Having lived with little for as long as he could remember, Brian Bacela valued material possessions above everything else, until he realised there was so much more life had to offer.
After his father passed away, his mother was forced into domestic work to make ends meet, as he and his siblings struggled.
Brian recalls how he fell into drug addiction, theft, alcohol abuse, deceit, and sexual immorality. He also felt jealous of other people's success and this often led him to bully others.
His materialism lead to him being convicted for robbery. On a drunk night out with his friends, they entered a shop with the intent of stealing but "all hell broke loose" as their plan fell through and they were caught. He was arrested and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.
"Life was difficult," he says of his time in captivity. "I wanted vengeance, I wanted to hurt the people who put me in prison.
"My life was upside down. No one was there for me and I had no one to talk to."
Brian was not alone for long before he met and befriended a man called Trevor Jacobs.
"Trevor told me about Jesus who takes away our sin [things I have done wrong], who can forgive us because He first loved us.
"This man was my mentor, my father, my friend," Brian says – a mentor much needed in his life since he had grown up without a father figure – "who Jesus sent to tell me about salvation.
"I am blessed to be awake and alive."
Brian says he judged himself and thought he was worthless, but Pastor Jacobs told him God loved him so much He gave his only Son, so that if Brian believed in Him he would not die, but have eternal life in Heaven (John chapter 3 verse 16).
"When I learned what the Lord had done there was no going back," he says.
"My life was terrible because I was focused on the materialistic things of the world. But when I accepted Jesus into my life, my life was transformed. Because being a Christian you no longer live by the standard of this world; you live by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Brian explains he was a slave to sin, but after he made a decision to live a life focused on God he no longer lived according to how the world lived.
Galatians 5 verse 19-21 says, "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."
This was the life Brian had been living before prison.
"God says if you confess your sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," [see 1 John 1:9] Brian explains.
"I prayed, fasted; I surrendered my life to Christ. I was free from all the bondages, addictions, sexual desires – all were out of my life."
He now lives by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5 verse 22).
"Salvation is for everyone," Brian says. "Christ died for us all, doesn't matter what you did – how small or big. Jesus died for me and for you. He is waiting for you to come to Him."•