Charl had only one way out of a dangerous lifestyle of drug dealing and witchcraft
A tragic and bitter journey began for Charl Linde as an eight-year-old when he felt the first abusive blows from his alcoholic father as bankruptcy forced the family to move to a distant town.
Coupled with this abuse he and his mother experienced, Charl recalls feeling so uncomfortable around his new classmates, "I would tell lies to make friends."
In high school, he avoided bullies by befriending bigger boys who introduced him to drugs and other things that he says "a 16-year-old should know nothing about".
A better life around the corner was Charl's daily hope, and, at 18, he thought it had arrived when a "fascinating" message about Jesus' love from doorknocking Christians encouraged him to attend a church.
But as soon as his family's debts ended their water and electricity supply, Charl falsely believed God had abandoned him.
"My mother and I had to walk to get water and I would start a fire to heat it so that we would have warm water to bath in," he says.
"I felt really neglected by God. How could He allow these things to happen in the life of someone who loved Him? I was naive and turned my back on God, following the old routes I was used to."
Starting to use more drugs, Charl became fascinated by the magic spells, curses and illusions of a friend he admired and began imitating him.
"I also started getting more involved with drugs and selling them in clubs but I gave away more than what I sold and owed the dealers money," he admits.
“I was tormented and couldn’t understand why”
"I had to escape and thought lying to them was the only option left."
He quickly sold his sister's radio to ride a train back to his home town and was immediately booked into a local rehab clinic as soon as his uncle saw the state he was in.
Even after finishing rehab, Charl continued to smoke 'weed' and practice magic and witchcraft, soon becoming deeply involved with the occults.
"I was at a stage where I was close to summoning demons," he confesses, but something held him back.
After marrying a young lady and completing a diploma in IT, things finally started to look up for Charl and he attributed his luck to his occult activities.
Things hit rock bottom after his father died of drinking combined with diabetes in 2006 followed a year later by the news that his wife wanted a divorce.
"I was tormented and could not understand why," Charl says. "I went to see a pastor, who I hoped could wave a magic wand and fix everything."
Instead this pastor told Charl that the only way to fix his problems was to pray to accept Jesus Christ into his life.
"I was hoping that God would be able to save my relationship with my wife and I prayed to Jesus with false, selfish motives," he says, explaining that the Bible still felt "dead to me".
Then, in May 2008, Charl was invited to a Christian weekend camp where he says he finally "came to realise that I was truly lost and needed Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Saviour".
Instead of looking to Jesus to fix his problems, Charl says he realised that he needed God's forgiveness for his disobedience to His commands and to turn away from his old life of opposition to God.
"I realised that Jesus Christ took my punishment when He died, to save my soul from eternal separation from God. That's bigger than my life's circumstances," he says.
After making a firm commitment that weekend, Charl says his drug addiction, habitual lying and interest in occult practices were quickly replaced with a love for studying the Bible and serving God in church.
He developed a passion for telling people the same good news about Jesus when he saw the drastic change that had happened and the blessing that came from surrendering control of his life to God.
"The passion is still alive in my heart and I am currently studying to become a pastor," Charl concludes.
"God is opening doors for the future and I am constantly amazed at His undeserved kindness in my life." •