“My life was a mess," Thabiso Malakoane says, speaking of his former lifestyle.
Thabiso was sentenced to 40 years in prison, now reduced to 20, convicted of a violent rape. He has served four years in maximum security so far but has come a long way since his gangster days.
"I was born and raised in a traditional family who practised ancestral worship," Thabiso shares. "That was all I knew. I did not know about God or about Jesus, His Son."
Thabiso admits that he did not relate very well to his family and was always off doing his own thing. According to him, he was a "very naughty" child.
Thabiso got into drugs, gangs and alcohol, which led him into crimes such as robbery and rape.
When he was arrested and imprisoned, Thabiso realised that his life needed to change.
"I had to do things differently," he says. "I had to try and escape my old life."
Thabiso first heard the Good News of Jesus coming down to earth to save us from our sins at a correctional centre, where he was taught the Bible verse: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5 verse 17)
"This verse told me that my life was not over" and that a second chance was available.
Another verse showed Thabiso how to become this new creation: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3 verse 16)
"God gave His Son for me to know forgiveness," he states happily. "I saw God's compassion and love for me.
"I started to recognize that my life was not good. So when the church service was finished, I lay on my bed in a cell. I asked God to forgive me and to touch the people I had hurt, so they would forgive me also."
Thabiso started struggling with deep discouragement but got help from a mentor who assisted him in growing with his walk in the Lord.
"I have love, peace and patience now," Thabiso concludes. "The prison church has really helped me and given me encouragement to stay strong.
"I want to tell others who are struggling with similar issues that there is no other life except in Jesus. Knowing Him gives you such joy and peace. He is truly amazing!"•