When Adrian Pretorius was sixteen, a tragic accident changed his whole life.
"The year was 2002," he recalls. "I was staying the night at school to attend a sports event so my mom brought my blankets to the school. She asked if I wanted to come back home with her but I told her that I couldn't and that I had to stay. About thirty minutes after she left, my dad came to tell me that my mom had been in a car accident and had died."
Adrian blamed himself. "I couldn't forgive myself for my mother's death. I thought that I could have stopped my mom from dying. I started taking drugs, stealing and lying to cover the pain."
Before this Adrian's childhood had been happy. "Even though my parents divorced when I was young, there was always love. I always did well in everything I did. I was a happy, loving and helpful child."
Adrian believed in God from when he was small but he didn't understand that knowing about God was different from knowing God and following Him, because he had never read the Bible.
Adrian's life of crime and drugs eventually brought him to a rehab centre in Cape Town. During his stay there, he finally accepted that his life was out of control and he couldn't fix it himself.
"I couldn't go on living the way I was anymore," he admits. "The drugs, the stealing, the guilt of my mom's passing. I just didn't care anymore and I was an evil, mean person with no respect for others. I was the complete opposite of how I was brought up and I couldn't go on like that. I needed help. I knew that I could pray to God for help."
Adrian surrendered his life to Jesus in a field at the back of the rehab building.
"I spent several days with my face in the sand all on my own praying and singing to God," he shares. "I prayed and asked God to please forgive me for all my sins and to help me break free of all the bondages I had gotten into and that I would forgive myself. God has worked in my life in so many ways that it might sound impossible, but believe me God has made it possible.
"In that field I was saved [from my sin and past]. I was released from all my guilt and addictions. I was free. Within two months I became the rehab's manager and spiritual leader."
Throughout the years leading up to Adrian's big turnaround, he was arrested many times and received suspended sentences for robbery, armed robbery and perjury. Then he stole a woman's cell phone and threatened her with a BB gun.
He was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, for which he was serving time when he spoke to Challenge.
Adrian is the first to admit that, even as a Christian, he makes mistakes: "I have prayed and asked God to please forgive me for all my sins and to break all the chains that hold me back from God's will. And, mostly, that I will forgive myself. God has worked in my life in so many ways that might sound impossible, but believe me God made it possible.
"My whole life has changed. I'm happy. I have joy. I'm the person that always helps others, who is always laughing, always kind, loving and caring. I'm me again. All glory to God."
Adrian encourages his fellow prisoners: "Guys, you are sitting in prison and just lying around and eating. Try something new and seek the kingdom of God. I promise you will be rewarded.
"Take your problems to the cross of Jesus, where you can know forgiveness for your sin and believe in our Heavenly Father. You won't regret it, because even if you don't know God, He knows you and loves you.'
"Take your problems to Jesus. That's exactly what I did. There is power in prayer. All my prayers are answered. We have a great God."
Adrian's favourite part of the Bible is Psalm 51, which is a song of repentance. The first four verses say:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight— that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.•