Abused in care, sectioned to a mental health hospital after attempting suicide and homeless for a short time, Mark Edwards had, by his own admission, a terrible start to life.
But that hasn’t stopped the Boston-born vicar from dramatically turning things around and sharing his story to show others down on their luck there is hope.
Now a married father of four, ordained in the Anglican Church, Mark, 52, holds an MBE for his community work in Barrow-in-Furness where he served for 14 years, and works as a volunteer responder with the ambulance service.
Currently the vicar of St Matthews in the Newcastle Diocese, he was also one of two Northumbria Police chaplains to counsel officers working the Roaul Moat case.
“I was brought up in care from the age of three and left when I was 17, during which I went on a spiral of decline and tried to commit suicide, which led to me being sectioned,” says Mark whose parents lived on the Taverner council estate.
“Then I was homeless for a short time, sleeping on the floor of a local church.
“Everyone – even the church – had written me off, but it was at the Chester City Mission where I eventually came to faith through the influence of a godly pastor.
“Unable to find work I started volunteering there and it was during that period I first felt God’s call upon my life.
“I just want to give people from my background hope - and say to them ‘you do not have to be a victim’.”
Before finding his faith, Mark, who also holds the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for his work volunteering with the emergency services, believed he would end up in prison.
To help come to terms with his past he wrote Tears in the Dark; A Journey of Hope in 2004 about his life growing up in the care of Boston social services.
Its sequel Beyond the Collar: Confessions of a Vicar is an honest and humorous look at his life as a clergyman working in a deprived area and has just been published as an e-book, while Mark finds a mainstream publisher.
“I’ve had a lot of help and support and my faith has helped. That’s what inspired me to write my story,” he adds. I wanted to write something real; what life is really like for a clergy man, doing his best, warts and all.
“My message is simple - you do not have to be a victim.”