One80 Podcast Episode 43: John Kirkby

Debt Collector to Christians Against Poverty

This transcript of One80 Podcast may have errors that veer from the original recording.

Ryan Henry: Like Matthew in the Bible, Dr. John Kirkby, C B E was a feared debt collector and his life literally out of control. But friends, God’s word can break through the hardest of hearts, and with John getting a Bible changed his life. Once John learned the truth about Jesus, that his debt was paid at the cross, John went all in, literally taking the gospel to others in debt, freeing them in more ways than one.

He founded an international ministry called Christians Against Poverty. Welcome to Johns 180.

Hey friends. Thank you so much for joining us as we hear John’s story, Dr. John Kirkby cbe, the commander of the British Empire. John, we are so excited to have you here on the show. Welcome.

John Kirkby: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, just call me John. We don’t do the whole doctor or cbe, but thank you so much for recording my full title.

I don’t often hear it, so that’s very nice.

Ryan Henry: Well, it sounds like an amazing title. Could you, I mean, I’m sure our listeners are wondering, what in the world does that mean? Could you just tell us what does CBE Commander of the British Empire mean?

John Kirkby: So basically the late queen on her birthday gives civilian honors and commander of the British Empire is the second highest.

Civilian Honor, it’s her recognition of basically the work that we’ve done across the UK over the last 25, 26 years.

So she actually supported the charity as well. So I was amazed to be given such an honor.

Ryan Henry: That’s amazing. I can’t wait to get into your story, but before we do that, we do start with a random question. Are you ready for it? Always. Alright, here we go. So, if you could go back in time and ask any single person a question, whom would you choose?

John Kirkby: I would choose my late father. Really? Can I ask what you would ask him? Yeah, I would ask him to forgive me for the pain and distress I brought into his life in his latter years and I’d probably just squeeze in at the end. But I do know that you still love me because I found that out later. So that’s what I would say.

Ryan Henry: That’s, that’s beautiful. Well, let’s jump into your story. Would you talk to us about where you grew up?

John Kirkby: So I was born into a very loving, idyllic home. My mother described me as a very pleasant surprise, so I came about 13 years later than my sisters.

So I basically was brought up almost as a single child. I was a son. My father had longed for for many years, We won a wealthy family, but it was very idyllic. Two parents. To this day, I benefit from. The way they brought me up, the self-esteem that they managed to get in me, despite as things unraveled in my life, and at the age of about nine, my father became ill.

he basically cheated on the sort of the edge of death throughout the next nine years. As I became a teenager, I was actually deemed to have special needs. Basically I had dyslexia and I couldn’t read and write very well. They just presumed that was because I wasn’t intelligent and that basically, Kicked off a journey of a very difficult time at school.

I hit the teenage years and completely lost the plot. Introduced alcohol drugs very early on and became quite a violent young man involved in all sorts of stuff. There’s nobody to blame. That was me. But obviously my circumstances at home were difficult, but that wasn’t the reason. That was my own. I made those decisions at 16.

I left school and had just a few, few qualifications, and then my first job, I used to put lids on paintings in a little paint factory. And then at 18 my father died. And then within about six months, my beautiful mother had a mental breakdown and the authorities took my mum away and placed her, in a mental institution.

And the local welfare services came to see me, asked me my date of birth. I was just over 18 and they shut the file and left me. So I’d lost my dad. My mom was in a horrendous place.

Ryan Henry: Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry to hear that. Can you describe that for us?

John Kirkby: I was just a lost young man. Really. I was very selfish. I was interested in me. I indulged myself eventually becoming quite an aggressive young man and then ended up in some pretty difficult situations in that arena. I could have killed somebody. I carried weapons. Very, very difficult.

But more probably the the extent of my waywardness, because I think that’s not that uncommon, but it was the impact I had on my mom and father, what I brought into the family cuz of who I was. I’d disappear for two or three days, but I didn’t realize at the time just how bad the impact I’d had on other people.

But, Praise God. His grace is sufficient. Hallelujah.

Ryan Henry: Yeah. Yeah. And what was that like for you being 18 and feeling like an orphan essentially?

John Kirkby: Yeah, to be absolutely honest, I was just the sort of person at the time kind of just got on with it and just made the best of it. Continued in my lifestyle and then realized that I needed to get a proper job.

