Mike Parker has found a family in Christ.
Coming through the double doors at the Bridge church for the first time on a Sunday morning. Mike Parker was nervous. 'It felt like walking onto a stage. But everyone was smiling, they were wearing normal clothes and I felt a warm welcome. People came up and talked to me. It just felt really good.'
All his life Mike Parker has lost people who were precious to him. ‘If there’s a single word that summed up my life, it’s “forsaken”’.
On his eighteenth birthday, he became father to twins. One of them passed at birth and the other he lost at the age of five.
He went to a priest to ask why is this happening, who replied that all he could offer was a prayer. Mike wanted answers, so he walked away and told him he’d not be seen again.
A downward spiral of being out of control with a mental health condition and addiction to drugs and alcohol got him shot once and stabbed on three occasions. A relationship breakdown in 2015 led to him becoming homeless and sleeping on the streets, in and out of hostels for a couple of years.
‘I was horrible. I didn’t care who I hurt, what I stole or what happened.’
At the same time, he felt completely isolated, convinced that he was the only one who felt like this. He once boarded himself into his flat, went into the kitchen and took all his meds at once – three months worth of sleeping tablets. A neighbour, concerned about something he’d said the night before, jumped over the fence and caught him just in time.
He hated God and blamed him for everything.
And then last year someone really, really close passed away. ‘She was kind of my first love, and it was devastating.’
His daughter tried to comfort him, saying that he shouldn’t worry because they’d meet again in heaven. Rather than accept the words with the kindness intended, he replied that he was not likely going to heaven, he was bound for hell.
She’d been going to Sunday school at the Bridge Church with her mother, and begged him to come along too.
When he eventually made it, he was overwhelmed by the welcome. ‘I’d known the pastor, Jason, for a while and when he saw me his face completely lit up.’
All of a sudden Mike wanted to know more and more, attending the weekday Soup and Scrolls group, led by LCM Missionary Martin Street, and reading story after story in the Bible.
One day someone in the group said that with God in your life, you are never alone. ‘It really struck me,’ he says. ‘At that point, I got emotional and upset.
‘But I had a feeling, it was like someone had gently put a reassuring hand on my back. And what that sensation was saying to me was, “It’s ok.” It was then that I knew for sure that faith in Jesus was for real.’
‘The church is always there for me. They’re not just friends, they’re brothers and sisters, I’ve gained a father as well and a brother in Jesus. It’s like being born again, literally like being born again.
‘Because of my condition, I’ve got the attention span of a gnat and I get really affected by things. But LCM Missionary Martin Street gives me portions of the Psalms, and they really help.
‘I got really down this weekend: things looked like they were falling apart. I phoned Martin and he was at my door in a flash. I thought it was the end of the world, but then we sat together, talked it through and he read a Psalm.
‘And we prayed and then I came to church.
I got my daughter and we came to church. ‘Before you can love yourself, you need to love God and know his love, and then you can love others too. And I know that when Jesus returns, I will be reunited with people I’ve lost: children, family, and friends. Jesus is the most loving, forgiving person I’ve ever met.