24 April 2015
Prison saved my life
Richard Taylor is just 23, but has spent the last eight years in prison. Following a difficult childhood, he "went off the rails" at 14 and was sentenced to life imprisonment by Newcastle Crown Court for being involved in a fight with a knife. He told idea magazine his incredible story.
"I grew up in an abusive home. I was violently abused by my stepdad and I was bullied at school, which led to me going off the rails, "Richard begins through his thick Geordie accent, speaking about the build up to the incident that left him behind bars at 14.
"I had always believed in God. When I started my sentence I started to explore other religions, but eventually I realised that Jesus was the true way and I prayed so hard to get out [of prison], but nothing ever happened. So I started to read about the devil and things, and I ended up having an unhealthy obsession with him. One night in January 2012 I gave my life to the devil, and I had become a Satanist.
"Following his commitment to Satanism, Richard still went to the prison chaplain – mostly to see his friends. But then something happened: "In the midst of the madness, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me that I was going to be going back to God, and going back to God sooner than I thought. I just dismissed it, but on 20 August, 2013, the Holy Spirit hit me in the exercise yard." While having this free time, Richard said God opened his eyes to the dangers of being a Satanist and what it really meant to 'mess around with his soul, and the reality of hell and how serious this thing actually was'.
"When I was getting let out, I stood by the gates with my bags and stopped. I prayed: 'Jesus, I met you in here, and I need you to come out with me."
"Eventually it led to my repentance to God."While in prison, Richard completed the Alpha Course – "which I passed with flying colours!" – and was supported by Junction 42, a charity working in partnership with Reflex. But reading the testimonies of others was how he was most encouraged.
"I was helped by how they had been right low in the depths of darkness, as I was. After hearing their testimonies I wanted so bad to get out of Satanism. I just wasn't happy anymore. I wanted what Jesus was offering.
"The Holy Spirit confirmed that He was real and that He did love me and He wanted to bring me out of that place. He wanted to help me to help other people who are in darkness right now to get out."
Despite the strength Richard found in God, prison was tough. "It is hard [to be a Christian in prison], but if you surround yourself with the word of God you really understand what Jesus is saying. He said if the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. He says to stand firm, because your rewards are with Him in heaven. He says look to Him with every problem, because when Jesus was on earth he was faced with every temptation we face."
Richard can remember the day he was released. "When I was getting let out, I stood by the gates with my bags and stopped. I prayed: 'Jesus, I met you in here, and I need you to come out with me.' When I got out I spent a lot of time in my room. I didn't know how to deal with the outside world because I'd been in for so long."
He said his release was "overwhelming". Prison is a completely different world to the outside, with structure and rules all becoming compared to freedom. "I was surprised just how different the Church is out here, and how lost people are these days. Everything has changed."
So what would he like to see the Church doing to support ex-offenders like him?
"Love them and just really follow the word of God. Take in what Jesus is saying. If you forgive, your father in heaven will forgive you. Jesus said: 'Whatever you do for one of these, you do for me', so the blessing becomes greater."
Richard now plans to go to Bible college, and is giving his testimony to encourage others, "which is my total pleasure".
"It is hard being a Christian but at the same time I wouldn't swap it for any other luxury. I like the freedom I have in Christ and as hard as it is I wouldn't want anything else."