In summary……selfish bastard, alcoholic, brawler, convicted criminal, divorcee, businessman, Manchester United fanatic. Or that is what I was. Now….I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace, an entrepreneur who puts every penny he earns into J10:10’s work and I haven’t had a drink for 8 years – non-coincidentally the time that I have been following Jesus and not my own whims. I founded J10:10 in 2009 and I love what we do – serving the spiritually and materially poor on the web, in Uganda and in the UK. I believe that faith without works is dead and I’m so grateful for the chances that God has given me and the difference he has made in my life and through J10:10’s work. I live half my life in Uganda and the other half in Salford which allows me to be fanatical about Jesus and Man United. Fortunately in that order!

Here is the full story, grab a coffee as its long:

My name is Jon Pedley. I’m a new-ish Christian. I am 42 years old but I only became a Christian on 28thFebruary 2004 – nearly eight years ago. I come from a normal background. I’m the eldest of 6 kids and we had a … sort of … church going upbringing – we went to church every couple of weeks and to Sunday school every week when we were kids.

I was actually about 13 when I made my conscious decision – I chose the world and not God. I fell sick with an illness that causes more damage and harms more people across the globe than any other. I fell sick with a disease called Selfishness.

At 13, it became all about me. I started living only for me – cheap thrills, smoking and drinking – all funded by theft from my shops and my parents. I was one of the “in” crowd – which meant I was a bully. I didn’t realise this till I first wrote this story. I would stand up for any kid being beaten up or picked on physically – but the next day I’d make the same kid the butt of one of my jokes to make my mates laugh. So I was a bully – I cared about the “in” crowd and being part of it.

I left school at 15 and at 16 I left home – to concentrate full-time on myself. It’s here that I need to philosophise for a moment. I remember walking home early one morning, slightly drunk, from a party with a mate in the summer before my seventeenth birthday. It was summer and a beautiful morning. I was young, healthy, in a relationship and work was going well but I was only earning the princely sum of £113.70 – a fortnight. And I said to my mate, “If I could one day earn £120 a week – then I’d be happy”.

And actually most of my life was spent like that. I’d set a goal which, if I achieved it, I was sure would mean TOTAL happiness. And every time I achieved that goal I’d look inside myself and find that the hole inside me was still there. That there was still something missing. So I dedicated my life to trying to find it – but I looked in ALL the wrong places. I looked where the world and the media tells us we should – money, possessions, booze, drugs, relationships and cheap thrills. And I didn’t find it – the thing that would make me whole.

I worked all over the UK – from Hereford, to Manchester, to Birmingham, up to Glasgow and then down to London. I hurt people everywhere I went – relationship after relationship ended through boredom or promotion – I would move in with the latest girlfriend and promise UNDYING love and then I’d meet someone else or get promoted to a different office – and dump them. At 19, I moved to London – a recipe for disaster because it was like putting a very greedy, selfish kid in a sweetshop with no security guards! If from 16 – 19 I was fairly selfish then from 19 – 22 I became totally and utterly self-centred. I’d come from a nice home, had a good upbringing – but I despised the safe life my parents had and abandoned any morality I’d been taught. I built up debt after debt – I would find a flat I liked, pay the deposit and the first months rent and then not pay any rent before I did a runner after about 6 months. I had girlfriend after girlfriend, drank heavily every day if I could afford it and wasted money on anything I wanted. When a girlfriend I was living with got pregnant, it was inconvenient so we aborted the baby with absolutely no thought, not a care in the world – problem – borrowed £135 – baby gone. I hate what I was then and what I would be for another 15 years.

At 21 I set up my own business – in partnership with some very dodgy, older people. I had no morals – when money got tight I sold all the furniture in the flat that I was renting. When I got paid twice by mistake for a deal I spent the money and didn’t think about the consequences – until I was standing in the dock at Southwark crown court staring down the stairs to the cells and a transfer to Brixton prison. The judge showed mercy and my sentence was suspended – but I didn’t change.

At 22 my business went bust – after my dodgy partners had borrowed some money off some really dodgy, heavyweight people. I owed bad people money – and my “friends” had disappeared. I find this to be a common thing in the world outside the Christian community – when the going gets tough, your so-called mates get going – at high speed away from you. I got a call from my partner who said, “It’s all gone wrong – we’ve gone bust and there’s heavies at the office. Don’t go back there – I’ve legged it.”

