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John O’Groats to Land’s End – not as far as the journey from armed robber to vicar!

john-ogroatsIf there’s one thing I’ve learnt from watching Robin Hood on television, it’s that even the most hardened lawbreakers can defy all expectations and turn their lives around. Some will go on to earn millions in the business world, others will help other individuals in need. I’ve just seen a story which really bears this out.

The Reverend Matthew Martinson, vicar at St John’s Church, has been using a wheelchair for the past 7 years after waking one morning unable to feel his legs. Now, more than 20 years after being jailed for 11 years for armed robbery, he’s about to embark on the mammoth journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

Reverend Martinson, turned his life around after being released from prison in 1999. He’s now raising funds for his church which he hopes will contribute massively to a new facility for the whole community. He says:

I woke up one morning and couldn’t feel my legs. I went to bed one night and that was it. I was very fit and active and then suddenly couldn’t do things that I wanted to do. It’s very hard and challenging and that will be something I’ll have to deal with on the journey as well. It’s going to be mostly down to my hands and arms.’

Matt Martinson knows all about a challenge. He was a homeless drug addict who ended up in prison for his part in an armed robbery before being ordained as a priest in 2010.

As a child, Matt lived with a father addicted to alcohol and drugs who would ‘knock’ Matt about whenever he felt the need. It’s perhaps inevitable that this would have some effect on a child and, after a spell in the army, Matt ended up using drugs and drink regularly. His life became violent and he eventually progressed into the criminal world.

He was eventually arrested for his part in an armed robbery and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Serving his sentence at HMP Wolds, put him in contact with a fantastic chaplaincy team and one guy in particular, who helped Matt to nurture his faith and helped him grow as a Christian.

After 4 years, Matt successfully gained parole and left prison. He found the adjustment really hard, his whole life had changed. He got himself a job working for a marquee hire firm but knew he wanted more from God.

Matt had loads to learn. He started a degree in theology, made harder by the fact that he was dyslexic and struggled to read and write. But Matt ploughed on and upon graduation, helped set up a charity, working with ex-offenders, drug addicts and alcoholics.

However, seeing some of the amazing things that God had done in other people’s lives, Matt visited his local church, sat down with the vicar and told him that he too was thinking of becoming a vicar. Matt was delighted when the priest told him that he would fully support him and six months later, he was accepted to be a priest. He went to training college and progressed from there.

As I think you’ll agree, once Matt sets his mind to something nothing will stop him and I’m sure he’ll easily make it to Land’s End in the three week’s he’s set himself to complete the challenge.

You can read more about Matt’s challenge in the Hull Daily Mail.

By Debbie Sadler 


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on universities, colleges and education for people with convictions on our information site.
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to education and training from people with convictions on our online forum.

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