Martin’s story is a journey from dark to light. He went from being a spiritual orphan to a spiritual son. He went from being a man who takes, to a man who gives. He was subject to a lifestyle of stealing and destroying and stands today as a transformed man, doing the exact opposite of what he once was. He is bringing life, giving to others, and building. He is a true testament to the reality of Jesus’ words, ‘But I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full!’ (John 10:10).
Born in 1963, to an Irish Catholic mother, Martin experienced rejection from day one. Born into a time when having a mixed-raced child outside of marriage was heavily frowned upon, Martin’s mother put him into care (although this wasn’t what she wanted). Martin grew up in care. He saw his mother every two weeks and was able to enjoy school holidays with her. But he never knew about his Dad. He didn’t know his Dad, and he didn’t like him. “At 14, I got into trouble in the Children’s Home”. Being one of 400 children he felt people didn’t listen and he didn’t have a voice. “The place was run by nuns and abuse was common. There are many stories within stories”, said Martin. They refused to have him back. “I then went into foster care. Then into a referral community school or a ‘lock up school’ – a school for children who couldn’t get into main schools. Then at 16 years of age, I was released. I went back to foster care and then got into trouble there. That’s when I had nowhere to go.”
There were a number of factors that Martin believes led him to this point – rejection, fatherlessness, no good male role models, the abusive environment and system of the care home. ‘There was hierarchy in the home. Being a tall lad, I was expected to be tougher then I was and expected to live up to that.’
Once out of the care of the system, he started stealing and became a homeless man. He eventually moved in with his mother and her boyfriend, but again found himself in trouble with a group in the area. The 80s was a period where Martin found himself in and out of prison.
In the 90s, Martin got a chance at court, and was able to go back into society and start working. He was doing drawings to sell as merchandise at pop concerts around Europe. He also found himself on drugs, addicted to Crack and then Heroine and gambling. This was his lifestyle and he considered this to be his portion. “I felt like this was it. I was trapped.”
“It was 1998 and I was broke, hit rock bottom, and just miserable. I had a computer and a friend drove me to a pawnshop to see if it was open so I could sell it. It was this very ordinary moment that was truly the divine work of God. “It was in this moment at the shop that a lady came up to me and invited me to church, and invited me to have a relationship with God. I said, ‘I want a relationship with a woman’. But eventually I took up the invite and went to church.”
It was then that Martin made some true friendships. These friends would come over and study the Bible with him. “I thought, ‘there is something different. Most of my friends wanted to take, but these guys wanted to give.’ One time I did a study on sin and it was the first time I spoke about the stuff that had gone on in my life to my new friends. It was a confession”. The Holy Spirit was truly at work in the heart of Martin. He then got baptized and his life was changing. “I had a sense of freedom that I didn’t understand… and a joy…I looked forward to going to church. Whereas before I was trying to avoid people because I thought I had nothing to give. My friends had thought I had gone crazy.”
Martin met his wife at church. ‘She was one of the first friendships I made…I loved her joy and spirituality.’
What first attracted you to the gospel?
Initially it was the friendships that attracted me. There was something different – they would share their stories and their lives. God plants you in the right the place at the right time.
Does the past ever come back? Do you ever have to deal with baggage?
Triggers will come up and trigger the shame and I deal with that by prayer.
How are you a changed man?
Throughout my whole journey, God has made a way. I have a business doing property refurbishments. I used to burgle houses, now people invite into me into their house to decorate and do up their home…I used to be in foster care and now my wife and I have been foster parents to about eight or nine different kids. It’s God choice, not my choice.
Just before we got married, I heard from my Dad – I had never known anything about him. I was able to forgive him.
My very first experience of prayer was when my brother fell ill. He was an addict. One day he went missing. Mum was distraught. I bent down and prayed. God led me to where he was – a Crack house. I had to call the police. He had an abscess on the brain. He went to the hospital. He could have died at any moment. The only way we could have found him was through prayer.
How would you describe God from your first hand experiences?
LOVE – I see Jesus through my wife. And that helps me to see because I’m a visual learner. It goes with truth. When people tell me the truth about myself I see it as God working on me.
FREEDOM & PEACE
A daily devotion for a better way of living.