Article of the week: Changed beyond recognition!
23 October 2021
Robin Judd (Yeovil) tells Melita Day-Lewis how Jesus turned his life around and helped him overcome an addiction to alcohol
‘NOBODY is excluded from God’s love!’ declares Robin Judd. ‘I can’t believe that God would send his only Son to Earth to be hung on a cross for somebody like me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to work out how someone could love me the way Christ loved me. He died for me!’
Robin’s evident love for Christ and joy in his salvation grabbed my attention when I read his ‘The Salvation Army and me’ interview (Salvationist 24 April) and I wanted to hear more of his inspiring story.
Robin is 74 and lives in Shaftesbury in Dorset. He struggled with an addiction to alcohol for more than 45 years, including 42 years of married life. He worked in abattoirs and livestock markets most of his life.
‘It’s the sort of lifestyle that circles very much around alcohol,’ Robin explains.
One Saturday afternoon he was being driven home from Taunton market in Somerset by a friend.
‘I was intoxicated,’ he recalls. ‘We came through Yeovil and I saw these Salvationists coming out from a hall and I thought, “How happy they look.”’
The next day Robin put on his best suit and drove 22 miles to Yeovil to see if there was a meeting at the Salvation Army hall.
He remembers the warm welcome he received clearly: ‘It was a wet, blowy night. I was a bit apprehensive, not knowing what to expect. “Is it OK if I come in?” I asked at the door. A little lady called Freda Weeks said, “Come in? Of course you can come in! It’s God’s house. Everyone’s welcome here!” And I thought, “Well, what a welcome!”’
Robin enjoyed the meeting and the message, and the warmth of the corps family left an impression. He decided to return the next week.
‘And I never stopped!’ he says joyfully. ‘People loved me and took me in, just as I was – in big trouble with alcohol, at the cattle markets doing shady deals and not leading the kind of life Christian folk should lead.’
After attending the corps for about 10 months Robin decided he would make a significant lifestyle change: ‘I had to be on one side of the fence or the other. I couldn’t sit in the middle – in God’s house on Sunday, praying and praising God, and back at the market on Monday morning doing shady deals.’
So he went back to working in an abattoir, a job for which he had trained as a young man.
‘That came very hard to me at my age. It’s a young man’s job – blood, sweat and tears all day long for 12 hours a day – but I did it!’ says Robin.
The next significant step he took was to get help with his dependence on alcohol. After some blood tests, Robin was asked to see a doctor urgently. His liver enzyme levels were severely elevated and the doctor told him candidly that he ‘should be dead with this reading’. That provided the necessary spur to become part of an alcohol rehabilitation support group.
‘People at Yeovil prayed for me endlessly and rang me several times a day to tell me they were praying for me,’ says Robin. ‘They were wonderful! Their prayers kept me, held me firm and I never stopped going to the group.
‘As I went to more meetings of the group, I was asked to pray for God’s presence to be with us and strengthen us. People still remind me of that. Many who attended those meetings are now enjoying good, straight lives and have gone on to facilitate groups for themselves.’
‘You can make a difference if you stand up and witness to God’s love,’ he affirms.
On 8 January 1995 Robin was enrolled as a soldier and has faithfully served God in the Army since.
His journey has not been without trials. After his salvation and commitment to soldiership, his wife divorced him. Robin is grateful that they have remained good friends, but he reflects sadly: ‘That really did test me. It was very tough. My wife followed me into uniform, but she said I’d changed beyond all recognition from my old self.’
‘I was a totally different person,’ he adds. ‘Well, I would be, wouldn’t I? I’m so grateful that I found Christ, and his grace to me has been limitless.’
Robin’s favourite Bible passage is the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18, he explains: ‘For many years, I was that lost sheep, that person in the wilderness, but Christ never forgot me. He has always been there – it was I who was at fault, who never accepted him. Even in the darkest days of my youth, when I spent 16 long months in a prison cell, I knew that Christ was with me, but I couldn’t accept him. Yet God never stopped looking for me and never gave up on me!’
He vividly recalls a remarkable encounter he had with a Salvationist on a Saturday night in the mid-1960s: ‘I was in a bar, which was full of intoxicated men, including myself. The floor was thick with mud and filth. It was a den of iniquity, you might say.
‘A Salvationist came in and asked if I’d like a War Cry. She then looked right into my face and asked if I was OK. I asked her if she could do one thing – to pray for me the next day at the hall. She said, “I’ll do that right now. God is here with us. He will hear every word we pray.”’
Robin describes how the young woman pulled up her long skirt and knelt in the mud to pray for him: ‘That room full of raucous men went so quiet as she prayed aloud. It was as if God’s presence was there. I never forgot that woman. She was so fantastically brave. I thank God for her.’
After a break of about three years while he was recovering from two hip replacement operations, Robin – who is passionate about taking God’s message to people on the streets – is back selling Army papers in Sherborne.
‘We should be out there seeking people who have fallen by the wayside to reassure them that, whatever situation they’re in, God loves them,’ he adds passionately. ‘I was one of those people. It is God’s grace that saved me! And his grace is for everyone!’