We ask students from Devon's rehabilitation centre Gilead Foundations to tell us their stories. This time it's the turn of ANDREW JACOVELLI.

Saved by Grace: Andre Jacovelli

I grew up in North Wales, adopted as one of 10 children, and I was the youngest. It was strange growing up, there was lots of rebellion in the house, dad was always working and mum couldn't handle the responsibility. We were poor and although mum said we were okay, we knew we weren't. Because I am half Asian, I grew up with a lot of racial abuse and I began to look for friends who accepted me. That's why I started getting into drinking and glue sniffing when I was about 12 - I wanted to belong. My dad said the crowd I was with were not my real friends, but I thought they were. Things went downhill from there and at the age of 14 I went into children's homes. My behaviour got worse and I got involved in burglary and more drinking and ended up in detention centres three times before I was 16. That was followed by jail and heavier drugs until I was 23.

Then I met this biker in Torquay, who told me about Jesus. After that, on the street, I felt something strange and good for about two hours, which I believe was God as this guy was praying for me. He asked me if I wanted to go to a farm and I just said yes and he took me to Gilead. Ian Samuel and another man at Gilead prayed for me and I cried like a baby, it was the best release I've ever had. But I didn't understand what was going on and I left after two days.

Soon I was back in Exeter prison. I opened a Bible that was in my cell and started crying again. I knew it was God, but that's all. When I got out, I went back to Gilead but I left before I completed the course. After leaving the farm again, I stabbed a lad in the neck while I was on drugs and I was charged with murder. Ian Samuel came and visited me, and many people were praying for me. The charge was reduced to manslaughter and I got five years.

While I was inside, I forgot about God again but when I got out, I knew I needed help and returned to Gilead last April. The Holy Spirit is convicting me, pastors and elders are teaching me and my relationship with Jesus is growing every day. I'm serious this time and making sure I get lots of understanding to back up the experiences I have had of God's grace.

Jesus has walked by me in my life and touched me, but I didn't understand. All I knew was he made me cry. Now I'm open to being taught and that's the difference. I've been shown love and acceptance like I've never had before, and it's real. Even mucking out in a stinking barn I think to myself, "This is a great place to be." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.