14 October 2023

Surviving through faith: ‘God has brought me closer to him’

Darren Wooldridge

A photo of Darren Wooldridge and a photo inset of Darren holding an old photo of himself with lots of piercings

Darren Wooldridge (Bognor Regis) shares how God used his time in prison for a new beginning.

In 2019 I was sleeping in my car when Petersfield Corps found me and loved me. Every day they gave me breakfast and enough things for the next night.

Unfortunately, I breached a court order, resulting in me being imprisoned. After booking in, I was taken to my cell at 10pm. I was scared and alone, as this was my first time in prison. All I could do was pray to God.

As I sat down at the desk, I found copies of the War Cry! A sign from God – I am not alone! I had an enormous feeling of hope and serenity.

I began to settle in, connecting to the chaplaincy team, attending church and joining the church music group. Later, I was put into a cell with a difficult cellmate to be with. It was a hard time, with my mental health struggling. However, this is where God used the chaplaincy team and my childhood faith to enable my survival.

My mum visited every week, and the amazing people from Petersfield Corps wrote letters and cards, which meant a lot.

During those 63 days, locked up for 23 hours a day, I changed. A process of repentance and surrender brought me before God. I was reminded of Jesus in the wilderness, surviving through faith.

I was released into a probation hostel. Petersfield Corps stayed in contact. I then moved to Bognor Regis and the corps officer at Petersfield asked Bognor Regis Corps to look out for me. When I walked into the hall, I was greeted by name. I immediately felt welcome!

My time in prison has been a homecoming experience. Having family roots in the Army and then being estranged from my family, God used the two corps and the chaplaincy team to bring me home to the Father.

My faith grew and my sense of belonging developed. I joined the To Serve course – my mum joined too. Over that year, I had a calling from God to serve him as a soldier. On 12 February 2023, I was proudly enrolled, alongside my mum and two others. To my amazement, Petersfield Corps cancelled their meeting and everybody came to see it!

My journey with God continues, serving him in the corps community programme and looking to help launch Core Recovery here.

My experience of homelessness and prison is not one I would want to repeat. However, what the enemy meant for evil, the Lord used for good (see Genesis 50:20). God has brought me closer to him – giving me a new purpose and church family – restored my relationship with my family, and brought my parents back to the Army.

When I think of this experience, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:36: ‘I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Prison was not the end – God used it for a new beginning!

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A photo of Darren Wooldridge

Darren Wooldridge

Bognor Regis

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