But obviously I had very few qualifications. So I got a job as a debt collector and a loan salesman at aged 18 in, uh, the north of England. And where I come from, which was. Pretty tough as a job, but obviously I knew I had the ability to be able to sort of manage and work with people. That was something inherent, I think, from an early, you know, I could get on with people.

My memories of it are very clouded by the shame and guilt that I felt later on in life. I managed to build a great relationship with my mom. She never gave up on me. Whatever happened, so there was some good things out of it, but I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. You. You dealt with it and it’s down to how you respond to it, which I did reasonably quickly begin to sort myself out.

Cuz if I didn’t I wouldn’t work. If I didn’t work, I wouldn’t probably eat. So I grew up really, really, really quickly.

Ryan Henry: Can you give us a little bit more detail of some types of things you said you’d give him a hard time. You mentioned leaving the house for two or three days. What types of things did you find yourself doing in that, in that time?

John Kirkby: So I probably was very unpleasant to be around. I was angry. All the time. I hated helping anybody. I didn’t help my parents at all. I almost stopped going to the hospital. Cause obviously I was so distressed, but I didn’t see it like that. I just didn’t wanna go to the hospital and mm-hmm I just wasn’t what I should have been.

I was not the son my parents deserved, and certainly not the son my father deserved at the time. Now my mother met my children and saw the transformation of my life, but once it’s gone, it’s gone. When your dad dies, that’s it. You can’t go back and say, I’m sorry. And even after he died, I was still messed for quite a while.

Ryan Henry: Yeah. Did you have a family faith practice? And then also talk to us about what you personally believed about God as a child growing up.

John Kirkby: Good question. So basically, my mother was a Christian, and I discovered later on when I became a Christian that she was a true Christian. She had a relationship with Christ and was truly saved.

I was taken to a pretty. Old style church from birth roughly. But then at the age of 12, mom said, you don’t have to go unless you don’t want to. Great. So I stopped going. There was an interesting moment in my teenage years a local church near where I lived were putting on the film, The Cross and the Switchblade.

So me and my mates heard about this and we basically tooled up to go down to this because we realized other gangs will be there and we thought, right. Great. We’ll have a right set too. So I went down with that intention. But basically there must have been some form of altar call in this place full of young people.

And I recall standing up. I recall tears streaming down my face. I recall going into the back room. I recall one of my mates went with me. I have a memory of going to a Bible study, like a young group Bible study. So that happened when I was 14. It took a matter of weeks before I was like, Get me out here and just went back to life.

Yeah. But I often wonder what would’ve happened had I just allowed a little bit more of response, how different my story would’ve been, but it just wasn’t.

Ryan Henry: So The Cross and the Switchblade, but

John Kirkby: It was the book by Nicky Cruz where he went into the New York ghettos and basically found a little church and took on the gangs.

Ryan Henry: Okay. Did you think about God often or much? And what did you think of him?

John Kirkby: Nothing. No, I didn’t think badly of him. I dunno, which he’s worse. I thought that little of him, I wasn’t even thinking if he was good or bad and certainly had nothing to do with me.

Ryan Henry: So how, how did things start to change with your faith?

John Kirkby: Okay, let me fill in the middle years. You’ve got the picture, 18 years old and where I am and needed a better job in American finance company. Come to the UK in the late seventies. So I applied for a job. They weren’t interesting qualifications, they just wanted people who could work hard and cope with a job well.

I have both those qualities. So I started job doing loans and debt collecting and basically had this quite amazing rise within this company, and this is where the entrepreneurial gift came in. So I worked out how best to collect money, did really well, and I worked out if I could get some other people to join me and teach them how to do it, then maybe we could do really well.

And they did, and we did. By the age of 21, 22, I was a center manager, the youngest one that’d ever had. I was managing seven staff, managing a huge, you know, operation. Although my English is not great to this day, my maths is very good. I was great with all the figures and clearly had a gift of being able to manage and lead.

I was a leader when I was an, I was still a leader, so I did really well. Got married when I was 21. We had a couple of girls within a few years. As I went through with my twenties, I ended up. Been reasonably successful from where I came from. Anyway, so nice house, big car holidays, two little kids, happy, married, every, everything looked fantastic on the outside.

However, I just was still selfish and beneath me. There was a still a broken young man. The fact that I got lots of money and married and had children didn’t fundamentally change the brokenness and selfishness. So I wasn’t the husband. My first wife deserved. I wasn’t the father. My two daughters. Deserved.

