Free behind bars

With his father’s death, Tefo Mathenga’s life took a turn for the worst.

Tefo Mathenga
Tefo Mathenga says he is a happy man of God.

After an easy childhood where his parents gave him everything he needed, he was forced to drop out of school and later worked at a car wash to provide for his high school girlfriend and their children.

Tefo says when his father died he felt he had to be a man and he started drinking heavily and becoming involved with girls sexually.

"I played with girls," he says, "changing them like socks, sleeping with them left and right."

His heart was filled with hatred and jealousy. "I did not want to see other people become prosperous in life," he recalls. "I also nearly killed my younger sister because I thought [my parents] loved her more than me because she was the last born."

His life was drinking, partying, and sleeping around; all culminating in one event when, after a night at the tavern, he and his friends forced themselves on their girlfriends after they had refused to sleep with them.

Tefo was charged with rape and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

He felt tired, he says, of constantly getting involved in "bad behaviours". Deep in his mind and heart he remembered his mother telling him about Jesus and the Bible and a verse that had always stuck with him: "When you walk through the fire, I will be with you". (Isaiah chapter 43 verse 2)

But though Tefo had known about God he had always felt Christianity was not for him. The things he enjoyed, things like drinking and partying, Christians did not allow.

In prison a man doing a life sentence, who said he was a Christian, welcomed Tefo and introduced him to other followers of Jesus in the jail. If this man, who had committed a crime that had earned him a place in here for life, believed in Jesus, why couldn't he?

"I had had enough of the life I had lived," Tefo says. "I had to choose between God and the devil. I chose God, because in Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11 He told me He had plans for me, plans not to harm me but to prosper me in my life.

“I changed my girlfriends like socks.”"I read stories of people in this newspaper about how Jesus had saved them and I realized I needed the Jesus they were talking about. I then started attending church services."

Tefo explains he received Jesus into his life after the pastor of the church at the prison prayed a prayer of salvation with him.

"I had heard Jesus was the advocate and I needed an advocate, a helper in my life," he says.

"I am a Christian now, because I am doing what the Bible says. And one more thing – I am Jesus' friend."

He says since that day he has been set free from the anger, bitterness, and hatred that used to plague his life.

"Today I am free behind bars," he says.

"I am a happy man of God. I am telling people about the good things God has done in my life – and He has made a lot of changes in my life.

"[Behaviours like drinking and sexual immorality] cannot give you eternal life, cannot give you full time joy, cannot give you peace; but God can give you those things."

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