While 25-year-old Sicelo Simphiwe Thela once felt worth something to his community, when his father fell ill and passed away he felt part of his identity was lost.
"I grew up as someone who was into sports, community service and I was a church-goer, but I started doing wrong things the day I lost my father," Sicelo explains.
Out of hurt and pain he chose the path of corruption and made friends with people who were a bad influence on him.
"I struggled mostly about knowing my true self ... I ended up doing all those things which were unnecessary such as smoking, drugs and doing crime," he admits.
"I ended up in prison because of the substances I was using."
To feed his drug addiction, Sicelo started stealing goods, robbing people who were going to work, and was eventually arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for housebreaking and theft.
"I felt lost and confused," he shares after being put behind bars.
"Sometimes I would think God had abandoned me and that I am worthless. I thought of committing suicide also because I didn't see myself as a human."
While Sicelo had known about God from a young age and believed in heaven and hell, it was only at this point in his life that he seriously considered surrendering his life to Jesus.
He thought back to his time in church as a boy and remembered the good times he had there.
"I went to the prison church so I could hear other people's testimonies about their faith in God. That's when I found out more about the word 'salvation'," he shares.
It was here that Sicelo began to understand that Jesus Christ is the only one who can save people because his sacrifice on the cross made a way for anyone who turns to Him to find forgiveness for their sins and eternal life in heaven one day.
“You must not give up on life”"There was a verse which touched my heart," Sicelo recalls, quoting from John chapter 8 verse 31 to 32 which says, "Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'."
This verse helped Sicelo to understand that to be a true Christian he needed to obey Jesus' commands and believe the truths in the Bible, which would set him free spiritually.
"I later thought to myself how I could live my life without believing in Jesus Christ?" Sicelo says, thinking back on the commitment he then made to make Jesus His Lord and Saviour.
"I started reading the Bible every day and I saw how it started to make me a changed person," he shares happily.
Knowing that God loved Him enough to send His Son Jesus to die in his place helped Sicelo to understand how much he was worth to God – enough to die for him!
"The other day I was in church singing and I felt very emotional, like the Holy Spirit was ministering to me. God has changed my life and He made me to be the better person I am today so I praise Him!"
To others who are reading Sicelo's story he ends with this encouragement: "You must not give up on life. God loves you. You can repent (turn away from your wrongdoing) and become a saved person through Jesus Christ."?