Shoplifting mother finds a reason to change

Leana Bester
“Why would God allow me to go to prison?” Leana Bester asked

Leana Bester used to steal to help her children. Now, she wants to teach them a whole new way to live.

Leana Bester remembers her parents talking to her about God and reading the Bible to her as a child, but the family did not go to church and she became disinterested in God.

At 14 she was in a relationship with a 27-year-old man; at 15 she had a child to him. They married but divorced nine months later. Leana had two more children to another man.

"My life was out of control," she says. "I was doing wrong things, and I was permanently angry and jealous."

Leana had to resort to shoplifting to support her children, and was arrested and sent to prison in 2012.

"I was very angry, hurt and sad at the time," she says. "I did not understand why, if there was a God, He allowed me to go to prison.

"I was shoplifting to look after my children – how could God send me to prison when I was shoplifting for the right reasons? I blamed Him for my mistakes."

In prison, Leana was required to do Christian courses as part of the restorative justice program.

"In the beginning, I did these courses with a heavy heart," she says. "But after a few weeks I began to enjoy the classes and was learning about God and His word.

"I never understood why I was in prison, but the more I read the Bible, the more I began to understand.

"I realized God wanted to save me from my sinful life (of rebelling against God's laws). He saw I was doing wrong and that I was living my own life, a life full of sin."

Leana says the Bible course changed her life. Though at first it was an effort to go along, she found she started to enjoy it and it changed her mind about God.

She says, "After a few months I finally confessed my sins and accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior." She trusted that God had forgiven all her sin through Jesus's sacrifice on the cross.

"In prison I got to see how wrong my life was. I know now that I am a child of God. I want to go home and teach my children about God and His word."

Leana says she never wants to turn away from God again or stop learning about God.

After becoming a born-again Christian, she says she "started praying to my God and saw how He made my life better".

"I committed my life to God and am not an angry person anymore. I will keep on praising God for all he has done in my life.

"I know that I have changed. I am a better person. I am much friendlier and no longer swear and get worked up. I am patient and kind and people can see the difference in me. My mother said she could hear that I am a changed person when we spoke on the telephone recently.

"Now when I have struggles I talk with God. I really enjoy talking to God, because He listens to my prayers.

"Since my conversion, God has made a huge difference in my life," she concludes. "He has healed my pain, hurt and insecurities. I am a much stronger person and I am able to forgive the people that have hurt me.

"God has protected me in very difficult situations here in prison and has helped me when I was lost. He is keeping my three beautiful children safe and giving them lots of love."

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