years. I fell behind in my schooling and left school at sixteen, unable to read or write.

From the time of my father’s death, I gradually turned in on myself, growing increasingly angry with the world around me.

School was not about learning, but survival. Fighting and resentment of authority became the name of the game for me.

My first school was a Church of England school, and the only good thing about it was the headmaster who would pray for the pupils each morning at assembly.

When I was thirteen, the family moved to a small village in North Yorkshire called Skelton. My life became unbearable both at school and in the village due to being a London kid.

At sixteen I left school and got a job as a warehouse boy in a small supermarket. I walked out of the job after a year just because I was asked to wear a tie.

Theft

This foolishness led to two years of unemployment and hardship for my mother and sisters. Due to the depression of the 1970s, there was little hope of ever finding work again. By the time I reached nineteen I had turned to crime and began to steal.

Inevitably, I was caught, and the authorities decided to make an example of me.

At my first trial I found myself facing six months in a detention centre. This was called the ‘short, sharp, shock’, aimed at breaking a young offender’s will. Because I had a lawyer, they adjourned my case until later in the year.

A mother’s prayer

During the night before my second trial I could not sleep and went to my bedroom window. It was dark and I looked up at the stars. I found my attention caught by the sound of someone crying and praying aloud nearby.

It was coming from my mother’s bedroom window: Please God, don’t let them send him down. Please God, don’t let them send him down.

These were the words she prayed repeatedly. My mind went back to my headmaster and his prayers for us children. On the day I left that school he had given me a Bible, and its core message of sin and salvation had never left me.

So far in my life, I had pushed Jesus and his gospel away and mocked those who believed.

As I listened to my mother’s prayers, a great feeling of guilt and sin came over me. I turned my eyes to the heavens and really prayed for the first time in my life: ‘God, if you are really real, get me off for my mother’s sake and you can have my soul.’

The day of my trial came, and the Lord answered my prayer, but I still refused to yield my soul to him.

Remarkably, within a few weeks I found work and honest money began to come back into the house. Yet I could find no rest for my soul day or night.

Turning point

Now, a few years before my trial, my brother had moved back to London and became a Christian. The change within him had amazed me. It was like he had become a new person!

One day I spoke to my mother and told her that I had to leave my job and home and find out if this God of the Bible was true.

My brother’s church was the only place I felt I could go to for the truth, so my mother sent me off with her blessings.

My brother’s church was full of young Christians about my age. When they talked about Jesus it was as if they knew him personally. They too had found what my brother had found: peace, love, and forgiveness in Jesus.

It was then that, in the quietness of my bedroom, I asked Jesus to forgive me and save me. That day in June of 1979, Jesus completely changed my life!

I was 20 when I put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and I am now 62. Over these years I have been privileged to serve him as a Sunday School teacher and deacon at my local church.

I have known sickness and health, joys and sorrows of many kinds, but can say, in all honesty, that there is nothing that compares with that moment when he came into my life in June 1979.

If anyone reading this article might be thinking of calling upon Jesus but are fearful of the change that will come, do not worry. He is a loving and gentle Saviour and longs to bless all that call upon his name.