'Jesus has completely changed my life'
Paul Warwick explains how faith in Christ has seen him change from a cycle of violence, crime and jail sentences, to a family man with a growing ministry who has won awards for his short films
I grew up in the borough of Wandsworth, south west London, and it’s fair to say I had a poor and disturbed childhood. My dad was an alcoholic, who used to sometimes hit my mum, and our flat had broken furniture and plaster falling off the walls. We didn’t have a bathroom and used to wash in the kitchen sink. I remember that I was a very frightened, serious and angry child.
I first got involved in knife crime when I was 15 years old in 1983. By that time I was already a prolific criminal who’d been in jail a couple of times – I regularly committed burglaries and stole cars.
One Friday night me and my pal I’ll call Danny were getting desperate, as we wanted money to go for a drink. I attacked a man in the street with a knife and we robbed him. And days later I stabbed another man in the arm.
At the end of 1983 I was sentenced to 10 months for three robberies. The day after I got released I stabbed someone and was sentenced to eight years for GBH, reduced to six years on appeal.
I got released in September 1988. After a couple of months though I started doing burglaries and other crimes, then bought a sawn off shotgun, but had to wait for the shotgun cartridges. One night I got into a fight outside a Wimbledon nightclub and me and my pal were attacked by a group of bouncers. We wanted to come back and shoot them, but we couldn’t get any shotgun cartridges at short notice.
I then got arrested for burglary and went back to jail for nearly two years. It was my first time in an adult prison. Life had just become a cycle of crime and prison sentences.
When I had six months left to serve at Camp Hill prison, I stabbed another inmate. I got put in the punishment block and after a week I finally broke down with the pressure of it all. I remember crying and for the first time ever I poured out my heart to God in prayer.
I told God that I didn’t want to live the way I’d been living for years. And I didn’t want to behave the way I’d been behaving for so many years. I told God I wanted to be good and I asked him to change me and give me another chance.
I know God heard that prayer and I’ve never done anything that violent since. I became a Christian over a year or so later in Brixton prison on my final sentence. I found Christian books on the landing, started reading them in my cell, and started going to church in there, and it instantly started changing me for the better. For example I suddenly stopped taking drugs. I then became a Christian by repeating the salvation prayer on a tract I’d found and I was released from prison in 1992.
When I got out though I backslid for six years and developed a schizophrenic illness, but despite this I am now a trained writer and a qualified, award-winning short film maker. I’ve been married 16 years to Tara, who I met at Christ Central Church, in Penge, south est London, and I’ve got two grown up stepchildren and two daughters.
I’m also part of a team that leads The Freedom Forum bible study and social group at Christ Church Anerley. And me and my wife Tara are also part of Mojo, a Christian ministry team who visit Wandsworth Prison. Just over a year ago we started attending Trinity Church London, a new church plant currently based in Waterloo.
Jesus has completely changed my life. And even though I backslid for six years when I got out of jail, I never got involved in serious crime again, and God broke the cycle of crime, prisons and hospital.
And I’m overwhelmed with the amount of love, kindness and compassion I’ve received from Christians over the years. People like Tom and Aideen Torok, Steve Nichols from The London City Mission, and so many others. God truly is amazing. I’ve got my own family now and so many wonderful Christian friends who love me. And that’s something I’ll be forever grateful for.
You can see more of my writing and films at www.paul-warwick.co.uk