And then that all began to unravel because then it ended up involving lots of businesses that were unsuccessful. I was an entrepreneur with no brains. It’s not a great combination. So got involved in unsuccessful businesses, property, things that went wrong, people ripped me off and I made lots of mistakes.

So that was a pretty chaotic time. Just crazy man. And then as I went into 30, I lost it all. Mm-hmm. Everything. I, no money, couldn’t afford the house. Marriage was ending. Mm. I was in massive debt. Recession came business failure, so then I ended up living in one friend’s house massively in debt. And this is where it all started.

Rock bottom. Yeah. It could not unravel anymore.

Ryan Henry: What was it like to be in extreme poverty, uh, during that rock bottom?

John Kirkby: Very lonely, very judged. So I’ve had times when you go shopping and you add it all up and it’s so much and you don’t have enough money. And then you’ve gotta pick out what you can manage without.

And there’s people in the queue. Really loudly talking about you kind of father is that he can’t even afford, he’s, I bet he’s a smoker and a drinker. It’s just the shame. The shame is really, really in your face every day as a parent not being able to do the things you want for your kids. It’s gut wrenchingly difficult really is, you know, we had times where I remember taking my girls out and there was an ice cream van where you could get an ice cream, and I’m just thinking, please don’t ask me girls, please don’t ask me girls, please don’t ask me girls.

Please don’t ask me for an ice cream. I’m done got no more money. It’s guilt as well, because I made loads of mistakes. It was my fault and innocent people suffered because of my mistakes. That’s quite a thing to live with. I can’t imagine living it without Christ, but I know it’s like to live with Christ, but without it, you’re very inner soul is being destroyed.

People just think you can just sort it. And if you’re in debt, just sort it out. And if you poor, do some, you know, there’s a real sort of like judgment around how people think you can sort it out. That’s just not how it is. If my car breaks down, I can’t fit a clutch, I can’t redo the engine. Why do we think people can sort out their finances just cause we happen to or we were brought up?

Well, or someone show does that to manage our money or this judgment. And I’m speaking about Christians now as well. We can be like that. We need to stop judging, stop throwing stones. You know, the things you’ve done wrong in your life might not be as upfront as not been able to buy things for your kids.

But we’ve all made mistakes and we all rely on the grace of God. So let’s be giving that grace out to others and not judging people. So lonely, guilt, riddled, hopeless. I mean, literally no future. Like there is no way out of spiraling debt you are done unless you find someone who knows what they’re doing, you are done.

Mm-hmm. So can you imagine just being in something that you can’t get out of? It’s just, it, it’s, it’s soul-destroying. It literally is soul-destroying. People take their own lives. Yeah. About 20% of our clients have considered suicide I mean, that’s what it’s like. It’s awful. Nothing good about being that poor.

Ryan Henry: Yeah. That’s so good. They have that perspective about how it’s a trap. There’s truly a desperation. You know? And what would you say was at the core of that? Do you think there was something that you were doing? Do you think it was the brokenness? What do you think?

John Kirkby: I could say it was the tough life I’d had. I’m not sure it was, I just think I was sort of on an explosion path really. I was just volatile, but also really wanted to do well. I think that was something that was probably underneath it all. I wanted to be successful and to do that, I risked everything. And of course, the recession came in the early nineties.

But it was only a matter of time anyway. It was built on sand. Yeah. It all just collapsed.

Ryan Henry: That should be really eye-opening and, and just, yeah. Um, for our listeners, I mean, and really for all of us, a reminder of, you know, all the things that we, we strive for in life. Like if we don’t have a firm foundation, it’s, it’s, yeah, it’s just pointless.

John Kirkby: It’s like a chasing after the wind. Wow. And also you think you’ve got lots of friends as I lost everything. Just the friends you thought you had, and this is not critical of them, I don’t think I’d have been a friend of mine, but you find yourself very lonely and then you’re quite isolated. You don’t have any money, and the guilt and the shame is vast.

But I would wake up in the morning with my girls just next to me, and just this weight on my chest and my heart just emptiness, brokenness. How did I get here? During that time, I was trying to sell a house that somehow had ended up having, I had the massive mortgage on it. I needed to get rid of it, so I put a signup outside the house just for sale on my home number.

