With the joy seen on his face today, Victor Malinga says he no longer feels like the same man who was tried and convicted for three counts of robbery and one count of attempted murder.
Looking back, Victor says he felt his life was over long before the judges even passed their verdict and sentenced him to three times 15 years, plus an extra seven years, in prison.
"When my mum passed away I was only 8 years old and life became tasteless," he says.
"I couldn't go back to school because there was no one to take on my mum's responsibilities and I thought my life was finished."
By the time he started earning money at age 15, he was buying alcohol and cigarettes hoping they would help him sleep at night and cope with his problems.
"My life became characterised by sexual immorality, alcohol, drug addiction, lying, stealing and jealousy," he confesses.
Victor's crimes finally caught up with him but he would not take responsibility for his actions.
"When the police asked me, I refused to admit that I was guilty but I knew that I was. I could not stand to face court with those charges," he openly admits today.
As he started serving his sentence in prison, Victor remembered attending church with his mother and grandfather as a child.
"I knew that God existed from a young age because of my religious family, but it was only when I got into prison that I realised that I needed Him," he says.
He found a Bible and started reading from Psalms chapter 103, which showed him that God is merciful and promises to redeem people from death and destruction if they turn to Him.
"The following morning they switched on the TV at 5am and the pastor who was on the show mentioned Psalm 103 again," he says.
Victor felt God prompting him to go to the prison church service being held and he knew that it was time to confess all his guilt and wrongs to God.
He remembers later reading from Romans chapter 5 and verse 6 which says, "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners," and then in verse 8 and 9, "God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God's condemnation."
By asking for forgiveness from God and believing that through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross he could find peace with God, at the age of 35, Victor finally understood that he needed to pray to accept Jesus as Lord in his life.
"I realised that there is no other name in heaven or on earth that you can call on to be saved except through Jesus Christ," he says.
"After I prayed to God I felt the Spirit of God alive inside me and I was able to share the good news I had found in the Bible with others."
Victor was later baptised in prison to demonstrate his faith publicly and says that he is amazed at the difference God has made in his life.
"I never waited for someone to come and tell me that I needed to change because I knew as soon as I accepted Jesus through faith that His Holy Spirit would guide me.
"I quit smoking and being part of a gang and tried to resist every evil thought I had. I give all glory to Jesus for transforming my life. I am a new man who is full of love."
Four years since his decision to follow Jesus, Victor concludes by saying, "now I know that my life is not finished until God says it is finished, and all that has happened to me has led me to Jesus Christ who I now know and love as my personal Saviour." •