Ashley NixonA New Deal

Ashley Nixon found hope in prison.
Here’s his story

I had always been a troublemaker for as long as I can remember – by the time I was 13 I was getting into trouble with the police.

I was taking drugs. I’d been arrested for shoplifting. I’d done burglary, arson, criminal damage. There was something about getting into trouble that really excited me. The more I tried to sort myself out, the worse I got.

I was selling most drugs in nightclubs. Those places that I wasn’t selling drugs, I made sure I had people selling drugs for me. I started to get noticed by people above me. It wasn’t long before I was selling drugs for them. We were buying drugs from people like the Albanian mafia and we were selling to the likes of Hell’s Angels. I was looking for fulfillment in drugs, in sex, in power, in my status. The only problem is that when you have a status – a reputation – you have to live up to that. You’ve got to do things to make sure people don’t take that from you.

Armed

The guy that I was selling drugs for phoned me up and told me he’d been attacked by a rival gang. He asked me to go to one of the safe houses and pick up a firearm. I was nervous about what was going to happen. But I went to the safe house and put on a brave front. I picked up a firearm, and I remember leaving the house with the intention to kill. If we’d have found the people we were looking for, I’d have pulled the trigger. Thankfully I never had to do what I thought I was going to have to do. At that point I realised that I desperately needed help.

But I couldn’t help myself. As I got into more and more trouble, I ended up in prison… suddenly realising – ‘You’re not a gangster. You’re an idiot. You’ve messed up your life. Now you’ve got to deal with the consequences. You’re in prison.’

In danger

A prisoner who’d been transferred with me started to talk to me about God. I couldn’t understand what I was hearing. Here I was in prison with my life in danger, and this guy wanted to talk to me about God. How could God help me in the situation I’d got myself into?

It was a couple of days later that I was walking past the chapel sign-up sheet, and I signed up. For some reason, at that very moment, a sense of peace hit me that I’d never experienced anywhere else before. I remember going back to my cell and saying something along the lines of, ‘God, if you’re out there; if you are who these people say you are, then help me. Whatever I have to do, whatever the cost to me, I am yours. I give my life to you. Please take my life and do with it whatever you want.’

Time to change

The gang that I was involved with were caught in a drugs raid and taken off the streets. The relationships I was in started to break down. This gave me more and more time to work on my relationship with God.

I was no longer a drug addict. There was no drugs rehabilitation. No counselling. No replacement therapy. It was just the power of God, his Word and prayer.

What I found when I went to church was something different. People were different. They seemed to have a sense of joy about them. They were loving and caring, and they just accepted me for who I was.

I’m looking forward to the future. I’m not entirely sure where this journey is going to lead me, but I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s going. My life has changed massively. I’m working with a local youth group trying to encourage them not to make the same mistakes that I made.

Ashley told his story to yesheis UK and it features in a new book –  40 Stories of HOPE