So…I went back to the office. I faced the music. And several men, all of whom were very unhappy and two with guns, two with dogs. Unknown to me, my partners had hired some people who were related to some very bad people and had borrowed money from them. My partner, Barry, had given them his home address as security – and when they had gone to see him they were a little disappointed to find not Barry’s house but a fruit and veg shop – he’d given them a false address. I started to pay them back which resulted in me being unable to work my usual scam – I lost my flat. I slept rough in London – at railway stations and even in office doorways. It is so flipping cold. I was too proud to call my parents and say “I got it wrong.” I eventually “blagged” a dodgy hotel in North London by borrowing money off a married woman I had been sleeping with to give them a week’s hotel room cost up front. After that I made up a story about my company sending a cheque because I’d be staying there for 6 months for work.

I was still being chased for money, the blag at the hotel was wearing thin, and a return to the streets looked like my next stop. I got more and more desperate, more and more tired and I decided that I just didn’t want to wake up anymore.

So…I went with the £600 I’d borrowed (stolen) off the married woman, bought a lot of sleeping pills, bought a litre of whisky, wrote a suicide note to my married lover and my mum and dad and then……at 22 years old I had my first direct encounter with God.

This is a difficult story to tell for several reasons:

  1. I gave up and stopped fighting
  2. You may think I’ve exaggerated it, made it up or enhanced it some way – I haven’t.
  3. It is amazing and it didn’t change my life – which shows what a dickhead I was.

I had decided I couldn’t go on. So, on the chosen day I took the married woman’s

cashpoint card to a cash machine and got £50 out. At 12pm I went to the pub – no surprise there – and the plan was straightforward. Have a few drinks and get pissed – back to the hotel, wash down the 48 sominex and some paracetamol with a litre of whisky and pass out never to wake again. In the pub at 12, at about 1:45 pm I’m four or five pints in and I get talking to two girls. I’m telling jokes and generally playing the fool to pull one of them to feed my ego one more time before I die.

About 2:45pm I decide I need a pee! The beer is coming through! So I go into the gents and I’m standing at the urinal having a pee when a voice behind me says “I need to talk to you.” I look round and see an old man of about 60, assume he’s homosexual, assume he’s making a pass at me and tell him “F off mate, I’m not interested.”

“No, you don’t understand, I just want to talk to you” he says. I finish peeing and turn round, aggressively and I’m a lot taller and broader than him and forty years younger and say “F off mate or I’ll f-ing smack you.”

Then I look at him properly for the first time and realise that he’s more embarrassed then any person I have ever seen before. He really does not want to be in this gent’s toilet with sixteen stone of drunk, aggressive 22 year-old.

“You’re in trouble” he says – and I feel like he’s punched me but I keep the pretence up. “What the f are you talking about mate? I’m having a few drinks and I’ve pulled – p off.”

“No, you’re in trouble” he says, and I realise he’s scared, embarrassed and not going to shut up and I don’t know what to do. He carries on – “I was told to come in here and tell you that I know you’re in trouble and that Jesus loves you and wants you to know that you mustn’t give up.”

“What?” I say – because I can’t say anything else. “Jesus loves you and you mustn’t give up – and He told me to come in here and tell you that.”I left the gents, got rid of the two girls and had another pint. I went back to the hotel, threw the pills away and drank the whiskey.

I woke up the next day with a hell of a hangover. And I knew what I was going to do. For no logical reason I went to see a man called Phil Skorochod who I’d done a deal with a few weeks earlier. There was a good chance that he would know by now that I’d ripped him off. We hadn’t particularly got on but I felt that God (?!) wanted me to try and get a job with him. So I said, on the tube on the way there, “I’ll try it – if it doesn’t work I’ll give up.”

It worked. I got the job, got the company car and lived in my bright red Peugeot 205 diesel at Toddington services on the M1 for four months.

I learned nothing. You would expect me to say – after this miracle “I became a Christian and lived a worthwhile and good life.” I didn’t. My miracle became my party conversation when I was drunk. I was 33 – ten years later when I told someone about it sober. I married the married woman I was seeing when I was homeless because after the nightmare uncertainty of my life, I just wanted stability. I didn’t really love her, didn’t fancy her and just wanted a wife and two kids……she agreed to be my wife and already had two kids – perfect. Not. I failed her terribly. We had two children but I spent very little time with them because money became my god. I earned it, worshipped it and wasted it. I had a good income and, once the bills were paid, I spent it, selfishly, on me. I drank more and more and more. Pretty much every night from 25 to 35 I drank between seven and twelve pints of strong lager and between one and two bottles of wine – minimum!

