To Franz Shibambo, God was no more than a distant figure in heaven. He believed it was God who, along with the ancestors, gave his traditional healer father the power to make people well, but, he says, he "did not know God as a Saviour".
Until one day in 1984.
One morning as he was walking down the street with a bag of dagga to sell, although he did not smoke it himself, Franz walked past some men who were preaching from the Bible in Matthew 16 verse 26.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Franz had never actively searched for God. His family went to church but, he says, he only went "for my old granny to get parcels of groceries".
In his twenties Franz was doing "all the things young men do"— smoking, drinking, and "running around with girls".
But the street preacher's question threw him.
"I had to answer the question," Franz remembers. "For the first time I heard that question, and I was aware that I would lose my soul if I continued to live by the rules of this world."
Franz says he spoke to a pastor who explained to him how he, just like everyone else, was flawed and sinful and had done things that were wrong in his life, but how Jesus, the son of God, had paid the price so he could be forgiven. He told Franz the way to a whole, fulfilled life was to give your life away, to surrender it to the Lord and chase His eternal kingdom rather than the temporary pleasures drinking and money had to offer.
The man prayed with Franz, and Franz was baptized, publicly proclaiming his decision to live for God.
"Many things have happened since and are still happening," Franz says. For instance, his witchdoctor father opposed his decision to become a Christian, because going to church and Franz's new spiritual convictions meant he would no longer drive his father to his clients as he had in the past.
"But the Lord is always good. His word helps us, and me, to overcome, as does does prayer and fellowship.
"God loves us and He has given Himself to die for us. Since He does not want us to go to hell He is challenging us to repent— that means really changing our ways, not just going to church for the sake of it, like I did while drinking alcohol and selling dagga the rest of the time," Franz explains.
Franz has now been a Christian for over 30 years and is a full-time pastor, together with his wife, of a church in Shoshanguve, South Africa.•