David is now nearly 60 years old. He grew up in and has spent most of his life in south-east London and he currently lives in Anerley with his wife, Katie, and one of their two children.
David grew up with ten brothers and sisters. David’s mum was a Catholic and he was brought up in this faith, being baptised and attending a Catholic school.
At the age of 15, David’s mum suddenly gave up her Catholic faith and stopped attending church, and David and his siblings no longer had to either.
Within a short time David suddenly went off the rails, smoking cannabis and getting into petty crime, lying, and sleeping around. He started getting arrested a lot and at one point got sent to a remand home for the short, sharp, shock treatment.
When David was 18 he was kicked out of the family home by his mum and dad. He then went to live in the Lake District with his brother. David got a job, but couldn’t really afford to live there, and he broke into the electricity meter in his bedsit and stole the money. He then fled back to London. It was 1974.
Because he was worried about the police hunting him for the meter theft, he then fled again, to Guildford. He arrived with no money in his pocket and in the pouring rain, so he went into a church. In those days churches were always open.
He then knocked on the door of the vicar’s house. David told him that he needed help and was in trouble. The vicar said, “Don’t worry, we’ll sort it all out.” The vicar gave David a meal. The vicar’s name was David Pawson, who later became a very successful author.
The vicar took David to a house on the edge of Guildford, where he could stay with five Christian students. The students immediately started to tell David the gospel, and he said the salvation commitment prayer.
Later that night when David was in bed in the room he’d been given, the room was suddenly filled with light. David started praying in tongues for the first time, and the students ran into his room, excited. They switched on the electric light, unaware of the godly light David had seen, and they told David that praying in tongues meant he’d been baptised in the Holy Spirit. For David it was a wonderful and amazing experience, as he’d felt enveloped in God’s love, and he’d never experienced anything like that before.
David stayed in the house for a while and the Christians there helped him out and found a bedsit in Guildford for him. One of the guys he’d stayed with gave him a loan of £200, which was a lot of money in those days. David also found a job as a chef.
He started going to church in the area, and gave himself up to the police for breaking into the electric meter. He was taken back up to the Lake District in handcuffs. He told the magistrate in court that he’d become a Christian and the magistrate let him off.
He continued attending the very large church in Guildford which had a congregation of 1,000 people, but he started to feel dissatisfied as the Christians there couldn’t answer his challenging questions about God.
David then ‘made friends’ with his mum and dad again and they invited him to come back home, and he started going to a very small church his dad attended in Penge, south-east London, which had a congregation of about 30 to 40 people. David didn’t find the church to be very spiritual and started mixing with members on the edge of the church community – people who attended church but didn’t live as committed, spiritual Christians, and who were more into the hippy scene. David started taken drugs with them and sleeping around again, and soon he just stopped attending church.
David then started getting back into petty crime and went back to live in the Lake District. He got a girl pregnant, not knowing that she was only 15. They both then moved to Essex and started living in squats. David married his pregnant girlfriend when she was 16. David said living in squats was crazy and a bit like the comedy programme The Young Ones. He lived with a mixture of hippies, skinheads, punks and Hells Angels who were into all sorts of things.
At that time, someone told him that if he got a job in Durham, they would give him a free house. David and his wife moved there; he got a job and then a house.
When David’s first son was 18 months old, he accidently pulled a boiling hot pot of tea over himself, had serious burns and nearly died. When David’s son was three, David and his wife broke up. By now they also had another child who was a year old. David was heartbroken that they’d split, and shortly after, he had a nervous breakdown. David had lost his wife, his kids, was taking drugs, drinking, could no longer hold a job down, and his wife wouldn’t let him see his children. He’d reached rock-bottom.
When David became ill he began hallucinating and seeing and imagining things. His behaviour became very bizarre. He’d do things like eat watch batteries, thinking they’d give him power. He climbed electricity pylons and ran across motorways at night with his eyes closed. There were times when he ‘went walkabout’ and he’d wake up naked in the countryside, not knowing what he’d done or how he’d got there. And he heard voices.
