John Dawson

Profession: MC – Toastmaster

I am an only child, born in Hull in 1962.  My life must have seemed very pleasant as my dad was a builder and so we had an affluent lifestyle.  Unfortunately, all was not as it seemed as my parents were not well suited and from an early age I remember vicious arguments and violence from both parents on each other.  Gradually their marriage deteriorated so that when I reached about the age of 8, my dad stopped talking to my mum.  As a result, she would often take it out on me with physical abuse.

As I grew older I began to fight back.  Frequent arguments with my mum quickly became violent.  After school I started an apprenticeship as a vehicle mechanic.  In my twenties, my dad met another woman and decided to go and live with her.  They said I could come and live with them if I wanted.  I jumped at the chance.  We moved in the spring of 1984 into a house a few miles away from where my mum continued to live.

My parents now began divorce proceedings.  My dad was served with an injunction freezing all his assets.  When I went to get my money from my building society I was told that my account had been frozen by my mum as she claimed my money was my dad’s.  I went to see her and, as usual, it became a slanging match.  We started fighting and all of the past seemed to come at me.  I totally lost control, and killed her.  I was duly arrested and remanded in custody, charged with murder.

Nine months later I was found guilty and began my time in prison as a convicted murderer with a life sentence.  I had no release date and, at the time, no hope.  After a few months I began to get more and more depressed as I had no hope of release.  The weight of what I had done made me wonder if I should take my own life, but I didn’t have the courage to do it.

In the winter of 1988 I was that desperate, I saw a psychotherapist.  He let me unload myself and tell him how I felt.  On my second visit, he asked if I believed in Jesus.  This was like a red rag to a bull – what had God done for me in my life, apart from letting me be abused as a child and now letting me languish for the rest of my life in prison.  He never mentioned Jesus again, but he did teach me about repentance from the Bible.  After that, life for me began to get better.

At the end of 1989, to my amazement, I was transferred to a semi-open category ‘C’ prison after only 4 1/2 years of serving a life sentence.  I was elated to be transferred, and found myself in my new home in April 1990.  How strange it was, to be able to walk about on my own, and to have a key to my own room!  If heaven was a prison, then this was it.

I quickly settled in to my new surroundings.  I had a good friend called Norman who asked if I wanted to go and hear a Gospel group on Sunday night.  He persuaded me to go and help him put chairs out and somehow got me to stay and listen to Margaret Boler and the Hosanna singers.

As the group performed, one of the men, Ivor Heaton, took the role of the Apostle Peter and began to speak about what Jesus said.  He spoke of the evil in men’s hearts and their need to repent.  If they refused then they were destined for hell and not for heaven.  All the time that he spoke, his eyes never left me and it was as though he was speaking directly to me.  I decided that, instead of listening to his rubbish, I would get up and leave.  As I tried to get up, I felt as though something was pressing down on my shoulders.  I couldn’t stand!  The only thing I could do was to listen, and what I heard I found totally offensive – it was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

At the end of the meeting there was the opportunity to ask Jesus into your life but I wasn’t going to do that.  I didn’t need a religious crutch, like all those people who become Christians.  No, I could live my own life, thank you very much.  The reality, however, was that my life was now upside down.  I knew, deep down, that what Ivor Heaton had said was true.  My life was a mess and I needed to turn the other way because I was destined for hell.  Over the next few weeks I kept coming across people I had never seen before who said the same thing, “John, you need Jesus in your life.”  But pride ruled my will.  I was determined that Jesus was not coming into my life.

The next couple of weeks were just a daze.  One night I lay on my bed staring at the ceiling, mulling things over.  I decided that I had to make a decision.  I began talking out loud, “Jesus, if you are real, will you please come into my life as they say you will, because I can’t go on like this, it is tearing me apart.”  I began to list all the things I had done wrong in my life, starting with my mother, and asking Jesus to forgive me.  After that I had one of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had.

I woke next morning feeling as though a heavy weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The day was 17th June 1990.  It was a wonderful summer morning as I went to the dining hall for my breakfast.  On the way a guy I knew said “Yo, John boy how ya doin’?”  To my amazement I leapt in the air with raised hand and said “I believe in Jesus.”  He never spoke to me again!  A new chapter had started, I was born again and real life was just beginning.

Since my release in 1997, I have married Jenny who is my joy and daily delight.  In the past year, Jesus has taken me into an evangelistic ministry that started with a trip to Romania in 2006 – a miracle in itself, as I am not technically allowed to travel abroad.  At last I have all that I could ever have wished for and I know where I am going.  All thanks to Jesus.