By Charles Gardner
Richard began his criminal career as a delinquent 13-year-old whose parents fought constantly until separated by divorce. He got in with the wrong crowd and soon became embroiled in a series of wild escapades in an effort to feed his growing drug habit.
He got hooked on heroin, cocaine and whatever else he could get his hands on, and his desperate drive for the next fix landed him in court time and again until, still only 15, he was sent to a Young Offenders’ Institution.
Richard “graduated” to HMP [Her Majesty’s Prison] Swansea and later served time at Usk Open Prison, as he continued on a downward spiral controlled by drugs. Even among his fellow inmates, he stood out in his own words as “a very nasty piece of work,” aggressive and obnoxious to almost anyone he met.
But then at last he began to wonder what life was about and whether there was any way out of the mess he was in. Some of his friends had died of drug overdoses and he was headed in the same direction.
The prison chaplain was very friendly and helpful, and there was a man from an organization called Prison Fellowship (started by former aide to President Nixon and ex-Watergate conspirator Chuck Colson) who visited him. The upshot was that Richard began reading the Bible. Before, he used torn pages from the Bible to hand-roll his cigarettes.
As he stood for sentencing in a Crown Court, something very unusual happened. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and when he repeatedly turned around to check, there was no one there. Was it the hand of God? he wondered.
Richard expected a long prison sentence for an accumulation of crimes including aggravated burglary but, because he was showing signs of a desire to follow Christ, he was remanded instead to a Christian-run drug rehabilitation center known as Victory Outreach.
At first he thought it was just another “open prison,” but shortly after he arrived something remarkable happened. He had a dramatic vision of Jesus dying on the cross and turning to him, saying, “Richard, I did this for you”.
Moved by this experience, he decided it was time to leave behind the trail of destruction, which included many lives he led astray. With a repentant heart, the 18-year-old from South Wales had an overwhelming experience of being born again and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then Richard began praising God in a language he had never learned.
Miraculously, he never had any of the withdrawal symptoms expected for someone so powerfully hooked on drugs. After being filled with the Holy Spirit, he felt cleansed, forgiven and free from addiction.
“It came as a beautiful breaking dawn, the realization that I no longer needed speed, heroin, cannabis or anything else. Both mentally and physically, I was absolutely free,” he testified.
Richard Taylor is now pastor of the Victory Church in Cwmbran, home of the so-called Welsh Outpouring.
The church meets in a downtown warehouse known as the “tin cathedral” where packed services have been accompanied by miracles of healing and the restoration of broken lives.
And it is staffed by ex-drug addicts like Richard who graduated from the rehab center — one of six around the country operating in this way.
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