Joshua Blahyi was deemed the “most evil man in the world” by the UK’s Daily Mail but today he shares his incredible redemption story
A man brushes his teeth, puts on a beige suit, and sings a hymn on his way to preach to a room full of Africans in colorful robes.
He is preacher and evangelist Joshua Milton Blahyi – but he wasn't always. Until 20 years ago he was "General Butt Naked", a commander of forces infamous for his violence and atrocities during the first Liberian civil war in the early 1990s.
About 200,000 people were killed during that war, and Joshua guesses he must be responsible for 10 per cent of those deaths. He made human sacrifices in all the towns he and his "Naked Base Commandos" entered and practiced cannibalism to gain magical powers.
Joshua was initiated as a tribal priest at age 11, a process that required a child sacrifice. This was his first of many . Over the three day ritual that followed, the young priest had a vision from the devil who told him he would be a great warrior and should continue to practice human sacrifice and cannibalism to increase his power.
That promise came true. After becoming spiritual advisor to Liberian president Samuel Doe, Joshua was put in charge of troops.
He led them naked except for guns and shoes, believing the nakedness would protect him from bullets.
"Before leading my troops into battle, we would get drunk and drugged up, sacrifice a local teenager, drink the blood, then strip down to our shoes and go into battle wearing colorful wigs and carrying purses we'd looted from civilians," Joshua confesses sadly."We were nude, fearless; drunk yet strategic. We killed hundreds of people."
General Butt Naked exists no moreYet the memory of his savage days only brings sadness to him since the day his life took a 180-degree turn in July 1996.
He remembers it well, as anyone would. He told New Yorker reporter Damon Tabor the blood from a human sacrifice was still on his hands when he heard a voice.
"When I looked back, I saw a man standing there. He was so bright, brighter than the sun." The voice told him to repent (turn away from his wrongdoing) and live, or refuse and die.
He wanted to refuse but he could not shake the passion in the voice or the brightness of the man to whom it belonged. He abandoned his soldiers and surrendered his weapons to his commanding officer.
"My new commander is Jesus Christ," he told them decidedly.
That September, Joshua was baptized as a public declaration of his new faith in the sea near Monrovia. Since the epiphany where he heard the voice of God, he says he has not looked back.
General Butt Naked exists no more.
Joshua is still ridden with guilt over his actions and says when he goes out to preach he sometimes encounters relatives of his victims and "feels so bad, so very bad".
But he knows and understands he has been forgiven.
"Even though it is impossible, I still know Jesus loves me," he says. "When Jesus met me, I was wicked on the street and destroyed the life of an innocent child, and He called me His son!"
When God gave him the wager Joshua chose to live. But more than that, he chose to dedicate the rest of his life to serving in a different war – the war for people's souls.
Today his message is of hope: that no matter what you have done in life, God loves you and offers forgiveness and eternal life in Heaven to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Joshua is now the president of End Time Train Evangelistic Ministries based in Liberia. He is married with four children and has written a memoir titled The Redemption of an African Warlord.
His story was also documented in the 2011 film The Redemption of General Butt Naked.
"I believe the Bible strongly and it says God has forgiven me," Joshua says.
He holds on to that promise. "If I can be saved after all the atrocities I committed," he says, "so can you".