Life was still all about me – and money. I got to 30 and had what the world tells us we should aspire to – a big house, a good income, a big flash car, and foreign holidays. And I was still unhappy – there was something missing.

“Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, together with such non-material blessings as a happy family, and yet lead lives of quiet, and at some times noisy desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many motor cars and television sets they stuff it with, however many well-balanced children and loyal friends they parade around the edges of it……….it aches.”

That was me…….so – you would expect me to say that I started to search for God. No, in an effort to find happiness I fell in lust and in love with my wife’s best friend. After a drunken kiss we began an affair and six whole weeks later we moved in together. I trashed two marriages, and the lives of six children, four grandparents…. and I regularly lost contact with my children as their mum tried to hurt me back by stopping my seeing them.    Sarah, my new partner, and I moved to Aberystwyth. I got divorced and won the biggest deal of my life. This made me arrogant as well as selfish.

On June 25th 2002, I went out for dinner and drinks with customers in Birmingham. I got drunk and had a fight – par for the course. On June 26th 2002, I got into my car in Birmingham at 5am after no sleep and lots of alcohol. At 6:10am on Wednesday 26th June 2002 I crashed. I drove under a van at 90mph after I had fallen asleep. I broke both the legs of the van driver. We were both rushed to intensive care where they didn’t expect me to live. I was very, very sick. The police estimated the combined impact of the crash at 140mph. I was cut from the car and they thought that I would die.

I was in a coma for nearly 6 weeks, my parents and Sarah were told 7 times that I would be dead by the morning, I acquired a collection of 7 plates and 37 screws that I still have and I lost the sight in my right eye.

I discharged myself from hospital – and I learnt absolutely nothing again. I came back worse – I genuinely thought that I was indestructible.

The hospital had wanted me to stay in their care till December or January. I went home in a wheelchair at the start of September and concentrated on getting out of it and getting back to work – which I did in October. I couldn’t drive because of my injuries – so I got a driver which meant I could drink more and more alcohol. Sarah, who had nursed me for 20 hours a day whilst I was in a coma, and I fought endlessly because of my attitude, aggression and alcoholism. I was a monster.   We split up and I started another relationship with another married woman – I started wrecking more lives. In early 2003, I was drunk and lost, I was seriously damaging another marriage and another two children’s lives. I was fighting (still in my plaster cast) and constantly aggressive. I had another row with my ex-wife and lost access to my children AGAIN.

I was still living by the world’s rules – win at any cost – even though living that way had nearly cost me my life. I knew I needed something central to my life – I started to try and find it. I bought dozens of motivational posters, started fund-raising – looked everywhere. I looked at all the world’s major religions and discounted them one by one. I went to church in my village – seven other worshippers – all over 70, and left there thinking “Christianity is dead.”

Then my driver said, “Try St Mikes” and I did. I went to St Mike’s in Aberystwyth for the first time and it was different. I looked into the faces of people older than me, younger than me, male and female – all types of people – and I could see God in their lives. I could see that they had something I didn’t – and I wanted it too. I tried desperately to hate them, to find the catch, to find a reason to junk this like I’d junked everything else – but I couldn’t.

I enrolled on an Alpha course in January 2004 and found out something amazing – Christians have a sense of humour. I also learnt something far more important. You see I’d always believed in a God. The concept of this world and humankind in particular being a cosmic fluke had never made sense to me. I’d believed in God but I’d never really looked at Jesus. As a kid I think I’d have classified Him as someone unnaturally nice who always wore white and had facial hair – a bit of a wimp. Alpha made me look at the Jesus that I had ignored all my life. And, to my amazement, I found someone in the bible that I could relate to. More than that – someone I could admire. Jesus wasn’t a wimp – He was deeply rebellious, fundamentally revolutionary and indisputably strong. Yet, whilst never compromising, never backing down, never giving in and always fighting for those who couldn’t fight for themselves – He was kind, loving, compassionate and caring. They told me that He cared enough to die for me – I really wasn’t sure.

But I started to go to St Mikes every week – when sober. I started to say to Jesus “Come into my life” – but I didn’t really mean it, I meant “Come into my life as long as I can still…

…drink at weekends.

…pull women

…have an Aston Martin DB7 before I die.” I honestly prayed all of those prayers!

Being a Christian has made me be ruthlessly honest in all areas of my life. CS Lewis wrote: “For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.”

