Abused in care, sectioned to a mental health hospital after attempting suicide and homeless for a short time, Mark Edwards had, by his own admission, a terrible start to life.
But that hasn’t stopped the former Spalding Gleed School pupil from dramatically turning things round and he is sharing his story to show others in despairing situations there is hope.
Now a married father of four, ordained in the Anglican Church, Mark (52) holds an MBE for his community work in Barrow-in-Furness where he served for 14 years, and works as a volunteer responder with the ambulance service.
Currently the vicar of St Matthews in the Newcastle Diocese, he was also one of two Northumbria Police chaplains to counsel officers working the Roaul Moat case.
“I was brought up in care from the age of three and left when I was 17, during which I went on a spiral of decline and tried to commit suicide, which resulted in my being sectioned in a mental health hospital,” says Mark.
“After I was discharged I was homeless for a short time, sleeping on the floor of a local church.
“Everyone – even the church – had written me off, but it was at the Chester City Mission where I eventually came to faith through the influence of a godly pastor.
“Unable to find work I started volunteering there and it was during that period I first felt God’s call upon my life.
“I just want to give people from my background hope – and say to them ‘you do not have to be a victim’.
“You may have had a difficult start to life, I understand that but there comes a time you have got to take responsibility for yourself.”
Before finding his faith, Mark, who also holds the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for his work volunteering with the emergency services, believed he would end up in prison. To help come to terms with his past he wrote an autobiographical book in 2004 - Tears in the Dark; A Journey of Hope – about his life growing up in care at Ivo Cottage, in Albion Street, Spalding.
He has since written a sequel – Beyond the Collar; Confessions of a Vicar – an honest and humorous look at his life as a clergyman working in a deprived area.
This is self-published on Amazon as a Kindle edition and Mark is currently trying to secure a deal with a mainstream publisher. He also hopes to write a third instalment about his work as police chaplain.
“I’ve had a lot of help and support and my faith has helped. That’s what inspired me to write my story,” he explains.
“I wanted to write something real; what life is really like for a clergyman, doing his best, warts and all.
“I think it will surprise some people, what it’s really like - but I’ve had some good feedback.
“My message is simple – you do not have to be a victim.”