Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Darrell Tunningley started using drugs from the age of eleven. By the age of sixteen he was selling large quantities. He became a ‘debt collector’, on one occasion using a petrol grass strimmer on the bottom of someone’s feet who owed £300.
At aged seventeen, Darrell took part in an armed robbery, was arrested, and sentenced to five and a half years in prison. Whilst inside he went on an Alpha Course. He prayed, ‘God if you’re real, prove it. Take away my drug addiction, take away all this anger that’s inside me and if you do that for me, I’ll live the rest of my life for you’.
When he woke up the next morning the thought of touching a cigarette made him feel physically sick. He threw it out of the cell window and then he got his tobacco and threw that out of the window. Then he took his drugs and threw them out of the window. Then he stopped feeling sick.
When he looked in the mirror he didn't recognize the reflection because he was smiling – not just smiling, but beaming. Since that day he hasn't touched drugs. He hasn't smoked. He hasn't drunk. He hasn't been in a fight.
He started running Alpha Courses in the prison. Hundreds of people came on the courses. Prison officers started to come to speak to him for advice and counselling. When he left prison he became the assistant at a local church run by a pastor who is also a magistrate, Mark Finch. He married Mark’s daughter, Rebekah, and they now have two children.
When I interviewed him I asked him what difference Jesus has made. He replied, ‘I don’t say this lightly, I really do mean it, he [Jesus] is more important to me than the air I’m breathing.’ He says, ‘Now he’s my everything. He’s my lifeline, he’s my strength, he’s everything. I couldn't live without him and everything I do is through him and for him. My life wouldn't be the way it is if he wasn't exactly who he said he was’. Darrell’s life was totally changed because Jesus set him free from all his addictions, all his anger, and all the sin that was destroying his life.
Is it possible for us to change? One of the most difficult things in the world is to break from a bad habit or to give up sin. In one of today’s passages Jeremiah asks, ‘Can a leopard change its spots?’ (Jeremiah 13:23).