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‘I read about Noah… it changed my world’

Hazel Southam reports on how a Christian-based project is helping recovering alcoholics turn their life around

‘I drank until I collapsed and then I would continue in the morning,’ says 49-year-old Ken Edwards.

Ken is a recovering alcoholic. He started drinking at the age of 12 having seen his father drink.

‘It dawned on me that if he was happy when he drank, I could be too,’ he says.
As a child he spent all his pocket money on alcohol, then started stealing his father’s lager. ‘I carried on drinking [for 35 years] until my main relationships ended.’

On a normal day he’d drink eight cans of Tennent’s Super lager ‘plus whatever friends gave’ him.

When he got half way through his supplies Ken would start drinking through a straw in a bid to make the beer last longer.

But two years ago, Ken decided to give up drinking and found himself at the Christian-based New Hanbury Project in Shoreditch, East London.

Here, more than 100 recovering addicts are offered training in everything from literacy to Spanish, computing and gardening. When a fellow former addict asked for a Bible study class to be added to the roster, Ken decided to go along.

‘When I was a kid we were sent to a Seventh Day Adventist church and we were scared to death,’ he recalls. ‘There was lots of crying and praying.

‘We thought they was going to eat us in a minute. That was my idea of church: people going mad.

‘Now I’m a steward at Frampton Park Baptist Church and I go there every Sunday.’

He credits the Bible study classes, run by the project’s manager Sheona Alexander, as having made all the difference.

‘I read the Bible passages myself until I get the meaning,’ he says. ‘I read about Noah. I loved that. It changed my world.

‘It was an act of random kindness that saved the world. I thought, “I can do that.” So now I give my seat to someone on the Tube. It all helps.’

Sheona Alexander, the project’s manager, remembers starting the Bible studies with Psalm 139. ‘They loved it,’ she says. ‘I thought the Bible could do this, so in a way I wasn’t surprised [to see lives changed]. It is the living Word of God.’ 

‘It’s not been a one-evening wonder,’ she adds. ‘It’s been a long journey for all of them. Through that we have seen some fruit. It’s been exciting and humbling.’

Matthew Van Duyvenbode, Head of Campaigns, Advocacy and Media said, ‘One of the key themes running through the Bible is transformation.

‘The Christian Scriptures are full of stories about individuals, communities and whole societies being transformed by encountering God - sometimes in very surprising ways.

‘The New Hanbury Project and many others like it show that the Bible continues to inspire positive transformation in every area of our society.’

Picture: Clare Kendall/Bible Society
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