As knife crime in Britain continues to hit the headlines, David Forsyth tells Becky Barlow how God helped him turn his life around.
David Forsyth spent his younger years brawling in the pubs and clubs of Glasgow. A notorious figure on the Drumchapel estate, David, now a published children’s author, was well known to police. And by the age of 17 he was very familiar with the inside of a prison cell.
David’s story could have ended there but God had other ideas. Decades later, the 63-year-old, who attends Glasgow Elim, now tells people about Jesus on the very estate that almost ruined him. He even plans to launch an Alpha Course there.
“It can only be God,” he tells iBelieve. “I’m not the same person I was 30 years ago.”
David dropped out of school at the age of 13, and his life spiralled out of control. By the age of 17 he had developed a hatred for the police which led to a sustained attack on two officers. This saw him hauled before a judge.
“The police had started to do regular stop and searches; people I went to school with were being murdered. I was very angry,” David recalls. “A group of us lost it with two policemen, hit them over the head with bottles, stabbed them, took their truncheons and attacked them.”
David was found not guilty on a technicality but spent the next three years in and out of prison as his life descended into chaos.
At the age of 20 he was given a three-year sentence when he was involved in a fight that saw his wife get pushed to the ground.
“I got a knife and I was going to use it,” he recalls. “I held weapons with a reckless indifference. I would wave around axes, knives and sticks.”
David was surrounded by hardened criminals in his first time in an adult prison.
“I was with some evil men,” he says. “They were boasting about burying people and one guy had killed three people. I made a promise to myself that if people like that ever came for me, I would bury them. I’d crossed a line. I’d made a conscious decision to take life.”
With a broken marriage behind him, David was bitter towards society. He decided to stop drinking and smoke cannabis instead, believing that this would lead him into less trouble.
But the incidents continued: “I was living in two worlds – in one I was trying to hold it together and in the other I was breaking to pieces through the drugs,” he says. “Then I decided to read the book of Revelation – on LSD.”David spent the next 18 months in a drug-addled haze.
“I was in a friend’s house taking drugs one night when a guy came in and started a fight. I got a knife and decided I was going to kill him. I heard a voice say, ‘Stop. You can’t kill someone.’ I let him go. It was something supernatural that had happened in my life but I didn’t understand it then.”
David was offered a job in Germany and spent the next 18 months travelling on a journey of self discovery.
“I stopped taking cannabis and started to think more clearly,” he says, and he decided to read the Bible whilst sober. “I wanted to get to grips with my world view and my thoughts on taking a life – was it right or wrong?”
Then, while he was walking home from work when living in Belgium, David met a group from Youth With A Mission.
“I’d been reading the Bible and I knew that I needed to give my life to God and become a Christian,” he says. “The next morning I woke up and I couldn’t believe the shame and guilt was gone. I knew my sins were forgiven. I was different.”
David has been at Glasgow Elim since 1995. “There’s nowhere else I’d be on a Sunday morning,” he says.
David’s former pastor James Glass is inspired by his turnaround story. He told iBelieve, “David has a fascinating and inspiring story to tell. As a young man growing up at a time when knife crime was the scourge of Glasgow, his lifestyle was one of drugs and violence. His search for truth and meaning was pushing him in the direction of secular ideology, when unexpectedly he discovered God’s grace.”
From iBelieve Magazine issue 75.