Reinier Kuyler is serving six years for armed robbery. Like many prisoners, though, it is only when his life hit rock bottom that things started to look up.
As a child Reinier had grown up in a loving, financially stable home, regularly attending church with his mother, two brothers and grandparents.
However, two events had a profound effect upon Reinier’s sense of self-worth – his father’s abandonment of the family when he was a baby, and his molestation by two men at the age of 10.
The abuse, and the bullying he received at primary school made Reinier want more than anything to feel popular and happy, so at 18 he forgot all about the God of his childhood and became a party animal to “fit in with the crowd”.
“It started with alcohol and partying,” he confesses. “Then I started smoking weed and doing ecstasy at raves. I was wild and I was proud because everyone loved me. I had money, a car. People started liking me for all the wrong reasons.”
When Reinier met the woman who would become his wife he gave up the partying lifestyle for her, but he still struggled with pornography, which had a detrimental effect on his marriage.
“I cheated on her a few times,” he admits.
“Then in 2012 every thing fell apart when I started using khat [an addictive plant from East Africa that is chewed or smoked] and meth. [The drugs] made me lie and steal.
“When I ended up in prison, I lost everything – my wife and two children, my freedom. I was lonely and I was lost,” Reinier recalls.
It was then that he again sought the God of his Sunday school classes. “I knew that God would be the only way to make my life better. I had a Bible and I just read it and slowly I started remembering everything,” he explains.
“At first I turned to God just for comfort, then I fell in love with Him and He became my everything. Now I cannot function without God.
“Now that I am in prison I am free!““The day I really became a Christian was when I realised that I am a sinner and there is nothing I can do to save myself,” Reinier remembers. “Only through accepting Jesus Christ as my saviour could I be saved. Then He washed me clean from sin with the blood He shed on the cross.
“I know I am a Christian because I believe in Jesus and what He has done for me on the cross.
“And I now have the Holy Spirit [the power of God] guiding me through everything I do. All my sins are forgiven and I am saved by God’s grace [undeserved favour],” he declares.
“My whole life changed. I have learned to love like Jesus loves me. I have joy in my heart. I have learned to forgive and be forgiven. God has helped me to beat my addictions and given me profound peace.
“Now that I am in prison I am free for the first time in my life!”
One of Reinier’s favourite Bible verses is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understand- ing. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” •