And then basically one day the phone rang and I picked it up and I had this voice at the other end, said, oh, I’ve seen your house for sale. I’m interested in it. And I thought, great, we’ll sell this. That’ll help get some money in. And then he said, I don’t want to buy it. I want to rent it. I’m a pastor.

I’ve just come from Norway. I’ve got a wife and two children, and not got very much. But I wanted to know if you’d let me stay in your house. And I remember thinking to myself, the last person in the world I need right now is a pastor who isn’t gonna buy my house off me anyway, ever. The entrepreneur, I thought, well, I’ll be honest with him.

I didn’t lie to people. I didn’t con people. There’s none of that going on. So I just said, look mate, I’m selling the house, bro. If you wanna live there, you can pay me some rent. I don’t care, but you need to know you will have to leave when I sell it. And he said, great. So I went around, see him, met him. He had nothing.

I’m like, what the heck coming? I said, where’s all your furniture? I haven’t got any. I went, what? As a Christian, now I understand it. They were called by God to this town just near where I lived. So I put ’em in the house and then went around to pick the rent up. Basically, I gave him the rent back at the first month.

I actually cared for people and didn’t make much difference to me cause I was in trouble anyway. Yeah, one month’s rent did not get me out of my debt, so I bought carpets and things out with their rent. I went to pick it up in cash every month and then one day when I went in he said, are you okay? And I’m like, inside I’m really not okay.

I dunno what I’m gonna bother telling him. Why bother? Because it still looked like I was successful in nice car and everything, but I wasn’t. And something in him and something about him clearly unpicked my heart. And I just went, no. And I said, tell me, do you wanna tell me about it? Hmm. So I told him everything.

And of course, you know, he, he was a Christian and he was great and he befriended me and my daughter and he. Looked after us and made sure we were okay. Occasionally we’d found a few pounds in our pocket and he did one really beautiful thing where he invited us to a barbecue and I was really struggling at the time.

I didn’t have anything to take. And I remember he said, just come into the kitchen. So I went and then he put a little bag together of some burgers and some food and he gave it to me so I could have the dignity as a dad to go up to the barbecuer and bring my bit. That’s the kind of guy he was. And of course, one day.

He just said, John, me and my wife have been praying for you. Do you wanna come to church? And I went, yeah. Wow. Wow. So I went to the small church, 17 people, slightly bonkers, but beautiful. People heard him speak about Jesus, you know, I just like, yeah, I need that. So I gave my life to Christ and began the journey.


Ryan Henry: Wow. Would you take us to the moment when you came to Christ? What was that like?

John Kirkby: So I came to this church, people were singing, people were really excited, warm, pleased to see me and didn’t really know what was going on, but I just knew I should be there. And then Paul obviously preached on love Jesus and talked about forgiveness and talked about what we all need and.

I just knew, I’m just like, hallelujah. Just like, oh, please God, I want some of this, whatever this is. So then he invited me back for a coffee after church and then he basically just said, do you wanna give your life to Christ? And I’m like, yep, definitely. So then he led me on the Prayer of Faith. I was probably the worst baby Christine in the history of baby Christians for two years.

I was all over the place. I did all sorts of crazy stuff and I was still in and out of my lifestyle. Um, I think the first thing that happened was within about six months, sort of my anger tendencies, you know, cause I’ve been arrested for aggravated theft and all sorts of stuff. Hmm. But I just, somehow God did begin, uh, working me and he’s still going 31, late years later.

But the first two years Paul often says I was hard work. So it was a, an interesting first two years I was not in a great place, but I was. Purely and truly saved, and he never gave up on me. Neither did the church, and I never gave up on myself, and Jesus never gave up on me. Always there, always forgiven, always gracious, always encouraging.

Wow, that’s powerful.

On the first day that I gave my life to Christ, he gave me a Bible. Uh, basically I have a reading age of 12. I can’t read very well. So the thought of having a book to read just never really resonated with me. But something with this book he gave me just sparked a lifetime journey of just loving the Bible.

So I just started reading it. He gave me some Psalms to read. I went back to church on a Sunday and thought, I’m just gonna read this Psalm out cause I think it’s brilliant. So I just went up to the front and said, look, I’ve got this, Psalm, can I read it out? And I’m thinking, people must been thinking, who is this guy?

So I began a real lifelong joy of the Bible. Very practical in terms of its application for me, always finding out where I was and someone else had been there before. Really reading around the difficulties people face because I had loads of them. Incredible sense of need of the Bible, of its directional, wisdom, of its grace.

