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A young Oban man whose drug addictions led him down a criminal pathway has turned his life around and is now helping others.
Russell MacLennan, 30, left Oban High School at the age of 16 before joining the Argyll and Southern Highlanders.
Four years in the army failed to make an impression on the troubled teenager, however, and Russell was discharged at the age of 21.
During a frank and honest interview with The Oban Times, Russell admitted: ‘I had a bit of a hectic life when I was younger and spent a lot of my time partying and doing drugs.
‘I just want to make that clear. I really have to tell the truth as there are folk who actually fought and did their bit.’
Things didn’t get much better for Russell and his life began to spiral out of control, ultimately leading to a jail sentence in 2012.
‘I felt I couldn’t get out of it [drugs],’ he admitted.
Three years ago, still desperately looking for a ‘way out’, Russell phoned his mum, Agnes, and asked if he could go home. His parents agreed and, on his return, she gave him a small bible.
‘I had never really believed in any religion before but reading the bible seemed to open up my mind,’ he said.
‘From there a path unfolded and it took me on this incredible journey.’
Russell, who has two children, Kayla, 10, and Daniel, two, joined Oban Baptist Church and has been using his own story to help other people.
‘I have spoken to local groups and individuals and have also spoken to people in Glasgow where I shared by testimony.’
Last year Russell attended a school with Christian missionary organisation Iris Global in South Africa and he is currently raising funds to attend another one this summer.
‘Last year I attended many lessons and teachings with Christian principles to enable me to counsel people who have been affected by deep trauma and to help children who suffer from neglect,’ he explained.
‘We also spent part of our week doing practical mission work where we were able to go into the poor townships and work in conjunction with the local police chief to create a safe environment for the children to come and play.
‘We would teach the children in different subjects and try to train them up in good morals in a bid to stop the cycle of drugs and violence in the poor communities.
‘I was able to share some of my own personal experiences and problems to help give hope to some of the people who were going through their own trials.’
This year Russell hopes to continue his training which starts in Scotland before heading off to Israel and Madagascar.
‘Life is good now and I am just taking every chance I get to better myself and help others,’ he added.
Russell also trains with Oban MMA and recently tasted success competing at the Edinburgh open jui jitsu, winning a gold and a silver in his weight class.
‘I have been going to MMA for the past two years. Coach Coogie Potter has played a huge role in helping me turn my life around along with my mum and dad [Ian],’ he concluded.
Russell currently works as a labourer for McLaren of Craig Plant Hire and Contracting who have said that they would hold his job for him for the two months he will be away. He has already paid for his travel expenses himself.
Anyone wishing to contribute towards Russell’s funding can do so at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/russell-maclennan-1