Caring parents gave Thozama Mtshali, known as Thozi, a great start to life but she wishes she had listened to their advice and warnings before it was too late.
Out of the seven children, Thozi was the rebel who did not like to follow the rules.
"Out of all the kids I was the only one who went out of my way to be naughty," Thozi admits.
"I didn't want to be reprimanded because I thought I knew better. I used to have a bad and negative attitude, not knowing that one day I would live to regret it."
Thozi liked to smoke and drink and enjoyed dating well-known criminals just so she could be the 'coolest' among her peers.
Yet this rebellious attitude had its consequences.
"I found myself being in romantic relationships that never worked out for me," she says.
Living careless, young and free, Thozi remembers "everything was cool" until the day she found out that she was pregnant.
"I lost control and stopped respecting my boyfriend because he started beating me up. He was always drunk and using drugs," she shares sadly.
"The abuse went on until I gave birth to my angel. She was so beautiful but she looked just like him!"
Although Thozi loved her precious new baby she says she was still suffering from the mistake of not listening to her parents.
Then, when her child was only three weeks old, she caught her boyfriend with another woman.
"I ended up killing him ... I felt so betrayed. I was so bitter and lost self-control," she confesses.
Suddenly fear and shame overcame her and she was arrested and sentenced to 10 years behind bars in 2009.
It was in prison that Thozi says verses from Psalm 69 really reflected what she was going through. "Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me." (v.1-2)
She cried out to God for rescuing and began attending church. There, rather than the expected judgement and anger, she found peace and an unexplainable love.
"The pastors were preaching about God and the love He has for us. They said each individual has a purpose in life and God will never forsake us nor put us to shame," she recalls.
"I can say the way the preacher was preaching was like she was talking directly to me ... I knew I needed to believe that God sent his Son Jesus to die for me on the cross to wash away my sins."
It was then that Thozi finally let her past go and accepted Jesus into her life to be her Lord and Savior. The Lord (or master) who she would obey and the Savior who would save her from eternal separation from God.
"Now I know I am forgiven for all my sins," she says confidently.
She also realizes that all the bad things that happened to her helped lead her back to God.
others”"I have learned through my mistakes. Now I know how to defeat the devil: by praying and worshipping God. My attitude is now positive," Thozi shares.
"Now I know how to respect my parents and the people around me. I know to say sorry if I do something wrong to someone. I also believe that the Lord is my shepherd and He is always by my side.
"God forgave me for my sin and even told me to forgive myself. Now I'm living freely and my life is back again. All my tears were wiped away by my merciful God and that is why I will never turn back away from Him. God is love."•