I used to read about the apostle Paul. He said, I know it used to be hungry. I know it used to be well fed. I’m like, man, if, if he, if he were hungry and he didn’t think can go as well as he thought they would done, I think I’m in good company. It doesn’t mean God’s not with you if you don’t work out okay, read your Bible.

In fact, I’d say often not with you if he’s all gonna okay. It’s in the trouble and the struggle that you’re drawn to him. So my absolute passion for the Bible. For, its for, its sort of a application on our lives. Um, was started that first Bible. That’s really amazing.

Ryan Henry: Was there a specific truth or revelation that kind of clicked when you came to the Lord?

John Kirkby: Yeah, so basically I started on the Psalms, no biblical background about anything, but I read the Psalms. I thought this guy knows me. And everywhere I read, I just thought, this book knows me. This book knows how I feel today. This book’s got some wisdom for tomorrow. This book’s gonna forgive me. This book’s gonna challenge me.

So it was an instant revelation of how relevant this thing was to me. And I would say to this day, over 30 years, it’s still the same. It’s relevant to me today. Wow. Wow. That’s good.

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Ryan Henry: happened next? Was there an immediate change? How do you go from the baby believer kind of hot mess. To now having the commander of the British Empire title at the end of your name.

John Kirkby:

I don’t really know. Okay. So we just gotta put it out there. I mean, all I can do is tell the journey and, and let others decide why or how. So you’ve got me newly born Christian. I was healed of violence. This was the first thing. In fact, sometimes when I show some of the pictures, my arrest pictures, when I’m speaking, I have to reassure people, look, I’m at the stand at the back.

You are all safe. You can’t come and talk to me. I’m safe. So I just, that was really big thing. It was fantastic. A bit of control and just realizing, nah, no, we’re not gonna, we’re just gonna back down. It’s fine. Mm-hmm. So, wow. Definitely that was the first sign. Mm. Um, and then I had my joy just sort of returned to me really.

I became really committed to my girls got, got some stuff sort of out there. So the first two years, gradual improvement, right? And then about two and a half years after I got saved, After my manager was over, I was singled Paul, who led me to the Lord and his wife, saw my wife. I now know my wife walking across a car park and they knew her from working.

She worked at a Christian sort of Charles crash thing, and they both looked at each other and both of them went. John both said the same thing, so they set me up with her to have a barbecue. I was the most ineligible bachelor ever in the history. So he is divorced, he’s got debt. He’s got two kids. Yeah.

Look at his life. That’s good. Anyway, I summed up enough to ask her out. I just wanted to find out more about her. We had an amazing time. She basically and said, we’ve had a great evening, but I’m sorry. I’m looking for her husband and you are not it. So that was great.

And then a week later I rang her back. Look, I don’t wanna be funny, but I know you’re looking for a husband. I’m not proposing, I’m just fancy having another drink with you. Wow. Anyway, we got together and she was a really big part of my recovery. Me sorting myself out, which I did, you know, along the way. So couple of years after that, and also my career, there was a great impact.

My faith had a big impact on my work life, just all of a sudden. And I’d also started giving, you know, started being generous with finance. Really quick. I just got that one as well. Just give it away. So my life, just the career expanded. I remember the first night my girls could sleep in our own home, in their own bedroom.

I remember the first night I could invite people to home and buy food. I remember the first Christmas that I could buy food cause I was very poor in the midst of all this stuff. I had periods of extreme poverty. So my life transformed L in my life. And then I asked her, obviously if she’d marry me, she said yes.

And then. We were about to ride into the sunset, so I now had a really good job. Well paid big bonuses, like I were paying my debts off in massive junks at the time and we were used to get married. I went into work, I rang a secured lending division for a big company. Went into work all morning, 17 weeks before we were about to get married.

Sat in my office, looked over this office full of loads of people, and literally doing mortgages and loans. And I remember I just literally went, nah, I’m done. I don’t do this anymore. And I’m like, wow, that’s a well awkward time. God, I’m getting married in 17 weeks. So I thought, what am I gonna do here? So I went home, sat down with Liz and said, I think I’m gonna give him a job up and help the poor.

And she said, yeah, that’s fine. And then this is really an iron anything. We laugh at this. She said, I’m not marrying you for your money. I’m not marrying you for your home. I’m not marrying you for your car. I’m marrying you because I love you. I don’t wanna spend the rest of your life with you. And it’s really good cause we lost all those things in the next five years.

