The ‘go-to’ man for some of Britain’s toughest gang leaders is now a preacher.
Simon Edwards was told he could spend the rest of his life behind bars after a string of armed robberies.
But after attempting suicide then being placed in the same cell as a born-again Christian, Simon turned to God.
The former hard man now runs his own organisation helping men find faith in Christ.
Simon’s incredible transformation comes after years of crime, violence and drug abuse.
Having suffered in Britain’s foster care system before turning to drugs and crime, he was told he may never be released from prison.
“I felt such shame that I’d left a family behind for this. I had also created a lot of victims from so many crimes that I’d committed.
[swpm_protected for="2-3-4" do_not_show_protected_msg="1"] “I had money, cars, vans and status" [/swpm_protected]
“My life went from burglary to car theft, to drug dealing to debt collecting, to violence and everything in between. I owned a roofing company with many men under me.
“I had money, cars, vans and status; all the trappings of a man doing what he wanted, when he wanted and to whom he wanted.
“Chuck in a couple of police sieges, more violence, and many threats on my life, from the drug gangs I’d robbed or upset. Life seemed great to me – I loved it!”
But the thrill of crime and police chases turned nasty when drugs began to grip Simon’s life.
“I discovered crack cocaine – that is when my life got really dysfunctional,” he said.
“I had to move up a step with the madness, which eventually led to me facing a life sentence in jail with a minimum of six years.”
Simon’s path to destruction was largely provoked from a childhood of abuse, spending most of his young life in the care system.
“My earliest memory is abuse,” he said.[/swpm_protected]
[swpm_protected for="2-3-4" do_not_show_protected_msg="1"] “I was abused, I was scared, I was lonely." [/swpm_protected]
“I remember going from several children’s homes to various foster parents. Later in life I found out I had 25 placements in my care order, 18 of those were before I was six.
“I was abused, I was scared, I was lonely and by the age of six I hated the world and did not trust anyone.
This feeling of loneliness was to become so deep that it over took my whole life.”
When Simon began his life sentence, even prison couldn’t stop him from feeding his drug addiction.
“My head was messed up, but I had more in me yet… more wheeling, dealing and drug-taking. Now I was addicted to medication on a massive scale and with that came more violence.
“Two-and-a-half years into this sentence I couldn’t cope any more. My relationship had broken down, I wasn’t seeing my daughter and I was heavily addicted to prescription drugs.”
It was at this point Simon came to the conclusion that the only way out was to end his life.[/swpm_protected]
[swpm_protected for="2-3-4" do_not_show_protected_msg="1"] Life was at an all-time low, but then God stepped in. [/swpm_protected]
“After taking packets of paracetamol and other pain killers and writing letters to my loved ones, I awoke to spewing up,” he said.
“This was not the plan. I was rushed to hospital, cuffed up to the prison officers and in a bad way. The events after this were so mad that I look back now and can see the Holy Spirit at work.”
Life was at an all-time low for Simon, but then God stepped in. He was transferred to Dovegate Prison near to Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, where he ended up sharing a cell with a born-again Christian.
“When I went into cell 15, it was like walking into a church with Bibles and crosses. My head was spinning. I was thinking what’s this? There were 1,100 prisoners in that prison; over 700 cells and I end up in this one. Then in walks a man: ‘Hello, my name’s Darren, I’m a born-again Christian. Do you want me to pack all this stuff away?’”
Simon was instantly struck by Darren’s humility and on September 18, 2009 at 10.30pm in cell 15 of HMP Dovegate, Darren led Simon in a prayer of salvation.
With an instant passion to share his newfound belief with others, Simon became an unlikely evangelist whilst behind bars and would preach the gospel and pray for other inmates.
When his sentence finally ended in 2009, he started Walk Ministries, a charity helping former inmates and drug addicts find employment, receive discipleship and other practical help. The team trains men in various trades and runs their own business ‘Cornerstone’, which gives the workers experience.
For more details, visit walkministries.org.uk[/swpm_protected]
This article was taken from the Spring 2020 digital issue of New Life Newspaper.