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Article of the week

From Salvationist 17 August 2019


From Asbo to apology

In his third reflection on encounters with characters in the community, Major Richard Durrant remembers Sid

SID was one of those people we would often see at the hall during the week and sometimes on Sundays. Although he was not a rough sleeper, he would mix with other people experiencing homelessness. A towering, muscular man, well over six feet tall, he was the first person in the county of Worcestershire to receive an Asbo*.

He was generally fine with us. In many ways he was like a child; if we tried to engage with him on his level he was usually OK. Our charity shop manager, Marie, was particularly good with him, and this is where my story about Sid starts.

One day he wandered into the shop having had a bit to drink and feeling rather down. Marie suggested that he went over the road to the Elim Pentecostal church where home evangelist Colin Dean was starting a ‘bacon butty Bible study’. She asked a volunteer to look after the shop while she took Sid across and he joined in with the group. He went again the next week and the week after that, then one day, praise God, knelt and gave his heart to the Lord.

A really dramatic change took place in Sid’s life. He stopped drinking, which had been a real problem for him, and really did turn things around, with Colin providing great support.

Like Zacchaeus, Sid wanted to apologise and put things right with those he had hurt. After thinking this through with Colin’s help, he first went to the police station. A meeting was arranged with the three main sergeants, who had all dealt with his unruly behaviour on numerous occasions. They were thrilled at the change and received him warmly as they accepted his apology.

He then went to visit the independent shopkeepers in the area – those he had terrorised and sometimes put in a headlock while he demanded alcohol or money. They were a little nervous but welcomed his apology and were pleased to see the change in him.

Then came a difficult task. Sid felt he wanted to apologise to the people living in Worcester, where he had caused so many problems over the years. On one occasion there had been a queue at the cinema with many families present. In a rage he smashed the plate glass window, scaring the children.

It was decided that Sid would issue an apology through the local newspaper. In an interview with one of the reporters Sid said sorry to the citizens of the city and explained the change that God had made in his life. The headline in the Worcester News that week was about the change that had come over him. It was also on the posters outside the newsagents.

Sid went on to help Colin with community projects and write a short booklet telling his story, in which he more than once mentioned the part The Salvation Army played.

I checked recently and understand that, although he hasn’t been so well, he is still keeping his faith some 19 years on. The change in his life has been real and permanent.

John Gowans wrote: ‘I believe in transformation,/ God can change the hearts of men’ (SASB 34). Sid is a living example of that – so much like those ‘trophies of grace’ that were common in the early days of the Army. John 3:16 says: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ That message struck Sid at those bacon butty Bible studies after being encouraged to attend by our charity shop manager. What a witness his story is!

*Asbos (anti-social behaviour orders) were civil rather than criminal orders restricting people from entering areas or places, and sometimes included bans on specific acts, such as drinking alcohol or swearing in public. They were designed to prevent behaviour that would make life difficult for communities.

MAJOR DURRANT IS CORPS OFFICER, NORTH WALSHAM                                                                                                                                 

  • Check out this week's comment from the Editor here.



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