‘When you’re an angry violent person, and you’re in a big city like Newcastle upon Tyne, you can have as much trouble as you can handle.’
As a young man, Dougie March thought he could handle anything. He was a member of an infamous gang of football hooligans called the Big Market Bender Squad, who followed Newcastle FC around the UK, getting in trouble.
Addicted to Cocaine and Speed and struggling with manic depression, Dougie was paranoid, angry and always fighting. ‘I nearly got my eye gouged out,’ he said. ‘I had my nose nearly bitten off. Scars all over my head. And I ended up in seven different prisons for violence.’
For Dougie, prison was no different from the pubs and nightclubs outside. Caught up in gang wars, he reeled from fight to fight. ‘Things were as bad as bad could be,’ he said.
‘Never would I ever ever imagine me becoming a Christian. Because all I knew was violence and anger, and who’s in control, and what we’re going to do next. We’re the mean people about town, and if anybody’s got any different ideas, we’ll sort it out.’
Dougie’s friends and family knew him as always in trouble, always in the newspapers. They probably thought he’d always be that way. But he was starting to realise how dangerous his life had become. ‘Someone’s going to kill me,’ he thought. Desperately, he began to pray.
‘God, if you’re there, I’m not 100 per cent sure. But if you’re there, I don’t want to live the way I’m living. And I’m asking you, in whatever way you can, give us some kind of sign. Come and help us, because I can’t change myself.’
Soon after, Dougie met two evangelists from Youth for Christ in the street, and one of them took him to church. ‘The second week I went on my own,’ he said, ‘and I heard the Gospel, probably for the first time, about Jesus dying on the cross and paying the price for all the sin in the world.’
‘And I heard, from the preacher, that he was paying the price for my sin. And my sin was the reason that my life was such a mess. And I got a revelation of who Christ is, that he’s the son of God, and that he died on that cross, and that I could be forgiven.’
‘I just thought this is what I want. I want a brand new start. I want to get out of all this mess that I’ve been in. So I went forward to the front of the church, and I gave my life to Jesus Christ.’
To surrender his life to God, Dougie had to swallow his pride, and set selfishness aside. ‘When you’ve lived the way I’ve lived; you live for yourself. You’re proud. If anybody’s going to do it, it’s going to be you. You’re looking after number one.’
‘I actually started to discover it’s all about Jesus. It’s not about me any more. I’m just this small human being in the universe, and we’ve got this massive God who now wants me to be his friend, wants me to follow him.’
Early on in his new life, God called Dougie to preach in the streets. He was approached by ex-girlfriends and fellow gangsters, who couldn’t believe what they were seeing. ‘They were saying Dougie, I can’t believe that you’re preaching. It looks like you, but you seem like you’re a new person!’
In the 20 years since his salvation, God has taken Dougie to preach in more than 40 countries. He has seen miracles and saved lives all over the world. ‘It’s been a complete adventure,’ he said.
‘I’m not saying that it’s always easy. There’s times when following Jesus is difficult, and the old nature wants to kick in and get you back to some of the things you’ve been involved in.’
‘But I just said no, I’m following Jesus, and I’m a Christian. And if I’m going to be a Christian, I’m going to be a proper Christian, and I’m going to live for Jesus with all my heart. There’s going to be no half measures in my relationship with Jesus.’
Dougie’s journey from prison to preacher shocked everyone in his life. He was completely transformed, just by hearing the Gospel, and understanding the sacrifice Jesus made for us. His story is a powerful reminder that no one is beyond God’s reach.
But there are many people like him all over our nation who haven’t heard that life-changing Gospel message. They’re lost, desperate and praying for salvation. This Visionathon, help us bring true hope to every Australian.