CHANGED MAN: Leon Anthony Spence
IT’S NOT often you meet young men who record an EP to fund their charity, but this is the case for Leon Anthony Spence.
The proceeds from his debut release Growing Up will be donated to Sow a Seed, the charity this 27-year-old evangelist and member of Beulah Family Church in Thornton Heath, founded to support children in Ghana, as well as British youth.
Leon first visited Ghana four years ago alongside the Ghanaian youth pastor at his church.
While there, Leon visited an orphanage and was moved by the experience. “It struck a chord in my heart," he said.
“Initially, I wanted to go back to give some clothes, just to give back. When I got married, I spoke to my wife. We both shared a desire to give back to Ghana, so we decided to return there to see what the needs were. We found there was a need to help abandoned children.”
Ghanaian social services made it clear to Leon and his wife Cherelle that they desired to increase the number of adoptions due to the high ratio of children to adults at orphanages.
Armed with that information, the Spences decided that they would focus their efforts on building a residential complex to house children with their adoptive parents. With this fact in mind, Leon and his wife aim to raise £200,000 and are planning to go and live in Ghana temporarily to see their dream project become a reality.
Leon’s current life is a far cry from his teenage years. Not only does he run a charity, he’s qualified to work with at-risk youth and provide mentorship. He is always seeking new ways to engage with youth.
The songs on his EP, Growing Up, reflect Leon’s life change. He said: “Growing Up is about hope, it's about overcoming situations, it’s about having love for my community.
“I share real-life situations everyone can relate to and I talk about my faith in God and how he’s transformed my life.”
As a teenager, Leon had street cred as a graffiti artist and engaged in anti-social behaviour.
At 16, prior to taking his GCSE exams, things changed for the worse. He recalled: “My friends attended a barbecue, and the people that we had the rivalry with found out. A big fight broke out.”
During the fight, whilst most of Leon’s friends escaped, one got beaten so badly that he later died in hospital. His death left Leon bitter and vengeful.
OUT IN AFRICA: Leon and wife Cherelle (centre) in Ghana
Leon never got a chance to get revenge as his deceased friend’s father dissuaded him and his crew from doing so, and, more importantly, Leon became a Christian after a quest for faith which saw him research Islam, because many of his friends had become Muslims.
However, Leon decided to follow Christianity, partly because of the spiritual seeds sown in him when he attended church with his grandmother as a child, and also because the Bible touched his heart.
“When I started to research things, I found out about the love of God, who loves you no matter what you do. Even the Lord’s Prayer, which says ‘forgive those who trespass against us’, started to touch my heart.
“It meant God wasn’t going to forgive me unless I forgave the people that killed my friend. The more I learned about Jesus, the more that helped me forgive them.”
The change of heart set Leon on an upward trajectory. Now, as a young adult, he has compassion for others, hence he believes that Christians must be charitable.
“Giving to the poor is God’s heart. He loves to give to people in need. As Christians, it’s part and parcel of our relationship with God, to share the Gospel, give to the needy and show love.