Bishop Mick Fleming, 56, is no ordinary man of God as a former drug dealer and debt enforcer for gangsters, he is now known for his work with the dispossessed, underprivileged, and destitute who seek comfort in his Sunday sermons. Prince William is also his friend.
The former gangster-now-pastor has a book entitled Blown Away and Prince William wrote the foreword. It tells the unbelievable story of how Mick came to swap crime for the church. This is an example of how to rekindle a relationship in our society.
The book narrates how he was raped at age 11, how his older sister died of an asthma attack, and how he fell into a life of drug addiction and crime. What a story for a former drug dealer!
Extraordinary story of a drug dealer
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Born into a Catholic family in Burnley he grew up in a loving home where his mother Jean stayed home to look after him and his three sisters while his father Hughie worked as a window cleaner.
Mick’s life changed when he was raped by a stranger who grabbed him on the way to school.
He was going to tell his parents about the attack the next day when his sister Ann suffered an asthma attack and died at age 20.
He said: “I wasn’t going to tell my mom and dad, who had just lost their daughter, that their son had been attacked. So instead, I kept it all in and the anger grew.”
At 14, Mick was dealing drugs and shoplifting. In his early 20s, he was already an addict, traveling the country as an “enforcer” for gangsters.
The pain of a drug dealer
“I hurt people and badly — and I didn’t care. Life and death meant nothing to me, it just seemed inevitable.”
He recalled: “I lived in a world where the rules of real life didn’t seem to exist. He had to learn how to define relationships and give relationships a meaning.
Arrested twice for murder and three times for armed robbery, Mick was always able to escape jail.
But while the law was unable to catch up with him, his conscience and years of pain finally did in 2009, and he tried to kill himself.
He was later arrested but, making no sense to detectives, sent to a mental health unit where he found comfort with other addicts and got clean.
But Mick still had one unresolved issue, a vow to kill the man who had raped him as a child.
Incredibly, when he came across him out of the blue in a McDonald’s and realized he was an alcoholic, Mick helped him get sober.
“He died never knowing who I was,” says Mick. “But being able to forgive him gave me inner peace.”
Mick is now consecrated as a Bishop with the International Christian Church network. He devotes his life to helping others, particularly addicts, drug users, and sex workers.
He is deeply worried about the cost-of-living crisis and the church is handing out double the usual number of food parcels, clothes, and, in the most desperate cases, gas cards and emergency funds to people in need.
He says: “A girl of about nine asked me a few days ago why her tummy kept making strange noises.
“She was so used to going without food that she didn’t even recognize the sound as hunger.
“Pensioners are too scared to put their heating on.
“I’ve been to freezing houses with no food in the cupboards.
“This crisis is real and it’s only going to get worse.”
“There’s a stigma surrounding poverty,” he says.
“Parents can’t afford to eat and put the heating on so they are drying their kids’ clothes the best they can and they smell.
“The kids are then going to school and getting teased.
“This center is a place where people can get the help they need, somewhere to come when they have nowhere else to go.”
Mick is like a hero around Burnley and has learned to forgive his past.