Guilt turned to innocence

Teboho Joseph
“I was never satisfied,” says Teboho Joseph

Sentenced to 10 years in prison for a crime he did not plead guilty to, Teboho Joseph Setungoane realised that he was not as innocent as he first thought.

"One day I was at the tavern when a fight broke out and a man was stabbed to death," Teboho explains.

Despite being present at the time, Teboho insisted that he was wrongfully blamed for the murder but still had to come to terms with being charged, found guilty and put behind bars.

"I believe I am an innocent person in this case but I realise that revenge will never help me," he says.

"There's only one man who can help me and that is Jesus Christ."

From a young age Teboho learnt about God because his father was a pastor. When things went wrong, his father always prayed and looked to Jesus Christ for help.

"Life was very hard because I grew up in a very poor family with five children and my parents were not working or getting money from the government," he recalls.

"They were struggling for money just to make sure that we did not go to sleep with empty stomachs."

The struggles he faced as a boy initially caused Teboho to grow jealous of his neighbours, who were better off, and he wished he had been born into their family instead of his own.

"My parents told me that God does not bless us all with the same things and that I should stop being jealous of others. I realised that when I am jealous I will never be satisfied or get a better and brighter future."

Although he tried to remain content with his life, Teboho started to drink alcohol excessively and says he cared more about impressing his friends than helping his family.

"I believe I ended up in jail because of my addiction to alcohol. I should have listened when my parents told me to stop drinking so much," he explains.

It was in prison that Teboho began to realise that, even though he believed he was innocent of murdering that man at the tavern, he was guilty of a lot of other things.

As James chapter 2 verses 10 and 11 says, "For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God's laws. For the same God who said, 'You must not commit adultery,' also said, 'You must not murder.' So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law."

Realising that his hatred, disobeying his parents, jealousy and addiction to alcohol had caused him to be found guilty before God, Teboho knew that he had to plead for God's forgiveness and believe with his whole heart that Jesus had died in his place so that God could declare him innocent.

Teboho decided to surrender his life to God because, he says, those "who follow in Jesus' footsteps are the most powerful" because only they can overcome temptations and sin through the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Teboho says he also gained everlasting life because God promised to forgive and take to heaven those who trusted in Jesus' death and resurrection.

"I need Jesus Christ, not just because I am a prisoner," he explains.

"I heard that Jesus will help a person in every circumstance in life, whether life is hard or easy, and the salvation He offers us is more powerful than anything else in life and makes us strong all the time.

"With God we never need to fear anything."

Since accepting all that God offers freely, Teboho says he can see that God has saved him from many bad things.

"I believe He allowed me to end up here [in prison] so that I will stay away from alcohol," he explains.

"By a miracle He brought me to life and has blessed me even in prison. He stopped my problem with alcohol, jealousy and protected me from getting involved in gangs."

Teboho feels blessed to have been given special responsibilities in prison and is even able to work.

He is also grateful that God has provided his family with jobs and is helping them use their money wisely.

"I want to thank God for the changes He brought to my life and my family's life," Teboho says.

"By attending church and reading and following the principals of the Bible, God has helped me stay away from my addictions and brings good attitudes to my life. My sins no longer count against me because my life is in Jesus hands."

To others he adds: "I would like to tell people that Jesus is the only person that can change your life and bring you a brighter future. No one can judge you except for God. We must follow Jesus and praise Him in the good times and bad because He is alive and can bring us life.

"I praise the Lord even if it is raining or dusty, cold or warm, when I am sleeping or waking, when I am well or ill. Don't forget to open your heart to Him when you pray and tell Him all your troubles [because He understands]."

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