Kevin “Mad Dog” Madford hasn’t worn a suit in four years, and hesn,t worn a suit in four years, and he’s loving it. In fact, he will often get some kid walking up to him in the street trying to sell him
drugs: which Kevin reckons is great. After all, he says,”I get to talk to him about the Lord”.
When you look at Kevin, it,s hard to imagine him ever wearing a suit. (As He describes it: “I looked like a cross between J.Swaggart and B. Graham”) Face tattoos do seem to go better with leathers then a
So how did someone who would look more at home among a crowd of Hell’s Angels end up wearing a three-piece suit anyway? More importantly: how did he end up wearing this suit street-preaching up and down the
North and South Islands of New Zeland and Australia?
You wouldn’t need some revelatory spiritual gift to guess that Kevin grew up in a pretty rough, dysfunctional environment. His working class Catholic upbringing was a bit of a nightmare for him and his five
brothers and two sisters. His dad had come back from the War “pretty messed up” and, Kevin says, like so many others, “had no parenting skills”.
As Kevin remembers it, being the second youngest had its own problems in an alcoholic and violent family. For some reason or other, being younger meant getting more than your fair share of the abuse.
When children are five or six, they don’t have to have too much experience of other families to know when they have been dealt a bit of a raw deal regarding family life. But deep down Kevin knew something was wrong
and he responded almost subconsciously. “I rebelled. But didn’t even know I was rebelling”.
In a sort of pre-teenage fellowship of sufferers, Kevin started to drift toward other hurt, dysfunctional kids. Among those who wouldn’t admit it, but shared much of the same childhood pain, he commenced the same
childhood pain, he commenced the almost inevitable “downhill spiral”. In Kevin’s words: “The older I got, the badder I got”.
At about the age of eight, Kevin took to stealing from cars and houses, after escaping out his bedroom window at night. His parents responded in perhaps the only way they knew. But the “proverbial beatings and
hidings didn’t work…the damage had already been done.”
The familiar cycle of crime, violence and imprisonment in welfare homes continued until the most familiar piece in the tortured jigsaw puzzle of dysfunctional lives arrived: alcohol. At something came along that
didn’t just replace painful emotions with intense violent emotions. It actually took away the pain and the need to maintain the constant wall. “I hated the taste”, he says, “but I loved the effect.”
Alcohol was a constant companion when Kevin was out of gaol or remand centres.
But that wasn’t all that often. Most of his teenage years he spent locked up.
Kevin started taking other drugs as well while a teenager-sniffing glue, petrol, whole bottles of cough mixture, but alcohol remained his number one demon lover, as it had in his parents’ lives. The
“MAD”in Kevin “Mad Dog” Mudford was partly because of the way he would act when drank. He didn’t need alcohol to “go berserk’” but crazier things would certainly happen when he did. Those
flames of bitterness and hurt from his childhood would appear doused after the first couple of drinks. But that was only momentary. They would flare up again all the more violent and weird as he kept drinking.
“For years I’d learned to be mad-and I could be mad. If I wanted to be crazy I could go out and be crazy. It was all my part of bucking the system. Like slashing my wrists. One time I just got a broken beer
bottle, ripped my wrists open and walked into a ward and said, ‘give me some pills’. That’s how I said: I didn’t care”.
One night, while polishing off a bottle of gin, Kevin washed down some ‘magic’ mushrooms as well. But sometimes distinguishing between a poisonous toadstool and a non-toxic hallucinatory mushroom is a fine art.
And Kevin got it wrong. “It blew me lights out!” he said. He woke up in a psychiatric hospital.
The way Kevin tells it, he was never quite the same again. Along with the doing the rounds of many of the prisons in New Zealand, he now started doing the rounds of the psychiatric hospitals.
Whether in prisons or in psychiatric wards, Kevin would often be put in solitary confinement, where there was plenty of time to think about life. On one occasion the proverbial penny seemed to drop. He realised he
was desperately looking for love.
“If I could find love, I would be free”, he thought. He woke on his prison wall; “I don’t want to live in a world without love”.
About this time, Christians started running bible studies in the prison and Kevin struck up conversations with inmates going to and from them.
The bible studies were being led by a Roman Catholic priest, something Kevin associated with deadness and hypocrisy. He could remember his parent’s ‘religious’ demeanour when the priest visited….and the
horror of their everyday life when he left. But this time would be different.
