YOU might have seen Dave Madden preaching the gospel in the town centre but you will likely be unaware of how much his words mean to him.

After a life of trouble with debt, alcoholism, and mental health issues, Dave turned to religion to get his life back on track.

“Religion helped me get my life in order, it gives me some clarity,” he said. “I have four brothers who are in and out of trouble with the police. When I was younger I followed their lead, not knowing any better.

“I looked up to them, and that was just how things were, it was just part of growing up. I was drinking a lot, I had trouble with firearms only air rifles, not proper ones.”

Dave, 56, of Yews Lane, Kendray, said he had ‘come very close’ to a custodial sentence in his late teens.

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This period left a mark on his later life and six years ago, with debts mounting and his alcoholism in full flow, Dave said he was in ‘a really bad place’.

He had to apply for disability allowance after a knee replacement and a compressed disk in his back left him unable to work in his job as a bricklayer a process which took nearly two years.

During this time he battled depression, addiction and PTSD.

“My wife and I were really struggling with debt and I was still drinking and smoking constantly,” he said.

“I got in touch with an organisation called Christians Against Poverty (CAP), who I’d just seen on an advert.

“I just wanted my debt clearing, so when they came round and explained what I would have to do, and invited me to a meeting, I went along.

“From then, it just went up and up. It just opened my eyes to everything, and I decided I needed to know more about this.”

Dave was familiar with religion, having attended a Catholic school in Doncaster as a child but by 16 he had ‘had enough of all that’.

“It didn’t do anything for me, it didn’t inspire me, it was too regimented. When I left school and we didn’t have to go to church any more, I just stopped going.

“I felt oppressed, like there was no freedom, but with Evangelism everything is about freedom.

“I’ve never known a church like it. I had not prayed for years, so I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but they told me to just talk as if I was talking to a friend. I asked for peace in my heart, as I was stressing about everything. After a while I just thought, I don’t need to drink any more. I also stopped smoking, which I had never been able to do before.

“Through my faith I have been able to stop both of them.”

Dave got involved with Gateway Church through CAP, and he now preaches in the town centre every Tuesday afternoon.

He said his relationship with the church is still a ‘work in progress’ but he has already found his life improving and hopes to inspire others.

“It’s an ongoing thing, you don’t think right I want to be a Christian and bang, it happens,” Dave said. “The difference is having the tools to deal with anything.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be standing in the middle of town preaching the gospel, but I’m there every week.”