Rejection left Willem Fitchat with no hope, and then he met Jesus.
Willem Fitchat's childhood was a kind of hell. He felt rejected, unloved, and unwanted. He lived in fear at home. His alcoholic father was physically abusive and violent towards his mother.
"My father also rejected me, often stating that he wanted to exchange me at the orphanage for a real boy," Willem shares sadly. "I was the quiet and sensitive type who didn't play rugby. For this reason I was also relentlessly bullied and humiliated at school every day. My grandparents removed my sister and took her in, but not me. This made me feel rejected. Loneliness and being alone was a way of life for me."
Willem also despaired of being loved by God.
"I had a very strict, religious upbringing that taught about a vengeful God ready to send me to hell for the slightest transgression," he says. "So, as a young adult, I turned my back on Christianity and explored other religious beliefs. I eventually got very involved in the New Age and that became my philosophy and religion."
Willem says he hated himself, mainly because everybody that mattered in his life had rejected him, including, he felt, God.
"Sex and alcohol became my painkillers with which to dull the agony of being," Willem confesses. "I sought solace and acceptance in the arms of strangers. The bottle was a coping mechanism that effectively destroyed my life and self-respect. I experimented with drugs and smoked dagga for a couple of years.
"I had no calling, no ambition, and drifted from one job to the next, one place to the next, one lover to the next, aimless and lonely. I suffered from severe depression and self-hatred, and attempted suicide more than once.
"And more than once, God intervened by sending someone to save my life."
At 42, Willem was in dire straits; unemployed and about to face life on the streets, he decided to commit suicide. As a New Ager, he believed he would be reincarnated and come back to a better life. Then he was approached with an offer to smuggle things. It was either that, the streets or suicide, so Willem decided to take up the offer. However, he was caught and arrested.
In prison in Mozambique, Willem felt his life was wasted. "I had nothing. I had lost everything," he remembers. But the experience of jail has turned into "the blessing of my life," he now admits.
"One day, a voice in my head told me to read the Bible," Willem recalls. "I eventually relented. I asked my sister to send me a Bible, and then read it – cover to cover."
He had heard the Gospel message - that Jesus, the God-man came to earth and died in our place for our sins before rising to life again and offering free salvation to all who ask - but had rejected it, thinking that God had never cared about him.
Now, as all else had failed, Willem decided to give God a try.
"Fortunately God is long-suffering and forgiving. He started operating in my spirit and my life," Willem states joyfully. "I continued to read books on the matter that my sister sent me while I was still in jail. I was led to accept God as my Creator, Jesus as Master of my life and my Saviour, and the Holy Spirit as my Guide and Counsellor."
Willem learnt to forgive himself and others. By 2008, he realised he no longer needed alcohol anymore, as the pain of existing and the agonising thoughts were gone.
"I stopped drinking and smoking and have been clean and sober since. My desire for alcohol and cigarettes is completely gone," he states.
As a Christian, Willem still has struggles to deal with. Depression still attacks him, and suicidal thoughts do come, but he doesn't dwell on them and "prays them away", he says.
He is happy to say that his self-image is a million times better. He is now free from the temptation of entertaining lustful thoughts.
"Being a son of the living God is such a wondrous experience," Willem enthuses. "God has shown me His love time and again. It took me a long time to be able to accept that I am loved, precious and holy. All my life I felt rejected, unloved, not good enough, not manly enough, not clever enough, not good-looking enough, insufficient, unworthy of anything good; hopeless, useless, a magnificent failure, repulsive, meaningless, unlovable, unappreciated, and unacceptable.
"Over the years in jail, God has shown me what a lie I had been believing. He has shown me His love and acceptance and joy to such an extent that it drives me to tears of gratitude."
Willem admits that it took him a long time to trust God. He was so used to being hurt by others that he had never learned about healthy relationships. He thought God would let him down as his father had, but God has continued to reveal His patience and love to Willem.
Willem knows the truth of Jeremiah 29 verse 11, which says "'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.'"
"Now my life has a purpose," he concludes. "I finally found love and acceptance. Joy and peace is my daily meal. No matter what you have done and where you are now or have been, God loves you so much. He is aching to hold you and whisper His love in your spirit. Don't delay. It will be the best decision you have ever made."
Now 56 years old, Willem is gainfully and full-time employed, and for the first time ever doing a job he loves - interpreting.
"God is still blessing me abundantly. I am humbled and so grateful," he says.•