It was radical, people talk about radical encounters. I thought I was having a heart attack, I felt my heart for the first time in my life. I was 49 years old, my father was a violent man and my mother was a Christian. I don't know if you've ever seen the movie Once Were Warriors, well, that looked like a pretty good family to me.
My life was foster homes, boys' homes, youth prison, prison, rehab for heroin and alcohol. It was an ongoing cycle, just going around and around. I was on a treadmill that I never thought I would get off.
I had mental health issues: ADHD, OCD, Asperger's, and Dyslexia. There's one other, but I need my wife here to tell me that one, because I always forget.
I had moved to Kaikoura six years after the Christchurch Earthquakes. All I wanted to do was go fishing and hunting, and be left alone. I was trying to walk away from the gang I was with, which had been my whole life. Long story short, I had a hate for police, a full hate for police.
I got invited to this church by a guy that I knew in Kaikoura. Of course I couldn't come up with a lie because part of Asperger's condition is that I'm brutally honest and I have no filter. I just said to him, "Yes, I'll come."
I hated it, I couldn't stand the music. That's one thing that stood out to me, was that the Christian music was horrible. Everybody was really happy and that wasn't what I was used to. There were no drugs and no alcohol, but they seemed really happy. I saw that it was just a different world. I couldn't get out of there quickly enough; I left on the last song.
The following week, I saw that same pastor again. He invited me back and I still couldn't come up with a lie. I just happened to say, "Yeah okay, I'll see you there."
On the Saturday, I got pulled over by the police. I was arrested for my history and what had been going on in my life. I later found out that they had a poster the size of my chest up of me in their police station in Kaikoura, as a person of interest.
I had a lot of assault charges, and a lot of assault charges on police. But this cop came along to me and he treated me like how we should treat people. He was respectful and fair. When I look back at it now, I can see that he actually showed his heart.
I went home after they released me and I started festering with real anger again. It wasn't about that cop, it was about the authority coming against me. I had a lot of issues over the years with the police. Not all of it was my fault, but definitely not all of it was their fault either. I said to my wife that night, "I will never let go of the hate that I have for them."
The next day, we walked into the church. I was sitting at the back of the church and the music was just starting when the cop that pulled me over walked in with his four kids and his wife. He saw me standing at the back of the church.
I saw him and grabbed my wife. We stood up. I took her hand and said, "That's the cop that got me yesterday." I felt something in my heart right there and then. She said, "Don't go over and fight in church".
I've fought everywhere. I stabbed somebody in front of a prison guard because I just had to get him, because I didn't have any rules.
When he walked in, he just sat down and had his head down. I grabbed my wife's hand and I said, "Something's wrong. I don't know if I'm having a stroke or maybe a heart attack, but something's wrong with my chest. I've got pain in my chest." I keep looking at that cop and I said to my wife, "I just need to go over and talk to him."
When the church finished, I walked straight over, tapped him on the shoulder and said to him, "Hey bro, I'm sorry." He turned around, and he was crying. He said, "I'm sorry that I came and did that to you. I'm really sorry." And he said to me, "Do you mind if we pray for you?" I said, "Yeah". I didn't know what 'pray for me' was.
He said, "Come up to the front and I'll get some guys to pray with you." He went and got three other guys. They were all cops. All of them were cops. They all put their hands on me and started praying for me.
I felt something. I knew what God was giving me. It was the first time I'd ever felt empathy for somebody. That was the very first time. I'd never felt that before. I'd only ever had hate, rage, and anger in me.
Even when my mother died and my daughters died, I only got angrier. I never felt loss or sadness or anything. It was just hate, rage, and anger. This day I felt empathy because I felt for him. I realised that where I was standing, underneath that roof, he and I were brothers. Because I was in God's house.
It changed my whole life, just like that. I know now it was God softening my heart.
That day my whole life changed. It was like I was finally free, I finally came home, I finally belonged somewhere. I didn't just belong in gangs, prison, rehab or on the streets doing my rubbish. I finally belonged somewhere where there was actually love.
My hate for the police went that day. Completely gone. I never thought it would happen. I had only said I would hate them forever to my wife the day before.
I know a lot of people think that I lost my marbles that day because I just changed so much. Going from a man of crime to a man for Christ, I look at it now, and it's just off the rails.