“They took me along to listen to him”, Kevin recalls. “And this Catholic priest was just full-on for Jesus-lovely man. He was Catholic to the back teeth. But the thing was he had a relationship with the
Lord…and he cared”.
Soon after Kevin gave the ‘Christian thing’ a try. In fact he gave it hundreds of tries. But nothing worked. He sees now, though, that he was coming to God on his own terms, trying to get an “instant
Christianity”. His demon lover alcohol had been digging its claws in deeper and deeper, and he had asked God time and again to take it away but with no results. His visits to Alcoholics Anonymous and numerous
other organizations proved no more successful.
But one-day Kevin’s ‘negotiations’ with God took a different twist. He asked Jesus to take away his alcoholism so that he would know He was real, as he had done before. But this time, at 26 years old and after half a lifetime in prisons and institutions, he finally gave up the bargaining with God and promised to serve Him. He symbolised this by walking forward at an altar call at a small Apostolic Church.
Those wild pre-Christian pasts in the wilderness of sin and brokenness certainly do make good testimonies. But the person who goes through all this still has the scares and the pain. Jesus did say that where
sin abounded, so also would grace. But He didn’t say it would be easy. And it hasn’t been for Kevin.
Nevertheless, he never drank again. “It went like that”, Kevin says, as he snaps his fingers. He did buy a12 ounce bottle of beer in a pub soon after, but he left it in sitting there and headed off to church.
But a life time of bed relationships don’t change overnight, particularly when they’re related to alcoholism. “Like any alcoholic, I couldn’t handle relationships, see. They think they do but they don’t.
Jesus helps, of course”.
Relating to his family, the source of many of his problems, hasn’t been easy for Him. But there have been enormous steps forward. His relationship with his father was never healed, as he died when he was a
teenager. But Kevin has been at work building friendships again with his brothers end sisters, three of whom have become Christians
“Alcoholics usually avoid family”, Kevin says. “So you’ve got to pull your Head out of the sand and say,“Look, I’ve got brothers and sisters, and I need to face up to that”. It’s still a real struggle
relating to his mother, though there has been a noticeable healing. But “there’s still a lot of work to be done there, too, you know. [she’s] not an easy woman to be around.
It was his relationship with his mother that produced other problems for Kevin in his Christian life. As Kevin describes it “I had a problem with females- I hated them. I had a bad attitude towards women. And some
girls [at church] came up to me and said, ‘You’ve got a problem here, kid, and we need to have a look at it’. But I was very defensive. I didn’t like looking at those areas. I wanted to put on a big show,
pretend it was alight.”
Kevin is still a bit uneasy about his past. “I’ve never been one to try and dig too much up”, he says. And there was certainly plenty of bad incidents in the past to occupy a lifetime of Christian
introspection. “I was a real screwbag and I knew it was going to take several years to iron these things out.”
With so much potential junk from the past to sort through, Kevin leaves the raising of those problems to God, and he tries to deal with them when they come up. He also see much of his healing coming through his
evangelism. There may be some sense of escapism in it, but Kevin reckons that, by putting into evangelism what he put into drinking and drugs, he has found a sense of responsibility and empowering that has been a
key weapon against sin from the past resurfacing.
Five years ago Kevin gave up the three-piece suit he had been wearing since he became a Christian. He became convinced his conservative dress had become a barrier to him relating to those people God wanted him to
reach most. He headed fot the nearest heavy metal shop, thinking God, my church are going to think I’ve backslid, and bought a leather jacket and a pair of pants. About a year later, after almost 10 years
preaching throughout most of New Zealand, Kevin felt it was time to move on and headed for Australia. Late last year he purchased a mobile home to travel around the country with most of the money coming from US
televangelist Kenneth Copeland, whom he credits with having a significant influence on his Christian life.
The world of the prosperity teachers and Kevin’s past do seem poles apart and when questioned about those teachings of Copeland’s which may consider heretical, Kevin is unsure what they mean. “I haven’t
watched all his videos or read all his books to find out what’s controversial and what’s not controversial. I try to keep it simple.”
And there is no doubt that the strength of Kevin’s evangelism is “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). The simplicity of a gospel that changes lives and reaches as far as sin takes a person.
A simplicity that will bring that person back provided he or she stops struggling.