Turning to God freed me from burden of sin, says Raymond Johnston who killed brother
A Co Fermanagh man who stabbed his brother to death says he is now "at peace" after finding God.
Father-of-two Raymond Johnston was charged with manslaughter and jailed for two and a half years following the fatal incident close to Killesher Chapel on the outskirts of Florencecourt, a small village about eight miles west of Enniskillen.
David Johnston (32) died as a result of stab wounds in the early hours of July 13 2012.
Now free from prison, Mr Johnston says he is on a journey, determined not to be defined by that "life changing" night.
"The impact that 2012 had has been life-changing, totally life-changing," he said.
"I am a far cry from the man I was before but the Lord is still changing me, still making me, still moulding me.
"I am far from the man that I need to be, that God wants me to be. But I am on that journey.
"I find that I am at peace, I am at peace with what happened, with my life, and what happened in the past.
"I have turned a corner in my life, in what has probably been the hardest time of my life," he said, in an interview with his local newspaper, The Impartial Reporter.
"Turning to God," said the 37-year-old, "has allowed me to be free from that burden of sin, from the burden of what happened.
"That condemnation has been lifted off me, I feel free.
"I can live my life without fear now of that condemnation from society, from the outside world, from within. It has allowed me to live a life for God, not for self anymore."
It was during a journey from Enniskillen to Laganside Courthouse in Belfast, where he was attending a remand hearing, when Mr Johnston found his faith.
Driving back to Enniskillen he asked God to forgive him, around six months later he was sentenced for manslaughter.
"I brought with me my Bible, sermons, recordings of testimonies and the whole journey up the road I listened to those testimonies of how God had changed the lives of so many people, people who had similar lifestyles to myself," he added.
"I came to Christ listening to the recordings, thinking how I had made such a mess of my life up to this point, how I was in such a need for God.
"I was at a stage where I could see no way out. It was trying to live with what I had done."
Once an avid drug user, Mr Johnston regularly smoked cannabis and drank copious amounts of alcohol and "didn't realise it was full of sin.
"Before what happened (to his brother) I was taking a lot of drugs, drinking a lot of alcohol. I was smoking cannabis daily and drinking as often as possible," he added.
"I had a good job, I had all the things society told me I needed: my own house, all the money I needed, fancy clothes, holidays, but I was never happy.
"I found myself drawn to the party lifestyle, the drink, the drugs, the chase. I was just living life for the chase. I have no desire to return to that, I have seen the years I have wasted."
He admits to experiencing "very deep lows" but believes he is now "coming out of that tunnel."
"I see the light, there is hope for my future, for my family's future, hope that I have never had before," Raymond added.
"I live my life for God, for my community, to show love to that community and give back the love that has been shown to me and my family."
And it is his family who he says have helped him "to accept what happened and move on."
"I love my family and to know they love me is really reassuring," he added.
This Sunday Mr Johnston will share his story at Elim Pentecostal Church in Enniskillen at 7pm where he hopes to tell people about "the dangers" of life.
"I had never set out or planned for anything of that to happen, what did happen in 2012," he added.
"I want to tell people that alcohol and drugs can be dangerous to life, how you can get in and addicted very quickly.
"I want to tell people about God."
Pastor Nigel Elliott said he has had "the privilege" of "walking part of this journey with Raymond and his family."
"I can see the change, it's very evident in many ways," Mr Elliott said.
"It's not about a man but the change that God can make in a man.
"He's not the perfect man, but he's not the man I first met in 2012.
"I believe in this community there are more people like Raymond Johnston who may not have been where he has been but nevertheless their life is empty and lacks purpose.
"I want to offer those people a reassurance, a hope for the future.
"If you come along on Sunday you will hear for yourself a man who walked a journey that was desperate, low, right through his whole life.
"I hope the community will grasp not just a story but the message behind that story."