A Dublin man will live underground in a coffin for three days in Belfast in a bid to bring hope to what he sees as an epidemic of people suffering from addiction, depression and suicidal thoughts.
John Edwards, who now lives in Yorkshire, became addicted to alcohol and drugs when using them as emotional crutches to help him talk to girls as a young teenager.
Now clean for 25 years, his Christian faith inspires him to travel around the British isles to reach out to others trapped in the prison he knows only too well himself.
He has just finished travelling around Ireland north and south for three weeks where he has spoken words of hope in prisons, schools and remote farms, reaching out to people that have contacted him via his web site or social media.
“I’m a former addict,” he said. “I’ve been clean and sober for 25 years and I’m making a very large coffin, I’m burying it in East Belfast and I’m going to live in it for three days.”
The “shocking” stunt is set to raise awareness of the needs of despairing people while John broadcasts stories of hope electronically from inside the coffin.
He will be three days in the ground, where two air pipes to the surface will provide air circulation, with an air conditioning unit on hand if needed.
“I know this is a radical move but people are continually contacting me who are either suicidal or who know friends or family who are,” he said. “My plan is to speak to them from the grave before they get there and show them hope.”
Preparations are already being made at a piece of ground alongside Willowfield Parish Church, East Belfast. JCBs have dug a hole for John to “go under” in a coffin 8ft long x 3.5ft high x 4ft wide, enabling him to sit up as well as lie down.
During this time, John and his team will live stream from the coffin through his charity’s web site – www.walkingfree.org – and live on Facebook. He will take calls, emails, Skype and texts from all kinds of people in East Belfast and around the world.
“People will communicate with me how they have navigated and overcome trauma, suicide attempts, coping with addicted children or family members as well as addiction to substance and behaviour.”
John has pioneered rehabs, overcome Hepatitis C from dirty needles and spent time in mental homes back in the 1970s.
A committed Christian, he says that “God’s help” has changed his life and seen him happily married for 20 years.
Willowfield Rector, David McClay comments, “John is going into the coffin on Ash Wednesday which marks the start of Lent.
“He knows that he is going to be buried on March 1st.
“The rest of us don’t know when we will be buried, when our lives will end – but for every Christian there is the confident hope of life forever because of what Jesus has won for us on the cross.”
John demonstrates the amazing transformation that faith can bring to those who seek it, he added.
Follow the live stream of John’s experience on social media: #GraveChat or see www.walkingfree.org for more details.
He can also be texted at 07402677943 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.