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27 June 2016

The Real Deal

Richard Collins Richard Collins Elder
Rod Williams 1

What do you do when all hope seems lost?
Where do you go when you’ve reached rock bottom?

On Sunday morning, Above Bar Church listened to the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32), and then heard from a man with his own prodigal son story.

His name is Rod Williams, the founder of Real Deal Ministries, a ministry to the lost and the broken. He and his wife Kate also work with Christians Against Poverty.

Fourteen years ago, hooked on heroine and gambling, and owing thousands to a man threatening violence, Rod decided to risk it all on one last roll of the dice. Stuffing heroine into his socks, he tried to smuggle drugs into Guernsey.

Rod Williams 4

He failed.

Life falling apart

So where did it all go wrong?

You might think that drug dealers come from deprived backgrounds. In Rod’s case, you’d be wrong. He grew up in a comfortable home in South Wales with a family who loved him. However, at the age of ten, his parents divorced and he moved to Guernsey.

While at college studying finance, he fell in with the wrong crowd. Offered a seemingly harmless spliff one night, he was immediately hooked. Harder drugs followed, including amphetamines and Ecstasy, which he started selling. Dealing drugs was good business and with Rod’s gregarious personality, he was quickly the centre of attention in all the clubs.

Yet as the cash poured in, he felt dissatisfied. Something was missing. So he visited a bookie to try and fill the void. One bet and he was addicted to gambling, soon spending every spare hour betting on whatever caught his eye. He made thousands by night and lost thousands during the day.

At the age of 23, he started taking heroine, which soon took its toll on his health. He was frequently arrested, but somehow managed to get off the charges. His boss, too, was lenient with him. But his life was gradually falling apart.

Rock bottom

One morning, he got the shock of his life. His police officer father, Chris, was standing on the doorstep. But even after his dad ‘lectured the crap out of him’, there was little change. Yes, he was ashamed, but he couldn’t stop.

Rod Williams 5

Eventually, he quit his job at the finance company where he worked. His luck started to run out and the debts piled up. But instead of seeking help, he took a flight to Thailand, where he started taking what’s called the ‘crazy drug’ – Yaba, a methamphetamine – which causes serious health problems.

Back home after six months, he ended up in a crack house in Brixton, where he racked up debts so high he couldn’t pay them. One morning in early 2002, he surveyed the scene. He was surrounded by bodies, needles, vomit and blood. He had truly reached the bottom. So, he decided to make one last desperate attempt to escape the madness.

And that’s how he ended up in Guernsey airport with heroine in his socks.

A fresh start

Prison followed, of course. A four-year sentence. Yet after the despair came relief. That it was finally over.

And to his surprise, he discovered that even though he’d turned his back on his family, they hadn’t turned their backs on him. They visited him, loved him, supported him through the worst of times. They also lent him some Christian books, which finally brought him to his knees.

Literally.

One night, he knelt down and laid all his guilt and shame before God. He pleaded for forgiveness and healing. He cast himself upon Jesus because he had nowhere else to turn. He believed. Peace flooded through him. Joy filled his heart. A new life beckoned.

Rod Williams 6

Of course, many challenges remained. As he confessed, ‘I fell flat on my face on a number of occasions.’ Yet, just 18 months after being arrested, he was leading a Bible study in the prison, something foreseen (prophesied) by one of his dad’s mates. God had truly changed his life inside and out.

And so at Above Bar Church, we listened to his story – a modern day parable of the prodigal son. We heard that God’s love is extended to all, that there’s hope for all who turn from their sin and hand over their lives to Jesus.

And for the first time, there were those who made that step for the first time.

Embracing hope.

Receiving Jesus.

For as Rod testified, ‘he is the Real Deal.’

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