This went on for about three or four years before his parents realised that he was acting more and more oddly. They had him sectioned and taken into Cane Hill mental hospital. He was in hospital seven times in three years, twice on a section. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
David was seriously ill for a long time, until 1989. He’d been released from hospital and given a bedsit. He was on massive amounts of medication and was still also taking street drugs. He felt like he didn’t want to live anymore, and was contemplating suicide. David’s bedsit was high up, and one Sunday he’d been thinking about killing himself by stepping out of his window. He then watched Songs of Praise on TV and he decided he’d either kill himself or go to church and see if God would take him back. He then went to his local church, Christ Church Anerley.
For six months David attended the church and would sit at the back, and at the end of the service he would quickly leave so that he didn’t have to talk to anyone. Then the pastor preached about faith and called people to come forward if they wanted prayer, and David suddenly felt as if he had a calling on his life. When the pastor asked David what he wanted prayer for, David felt embarrassed to say that he had schizophrenia and that he wanted to be healed of it. The pastor laid hands on David and prayed. In an instant, David just knew he’d been healed. He then left the church on cloud nine and he never took medication for schizophrenia again. He still got the medication on prescription, though, as he was partly scared to tell the psychiatrist that he weren’t taking the medication. He feared they’d put him back in hospital. But after a year his psychiatrist said to him, “You seem so much better now, I think we’ll lower you dose.”
David then told him that he hadn’t taken medication for a year, and the baffled psychiatrist couldn’t do anything, because he could see David was well. By now David had a cupboard full of medication. Antipsychotics, antidepressants and tranquillisers – he just threw them all away.
After David was healed, Christians had given David the scripture, Joel 2:25, which states, “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (KJV). David was a bit sceptical, though, and questioned God, asking him how God was going to do this. David felt sad that he’d had a wife, two children and had lost them and so many other things, and he couldn’t see how God would restore these things back to him. However, David met Katie in 1995. He married her and they have two children, a son, Isaac, who’s now a young adult and has left home, and a daughter, Rebecca, who is now a teenager.
After David was healed he started to attend Cornerstone church in Bromley. He began serving as a steward, becoming head of the stewarding team. Then he was asked to start preaching sermons. He did that for ten years at Cornerstone. The minister, Hugh Osgood, recommended David to a Bible College that was looking for a teacher. David spent more than five years teaching there.
He then taught at another Bible College for a while, but stopped. He continued preaching regularly at a number of different churches, which he’d been doing for many years anyway, not just at Cornerstone. Over the years he’d also led retreats, gave counselling to people, wrote some books, started a charity for the mentally ill, and created a lot of art.
From when David got healed in 1989, until 2001, he was fine, but then he developed the physical illness ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. He was 45. It was five years, though, before doctors diagnosed David with ME, and during this time, at its worst, David was sometimes so weak that he couldn’t even put his trousers on by himself or lift a cup of tea to drink. He was also in physical pain and rarely got much sleep.
David doesn’t know why God healed him of one illness, the schizophrenia, but hasn’t yet healed him of ME, even though he’s prayed about it countless times over the years, and also had many other people praying for him. David has learned to live with the ME and has still been able to give lectures and preach, even though it often made him exhausted afterwards, and he would have to come home and go straight to bed.
David is philosophical about the ME, and glad that God still uses him, even though the illness has limited his life in lots of ways. He relates to the Bible scripture 1 Corinthians 1:27: “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (NIV). Another scripture that people have given him and which he also relates to and takes comfort in is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (NIV).
David also relates to Paul the apostle who referred to his suffering as having a thorn in the flesh, which he begged God to take away, but God didn’t (see 2 Corinthians 12:7).
David has adjusted to living with ME. And even though it’s a debilitating and frustrating illness to have, David feels that God has been kind to him, and the fact is, he definitely isn’t crazy anymore. That’s something he is still very grateful for. Even though he’s got ME, he still feels very much loved by God.