Article of the week: Angie Taylor - Encountering the King of kings
12 June 2021
FEATURE I Stories of transformation
In a new series, Major Rosemary Dawson remembers some of the inspirational people she met while working on the War Cry
HOW’s this for a life-transforming story? I owe it to my then corps officer at Sutton, Major Neil Webb (now Colonel). He said, ‘I think you should hear the lady who’s coming to speak on Sunday morning. She wants to tell us how our jumble sale changed her life.’
Intriguing! That story remains one of my all-time favourites.
The lady was Angie Taylor – a former prostitute who had a heroin and alcohol addiction. After 16 years of addiction and sleeping rough, her liver was swelling from self-neglect and abuse. She was ridden with lice, ate from dustbins and willingly sold her body for a can of lager.
One day in 1986 – in an alcoholic haze – Angie wandered into a Salvation Army jumble sale at Sutton. Someone gave her a cup of tea and she sat on a bench drinking it, looking at a tatty copy of the Book of Common Prayer.
A piece of paper fell out, and she recognised a picture of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. He seemed to have tears in his eyes. Angie couldn’t take her eyes off that face; she heard a voice saying, ‘Angie, if you drink again, you’re going to make him cry.’
From that moment she never took heroin or alcohol again.
‘The King of kings came and sat next to that dirty, smelly prostitute on the bench,’ she later said.
Walking away, clutching that picture of Jesus, Angie knew she had discovered God’s friendship. Her life had completely changed – and all because of that book at an Army jumble sale.
She asked the Department of Health and Social Security for money to clean herself up and get a job. The distinct change in her life and attitude later convinced the authorities to find her accommodation.
Angie grew up in a violent family setting, what she called ‘the typical dysfunctional family’. She left home at the age of 17, enjoyed a hippie lifestyle, and married a roadie from a rock band. Only two of their five children survived; one had Down’s syndrome and died soon after birth.
‘My husband left me the same week without even seeing him,’ she said.
Angie suffered panic attacks, a possible result of her childhood.
‘My father-in-law brought us some groceries, including a bottle of sherry,’ she recalled. ‘It helped me sleep for the first time in months. Two bottles a night became a solution to my problems. I kept refilling a medicine bottle with sherry; the label said “Take three times a day”, so I did! I lived in a permanent state of blackout.’
A new relationship introduced her to a heroin substitute, which helped lessen the panic attacks but made her a registered addict.
‘I saw another addict die in front of me after injecting sub-standard heroin, but even that didn’t stop me,’ Angie said. ‘I started throwing bricks at jewellers’ shop windows and stealing old ladies’ handbags from public toilets to get money for drugs.
‘When the police caught up with me, it took them three days to count all the pills in my house. The magistrate called me “a menace to society”, and sentenced me to two years in HMP Holloway – later commuted to rehabilitation at Cane Hill Hospital, where I spent four-and-a-half years in a locked ward trying to beat my addiction. It was a terrible time.’
Following her release, Angie was given a small bedsit in Sutton. Forbidden to see her children, she started drinking again; subsequent eviction led to prostitution.
It was then that she found the picture of Jesus at the jumble sale.
Now her life has turned full circle. Angie married the widowed pastor of her church fellowship and became stepmother to his children. This greatly compensated for the loss of her own family.
Angie travels the country, telling those living with addictions in prisons and rehab centres about God’s power to change lives. One journey involved walking from John o’ Groats to Land’s End, carrying an 11-foot cross to attract attention.
Why does she do it?
‘Because the same Jesus who held, loved and cared for the filthy, degraded person that was me can do the same for someone else with a broken heart. It’s amazing that God could turn someone who had sunk so low into a means of blessing and helping other people. Only God could do that.’’
MAJOR DAWSON LIVES IN RETIREMENT IN ST AUSTELL
- Based on an article first published in the War Cry, 22 September 2001