I came to know the Lord as my Saviour while I was waiting to face the judge, in the dock of a courthouse. I had been in the court untold times, and it was just normal to me.
But this time, a Salvation Army court liaison officer, Captain Lindsay Andrews, came up to me and said, ‘Are you okay? Would you like me to pray for you?’ I had never had anyone do that for me before, so I said, ‘Go ahead.’
When I went before the judge, I felt so confused. I was being charged with assault, and usually I would wave it off and just go back to my life. But this time I felt so guilty, I felt bad for the people I had hurt. The judge actually thought I was intoxicated. But I wasn’t, something had changed.
I grew up in a large, loving Catholic family, but my neighbourhood was the actual area where Once Were Warriors was set. Every day, I walked out of my loving house and into gangs, drugs and violence. I wanted to be tough like everyone else. When I was about 13, I joined a gang, and went through initiations.
My life became incredibly violent as I moved further and further up the gang. I have spent years in jail for disorderly conduct, gang fights, assaults, and drug dealing. I became president of a chapter, and then started three chapters myself. I’ve seen a lot of nasty things happen and people have been hurt. That was my life.
I had been in the gang for over 25 years, and was known throughout New Zealand, but my life was hitting rock bottom. I was severely depressed and living on the streets.
That’s when I met Lindsay in court and he prayed for me. He came for a home visit, we had a cup of tea and he prayed for me again. My heart went from rock to jelly.
I asked Lindsay if I could come to church. I expected the whole place to fall down, but I got an awesome welcome. People encouraged me and shook my hand. Every dark aspect of my life started to change: drugs, alcohol and cigarettes fell away. The Lord had touched me and I felt that I was not suited to that life anymore.
I told the gang that I had asked the Lord for forgiveness and invited him to be part of my life. I said that I couldn’t be in the gang anymore—my heart was not in it. So I left the gang I had led, but not before I implemented saying grace at meals, and prayers before our meetings.
Now, I talk to people at bus stops and tell them about the Lord. Some people look at me strangely, but some say, ‘Jesus is Lord’—and that is like treasure to me. I have 12 children around the country, and two of my sons are still patched members of the gang. But three of my children are Christians, and they were amazed when I rang them up and said, ‘Jesus loves you’.
My dream is to go into the dark places that only The Salvation Army will go, and show those people the light. I want them to know that yes, God does want to know them, and no one is beyond saving. I still can’t understand how God loves me, but I know that he does.
By George Perry Makoare Jolley (abridged from War Cry, 13 July 2013, p9)