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Turning a new leaf for God

A WHOLE NEW WORLD: Former gang member Tara Smith says that her past involvement with gangs motivates her to maintain her relationship with God today

THE MOMENT you meet Tara Smith, you would never guess that this dedicated Christian was once affiliated to a gang.
The 25-year-old is now a wife, mother of two, law graduate and regularly gets invited to speak about her faith and life.

She also runs a ministry called ‘The Good Wife’, which hosts events, teaching and sup- port for married women.
Tara’s foray into gang life is remarkable as she grew up, along with her three siblings, in a Christian family. Both her parents are professionals.

Tara, a south Londoner, be- came affiliated with the gang lifestyle at 15, because she was bored and wanted to make quick money.

She explained, “I got to my teenage years and wanted to spice things up.

“I wanted there to be some adrenaline – I wanted to live life on the edge. That’s what attracted me to the gang.”

Tara was an active member of the gang, and her involvement led to her getting kidnapped by the opposing gang. A rival gang also bricked her home. It was a frightening time for her.

“It made me feel very scared because I felt they might come into my house and kill my family. It made things very serious for me. My home was no longer a safe place.”

Tara, then 17, fell pregnant. It was a shock to her and her family and she ended up spending the later part of her pregnancy in foster care.

When her daughter was born seven years ago, Tara continued with gang life for a while, but began to see that it was futile and dangerous, and eventually left.
She had also started going back to church and wanted to focus on raising her daughter and getting an education. Looking back on her life, Tara now sees how dangerous it was. “I think there was naivety and I didn’t realise how serious what I did was, and how deep I got into things. At the time it wasn’t a massive deal,” she said.

“When I was in foster care alone, I never thought I’d be in this position. It reminds me that where I am now is not due to anything I’ve done, it is be- cause of the grace of God.
“As a result, I’m much more understanding and open to people who find themselves in difficult circumstances.”

Tara can see that some good has come out of her past experiences.

She said: “God has allowed me to go through what I did to encourage other people that they don’t have to stay in their situation.”

Her aim now is to continue to grow in her faith, and be an inspiration to others.

And what advice does she have for parents whose children might be in gang? “Offer an opportunity for conversation – honesty and communication are very powerful,” she answered.

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