Gangland to Grace

    Gangland to Grace

    In 1978 New Zealand the newborn Huw Donaldson joins a happy and healthy family growing up in a rural setting.

    Two events turn his life upside down. Huw’s father dies of cancer, which has the potential to completely unravel the family’s foundations. Only by the grace of God would they get by. The second significant event was the betrayal by a man who acted as a role model to Huw after the death of his father but then preyed on the innocence of one of Huw’s young relatives.

    By the time Huw was in his early teens he was on a path that led to drugs, violence, motorcycle gangs and membership in one of Christchurch’s feared underworld groups. Unable to properly process and communicate the devastation of his life he turned to dysfunctional methods of coping: alcohol, drugs, and violence as a means to keeping those he deemed as enemies at bay. Even in his early school years Huw learnt to fight and by the time he had turned twenty he had already spent some years associating with one of Christchurch’s notorious motorcycle gangs. Prison time followed and upon his release, with the assistance of a few of his motorcycle gang associates they created their own “crew” to serve as a loosely structured defense force and family. Violence became his trade. Even after certain revelations that would seem to bring about positive change in his life, it still took a long time for Huw to rid himself of this unhealthy behavior.

    From the outset there had been positive influences in his life. The rural environment he loved became a great backstop as Huw started to make decisions that would change the course of his life. Similarly, his Christian family and an early foundation of Christian values contributed to the eventual turnaround that many people had been praying for. As Huw turned his life towards a brighter future the betrayal by a few of his closest gang associates assisted in the severing of many unhelpful relationships he had developed over time. With crisis and darkness on one side and God on the other, Huw decided that the only way forward was with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Following this decision came the incredible vision of a journey that would take him far away into an unknown land. To a country on the West Coast of Africa called Sierra Leone.

    Prior to his departure Huw spent several years studying at a Bible college in the rural North Island town of Snell’s Beach. During this time he gained essential knowledge and skills for the future. As part of a group he traveled to Southeast Asia which provided invaluable missions experience. Finally in 2014 Huw set out on his great adventure and landed on the continent of Africa where his dreams of doing something worthwhile came to fruition. Jesus states that anyone who gives up his own life for Him will gain it and as this true story comes to its conclusion readers will see just how correct this statement really is.

    While in Sierra Leone Huw met the love of his life and they are now the proud parents of three children. After four trips to Africa the family has settled back in New Zealand with plans of carrying out further missions to Africa when the time is right. By Huw’s own admission he is still a little on the

    rough side, but through faith, determination and the grace of God his family will continue to go forward blessed with the eternal richness of God’s plan for their lives.

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