When I examined myself I looked upon a life that the world would consider successful – and that I had thought was pretty admirable. And I found a litany of lies that had hurt everyone from my parents, to my lovers, to my children. I found a series of dishonesties that had damaged other people and their businesses. I found a human being that was addicted to alcohol – and more damaging – addicted to himself. I was living a life absolutely centred on me, and the cost to others – and to myself was massive. Failed businesses, broken lives and damaged kids. And I learnt nothing ever – I couldn’t change.  I had appeared in court and been given suspended prison sentences – and then broken the law again. I had a failed marriage because of an affair – and I cheated on the girl I left my wife for. And……….I’ve drunk driven with my children in the car – since the crash that nearly killed me. I learnt nothing ever – I couldn’t change.

I couldn’t change – I couldn’t break free of the cycle of sin that I fell into when I left home at 16. And then, on the Alpha weekend away, on February 28th 2004, aged 35, I finally stopped fighting the only person who wouldn’t ever leave me, the only person who wouldn’t ever stop loving me – Jesus Christ.

I asked Jesus to come into my life, to take away the hurt – to make me whole. And despite the rejection and even hatred I had shown Him over the years…He did.

I said “Lord, I want you in my life and I will do anything you want me to do if you’ll be with me always.” There was no bang, no thunder and no lightning. Bloody disappointing actually! But a week later my six year old son turned to me while we were walking through town, and he tugged my hand and completely out of the blue said, “Happy New you Dad.” “What son?” I said. “Happy New you Dad,” he repeated. “You’re like a brand new person.”

And he’s right. Over the past eight years I’ve seen the difference that Jesus has made in my life. One dramatic difference is that from drinking ten pints of Stella and two bottles of wine a night, I’m now teetotal – God took away my addiction. I couldn’t have done it myself so I took it to God and I made my sobriety the centre of my relationship with him. If I have booze I can’t have Him because I turn my back on Him when I drink – and that is an easy choice. The other big difference is that, as you know, I’ve stopped chasing money and started serving the God that I love and the people that he loves most – the materially poor in Uganda and the spiritually poor in the UK that we bring out here. I now spend half of my life in Africa building; bullying construction staff(!) and trying to do God’s will and make this bruised, broken world a slightly better place.

I now try to live my life in a way that pleases Him – and all my relationships are better, stronger and truer. I have a sense of my own self-worth – seven years ago I really didn’t like me – now whilst I know I have a long way to go, I accept that God loves me as His child – even though He knows ALL about me!

It hasn’t all been a bed of roses – shortly before I became a Christian I changed my successful consultancy business into a supply business – for a number of reasons – greed (I wanted more money), pride (I didn’t feel I was getting the recognition I deserved) and spite (I’d had a fall-out with a business partner and wanted to hurt them). When times got tough I prayed – that’s what they tell you to do! And based on my agenda of pride, spite and greed God didn’t help me! But He did. Because as I sat in my hotel room one night and realised that I couldn’t make it work, that I had to liquidate the business, that I’d lost a load of money and that I could lose my house……….I prayed. It wasn’t an eloquent prayer, it wasn’t very long and I didn’t realise at the time how important it was. “Lord, I can’t make this work and I know it’s going to be bad – but as long as you’re with me I’ll be all right.” That was the night I finally stopped worshipping money, status and other people’s opinions. A massive watershed in my life. And God helped me to put things back together.

One of my most favourite bible verses is from Hebrews: “He Himself has said after all “I will never, ever leave you or forsake you.” That’s why we can be cheerfully confident and say, “The Lord is helping me, I’m not going to be afraid, what can anyone do to me?” And so I don’t do fear – and I’m starting not to do worry.

I was SO scared about becoming a Christian! I was convinced that I’d become an “un-person”! That I’d somehow be less – now I look back and can’t believe how black and white my old life was next to the fantastic, Technicolor experience of knowing God and living how He made me to live. Now I have finally given my life to God I have found out that it is an experience that is full of joy. Becoming a committed Christian has made me real friends – not the fair-weather ones I used to have. I still have a laugh, I still have ambitions, goals and dreams, but at the centre of them is Jesus Christ.

I tell everyone I meet about what Jesus Christ has done for me – about my brand new life. I finally understand that when Jesus suffered on the cross He suffered for me. I now know that if, apart from Pilate, the soldiers and the High Priest, only I had been alive that day 2000 years ago – Jesus would still have died – just for me.

And I want to tell everyone what he has done for me – so that they can choose freedom as I have. The aching hole that I spoke about at the start of this talk, the “thing” that would make me happy, that would make me whole, make me complete? I found it! Or it found me. The thing that makes me happy, that makes me whole, that has made me complete – is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As long as God and I are okay then I’m okay.

And it feels absolutely flipping fantastic!