Mez McConnell has an interesting story to tell–a story of the transforming grace of God in his life. Where some children grow up under the loving care of kind parents, Mez was left to tumble up on his own after his mother abandoned him, after his father took up with an abusive woman. Roaming the streets of Yorkshire, he lived a life of drugs and burglary and violence, eventually and inevitably finding himself confined to one of the nation’s worst prisons.
But even as he was living the life of a nihilist, God was chasing him down. He did this by introducing just a few Christians into his life. Those Christians pursued him even to prison, they allowed him to live with them when he was released, they invited him into their lives, and through it all Mez was slowly transformed. He put his faith in Jesus Christ and now pastors Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh. He also oversees 20 Schemes, a ministry committed to planting healthy, gospel-centered churches in Scotland’s poorest communities, known as “schemes.”
Mez shares his life story (so far) in Is There Anybody Out There?. This is a wonderfully, and sometimes hilariously, off-beat memoir that is written largely in the present tense and with a good bit of stream-of-consciousness. While Mez has become a believer, he has retained a peculiar and honest way of seeing things. This anecdote from his time in Bible college gives a glimpse of the way he sees himself:
People are so introverted here. They just want to talk about their feelings all the time. I’m not interested in how I feel about my father and all that psycho-babble; I just want to know more about God, Jesus and the Bible. Apparently, that’s not possible unless I ‘understand myself’. Well, I think I understand myself pretty well. I was a liar, manipulator, thief, fornicator and all round scumbag. For some reason Jesus chose to die for me, and that will do for me. I can’t pretend to understand it all, but I accept it gratefully. So, I’m just not interested in revisiting the past. I can’t do anything about it, but with Jesus I can do something about the future. That’s about the only ‘self understanding’ that I need.
I had to share my testimony at a meeting tonight. People seem to like hearing my testimony but it always makes me feel uncomfortable. Many of these people seem so bored with their own testimonies that they need to hear mine. But I’m no more saved than they are. We all still get to go to the same good place. A couple came to me afterwards to tell me how wonderful I was. Wonderful! Yeh, I’m so wonderful that when I was younger I waited until one of my mates was away on holiday and then burgled his house. What a lovely young man I am! What a credit to my family!
While many people praise Mez for the work he is doing for the Lord, he knows that it is only by the grace of God that he is alive, that he is free, that he has been given a new life. This book tells Mez’s story, but even more so, it tells just a small part of the great story God is writing through his people. It is a powerful memoir and one you would do well to read.