By John Pridmore with Greg Watts

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“God, up to now, all I’ve done is take from you in my life, and now I want to give.”
– John Pridmore

He was a serious “face” in London’s tough East End. His jackets were tailored to hold his machete and knuckledusters. His drug deals made him wealthy. He nearly killed a man outside a nightclub. Then everything changed.

The testimony of John Pridmore is the kind of story that seems too fantastical to be true until you read it for yourself. I admit to sharing a certain fascination with the mystical underworld of old school gangsters in the rougher parts of London throughout history, to wondering how it the whole system works, with only stylized depictions in TV shows and pop culture references to paint a picture.

The reality is ugly and dark, revealed as Pridmore walks you through his experiences in Gangland to Promised Land: One Man’s Journey from the Criminal Underworld to Christ. In a raw and vulnerable personal tale, Pridmore describes a happy early childhood until his parents’ divorce shattered his world and propelled him into rebellious behaviour that ended in a life of professional crime.

With a conversational tone and a helpful glossary of East End slang terms at the beginning, Pridmore humbly and frankly tells the story of his life and offers the encouragement that it’s never too late for anyone to turn their life around.

“Something clicked inside me: it was the voice we’ve all heard . . . It was the voice of God . . . I felt as if someone’s hands were on my shoulders and I was being lifted up. An incredible warmth overpowered me and the fear immediately evaporated. At that moment I knew—really knew, not just believed—that God was real.”

While the writing is not the highly polished prose of a professional author, the message is sincere and uplifting as Pridmore details his radical 180 conversion from criminal to Catholic and exposes the supposedly ‘glamorous’ life of a gangster for what it truly is: empty and unfulfilling. He says,“What do you do when life becomes meaningless and all you’re reminded of is the bad stuff you’ve done?”

Shortly after his initial salvation, he has another revelation, saying, “I am the prodigal son, I thought to myself. I’d turned away from God and lived a life of self-gratification with no thought for tomorrow.”

After encountering God, Pridmore throws himself into his search for faith and meaning in his life, making good on his promise to give back to both God and the community. The remainder of the book is a true testament to the faithfulness of God when people are obedient to him as Pridmore reveals how God came through for him time after time during ministry, travel and times of personal healing. This book is a great read for someone needing encouragement to not give up in their Christian walk, or for anyone who enjoys marvelling at the greatness of God and his ability to extend mercy to even the ‘worst of sinners’.

Reviewed by: Lil van Wyngaard – Veritatis Publishing

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