So I resigned. I’d applied my financial entrepreneurial figures person to my own problem of being in debt. And I’d worked out a way to be out of debt. I knew what it was like, I knew what, what debt did to you. I understood rejection and I just said, I’m gonna go help the poor. And literally I thought I might help a few people in my neighborhood and that would’ve been fine.

I didn’t know how we were gonna survive, but obviously faith was really hot and trusting. God was right there. I stepped out. We got married, came up from honeymoon and then I started this charity called Christians Against Poverty. I was literally just on my own at a desk and I just went, right, let’s go help some poor and needy people.

And then everything clicked. Uh, first house I went in, walked into this house with Debbie. She was broken. She wasn’t a Christian, but she prayed anyway that her kids would go next door for tea cuz she couldn’t feed him. His house has been repossessed, abandoned by her husband. And I sat down in that front room and basically I just went.

I know what to do. I know what to do physically cuz I can sort out the debts for her and I have to stand up and fight on behalf of the poor need. So that fight that God put in me was translated into an amazing ability to stand up and judge fairly the poor need. So I had this real way of standing up to people and saying, don’t you dare try and repossess this lady’s house cause you are not allowed to do it.

Don’t you dare threaten her or have you, because I knew. What they and couldn’t do. So anyway, that was it. Wow. I found out what God had for me and 25, 26 years later, although CAPS now run by these amazing people in all the five countries, so I’m not the leader of it. I kind of moved about, I’ve been in two year journey, but still very engaged with it.

So yeah, we started Cap and off we went, and Lizzie took me and two girls on. We’ve had three kids. How did it multiply so much? It’s actually been written into a book about 300,000 copies distributed around the world. My diary was written into a book called Nevertheless So except for all to see, it wasn’t successful at all for ages, took ages, so we didn’t get paid on time.

We had no money. It took 10 years to get 50 Christians against poverty centers based in churches in the uk. And then over the next 10 years, because we’d laid great foundations and we’ve really honed our craft, we knew what to do, brilliant people around me, God’s grace. And then we went from 50 to 500 in the next 10 years.

Wow. So tenfold increase in 10 years. And that was just because God said, let’s grow. I’m very careful. People hear my heart. Anything good in me, anything that’s worked, any expansion, any life touched, any community impacted, any person changed. It’s all Him and by His Spirit that has worked through me, but it works through everybody.

I’m not the special one. I’m just Johnny boy. But me and my wife and the people who were with me really, really were willing to pay the price. And we didn’t listen to people saying, if God was with you, you’d have everything. Yeah. You know, that’s what people said, but I just knew I was doing the right thing.

You couldn’t tell me it wasn’t God because it was, it was astonishing. People finding faith that were coming at the church. So many people joining us, you know, so I had plenty of evidence that God was in it, but it was a very deep, we didn’t get paid on time for 13 years. It was grim. And then he just exploded around the world, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and now here I am supporting a good friend of mine who’s started it, Christians Against Poverty America.

So, CAP America, it’s called.

Ryan Henry: That’s amazing. Friends listening. Uh, we will definitely link the book Nevertheless in our show notes, so you can pick that up if you’d like to. So, how does

John Kirkby: Christians Against Poverty work in every country that it’s in? It’s adaptable to the climate and the culture and everything, but in principle, it’s working with people whose lives are devastated by debt.

Poor money management is often the case. Mostly it’s circumstances that have changed. Marriage breakdown, illness, redundancy, loss of job. There’s always something underneath that’s caused it. And what we do is we basically work with churches that’s always through the church, and we train people in the church to basically work hands on with people, mainly in their homes if we can.

Yeah, we want to. We like to go to people’s homes where they’re as comfortable as they’ll ever be. And then it’s just a question of. Doing the, uh, credit counseling, I think you call it here in America. So it’s really where you sit down with their debts and you help them to find out how they can manage their money, make decisions, change things, but all done with an amazing grace and gentleness, free of charge to the people we help.

And it’s quite in depth. We’re not just doing the problem today, we’re looking at the future problem. And of course we offer to pray with everybody. We encourage our people to get really involved in people’s lives. Just heard this morning of a client who gave his life to the Lord a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve got testimonies of people’s lives transformed, but it’s all really through the local church.

