“I was tired of living the life I lived. I wanted change”
Philip Vusumzi Nxumalo never knew his father, and his mother left him when he was eight years old.
Left with his grandmother, older brother, and three cousins, Philip says he was often wrongly suspected of stealing even though "I was not a thief".
He was not given lunch money for school, resorting instead to bullying and robbing other kids.
He started smoking at 13; cigarettes, weed, mandrax, and glue for shoe repair. He joined a gang, and his lifestyle became even worse.
"I was tired of living the life I lived," he says. "I wanted change."
Philip is in prison for the murder of a friend who had betrayed him.
However, today Philip does not smoke, he does not drink, and he says he feels free, freer than when he was out of jail.
"After I was sentenced my grandmother brought me an NIV Bible," he recounts. "I started reading it even though I was angry at her for bringing me a Bible.
"Someone told me to read the book of James so I started there, and when I got to verse 22 I felt like I was burning inside. So I started praying and asked for forgiveness and I accepted Christ."
James chapter 1 verse 22 to 25 reads, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
"But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do."
"After reading this scripture," Philip explains, "I heard a voice say, 'You are like a bird that builds a nest and then goes to catch a worm and forgets where it has built the nest'.
"I realized there was no way I could refuse [becoming a Christian], because it was the only way out of the pit I was in and I wanted to be a better person."
The Bible says if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you are a Christian. You are saved and will have Eternal life in Heaven with God. That is what Philip did.
The changes that have happened in his life since then have been enough to shock his family and friends.
"I am no longer a gangster, I no longer smoke after 10 years of heavy bondage," he says. "I no longer swear or steal. I respect people both old and young.
"I had tried many times to stop smoking and couldn't, but Christ showed me He is the one who does the cleaning. Today I am free and respectful, even to people whose teeth I know I could knock out.
"In gangs they say there is a way in and no way out. But that is a lie," Philip affirms. "There is a way out and that way is called Jesus Christ. And He is not only a way out; He is also the safest place anyone can be.
"If you want to live, choose Christ. I guarantee you He will never disappoint you."•