I’m passionate about local church. Without it, I wouldn’t have got where I’ve got. So it’s very church-based

Relatively simple, but very impactful ways of managing money, which called CAP money. So we run that course. We really don’t care how, how each country does it, as long as it relieves poverty and engages with people and hopefully by praying and by integrating in with the church that they will find their faith as well as their financial hope.

That’s amazing.

Ryan Henry: And you can come in and help them without charging them. How does the ministry run there? I mean, do you get just donations?

John Kirkby: In all countries, who somehow, by his spirit get it and go, yep, we’re really in, so we’re supported. By Christians who can see that this is something that God is blessing. And of course, with a background, we have now 25, 26 years, and Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the uk, where Christians against Poverty became the.

Sort of preeminent social action evangelistic ministry in the uk. So it’s a household name in the uk but it’s God’s favor, not us, but we’re certainly gonna use it and stand up. So I’m still part of it, although obviously I don’t run it anymore. Yeah, which is wonderful.

God’s doing other things with me as well, which is fantastic.

Ryan Henry: How many families would you say that you’ve served so far?

John Kirkby: Yeah, we tried to work it out. I think it’s over 200,000 people. Wow. So you might be talking 75 to a hundred thousand families over 25 years in the uk. Obviously that’s the big machine we were helping.

I think someone went debt free every 45 minutes and every day, I think it’s every seven hours someone find faith. So that is a massive machine. But it’s a God ordained machine, isn’t it? It’s not us. I’m still working here, particularly with the team here in America. I’m very excited for their future. Very excited for.

Yeah. Where I think God’s gonna do in this country. I can recognize when God’s about and I can see it here, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy journey. Right. Again, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean God’s not any.

Ryan Henry: Yes, absolutely. I love that phrase. It’s so good. Talk to us a little bit about Christians Against Poverty in America.

John Kirkby:Yeah. It’s amazing the whole sort church environment here in the States. We’re hugely encouraged, we’re meeting pastors all the time. They’re going, yep, we need this. We need to get involved with people who we’re helping. So particularly a lot of churches in the state, which is wonderful, do have a very sort of generous financial support for people who are in need.

It’s really wonderful. I’m not seeing that anywhere in the world. So if someone contacts the church and their need some money for their rent or you know, the churches is there and we’re saying to them, look, that’s fantastic, but you really need someone to go and be part of that generosity to help people moving forward so that we’re seeing all sorts of new things in in America that we’ve not seen before and people are getting it.

And God’s in it. If God’s in it, it’ll work. And if he isn’t, I don’t want it to work. Yeah. Cause I had no point. Lee is in it and he is with us, and the team are fantastic. That’s amazing.

Ryan Henry: Uh, yeah, it is definitely a need. You know, you always have that thought when, when you talk to people who are, are really going through a hard time financially and some things are, are in their control and there’s some things that are out of their control, you know, but, uh, just give money.

Obviously that’s a blessing, but getting down to the root of it is, it’s a big gift right there. So, yeah.

John Kirkby: Yeah, that’s amazing. If you want to change people’s life, you’ve gotta get involved in their lives. You know, my life changed because Paul got involved in Johnny Boy’s life. Jesus got involved in people’s life.

Jesus got involved in people’s mess. Jesus got involved in their poverty. Jesus got on involved in their sin and judgment. Jesus got involved in people. If you want change people, you better get involved with people. Find some time for others rather than yourselves. I know that’s easy to say and hard to do, but fundamentally, That’s what CAP is all about.

It’s enabling people who want to really get involved in people’s lives. Hmm. That’s so good. I think the thing that is really important is as Christians, we’ve somehow lost our confidence that we are showing Jesus where we are. So I think show and tell. It’s not tell and Sure. So what I mean is, was Paul offered to prayer with me and inviting me to church the key.

Yes. At the moment it was, but what opened my lock? By Christ’s spirit because he, he shared himself with me. He found time for me. He was bothered about me. I mean, the, the people are crying out for somebody to actually bother about them. The whole world can often seem so selfish. That’s not a great way to live.

I’ve done it. It’s ultimately fruitless, but spending yourselves on behalf of others. Or shall I say a certain part of yourself? Cuz Jesus also wants us to enjoy our lives, which I do. And the blessing and friendship. Yeah. And all the good stuff. But we’ve gotta find space for others. Read your Bible, come on everybody.

It’s not about you.

Ryan Henry: Amen. I wanna ask you our last question here. So John, if, if you could think about all the situations, uh, you were in being the debt collector and getting bankrupt, living in poverty, and if you hadn’t been in those hard circumstances, do you think that you would still be here? Where you are today serving those who are in poverty?

John Kirkby: I don’t know. All I know is that God is a God who uses all things for good, for those who love the Lord. Hmm. I don’t understand that fully. I would say had I not found Christ when I did, I think the future would’ve been grim. Could God have taped me on at 14 when I had that absolute move of God in my life and rejected it?

And if I didn’t do it, he’s got plenty of other people who could have done it. He’s God, if you create heaven and earth, he can find someone to do a bit of debt counseling. I also, how many people he asked before he asked me, Hmm. Wow. Who often wonder that? Who said no? Or was I the first? It’s unlikely, but let’s go for that.

So I think there’s that an overwhelming sense of it’s all God, it’s not me, it’s him. God’s got so many paths for everybody. Mine just happened to be this one. And I did say yes, and we did stick it out. Yeah. Very thankful that you did.

People often ask me about regret. I have lots of that and I’m gonna tell you about something that happened over my lifetime of regret and how Jesus really brought a message to me. So as you have heard, I was very difficult. I was a disgrace to my father at the time when he died, and I got never to ask him lots of questions and I wanted to ask my mother a question for.

Over 30 years and my mom got cancer. She was born again, and we had an amazing few years. And I looked after my mom for many years just being a good son to her, which was great. And I had one question that I was afraid to ask her. And as she came to the end of her life, I just knew I had to ask her a question about my dad.

And I asked her, I said, mom, can you just tell me what my dad was like and what he thought of me? When I saw lost and the disgrace and selfish and all the rest of it, can you tell me what my dad thought? And she said to me, said, the more trouble you got in and the more mistakes you made, and the further you went from him, he loved you more.

And he always knew that was great things in you, and he knew you’d come good. And it just really struck me. How my father would, in that particular sense, reflect Jesus. The further you go away from him, the more mistakes you made. The more you regret him, the more you move away from him. His love for you increases if that were possible, and he would let you know that he sees the good and he knows the future and he wants you back.

So I would encourage everyone. Wherever you are, whatever mistakes you’ve made or regrets you have or haven’t, that Jesus is literally waiting for you to say, Abba Father, forgive me. I wanna come back to you. He’s ready and willing.

Ryan Henry: Thanks so much for sharing that. Praise God. It has been amazing hearing your story and what an honor.

Thank you. Uh, it’s been a blessing to hear it and so encouraging and I know our listeners are just gonna really appreciate it.

Margaret Ereneta: Hey friends, if you wanna learn more about Cap or get a copy of John Kirkby’s memoir, check out our show notes. Today’s Sendoff features a listener who submitted her two minute testimony using our Share Your Story button on our website.

God wrote your story, so it’s already awesome. Why not share it? Check out our Share Your Story tool by visiting our show notes and be moved by Desiree’s two minute testimony.

Desiree Davis: I guess this is before Christ. I was raised in a liturgical church, which was more ritual than having a deep meaning to me. And going to church on Sunday was more of a scheduled outing, like going to school, and so I went because my parents told me to go.

What made the change? I guess this was the rock bottom portion was. My parents got a divorce, um, my first year of college and my mom moved about eight hours away and she was like my base or my support and so I felt alone left to try to figure things out on my own and the sense of belonging and having to have family.

And so my base was to go to church, but I still felt it alone because it was just go, we go through the formality and then you just go back home. And it never really answered that sense of belonging. And the turning point came when I was introduced to the non-denominational church by my girlfriend Jackie.

She was so happy, so excited. Her energy just felt so clean, pure, and she just like, I gotta introduce you to somebody. My friend, she, she introduced me to Christ, Christ for myself through this church. I felt alive, you know. And it was more Bible back, but I felt, and I knew then that I could go straight to Christ with my problems.

You know, I didn’t have to ask anyone else, or I didn’t have to ask a pastor or authority at the church, or a deacon or anybody like that. You know, go straight through Jesus and pray straight to God myself. You know, I felt liberated. So that started filling a void, and it was like community and it was family.

And so that gave a sense of that community, you know, and togetherness. But now, um, after deliverance, I’m a, I’m a true Christ follower, a disciple. I’m looking to help other people to that, to that point, so I feel free and I enjoy sharing Christ my life and my experiences with others.