Poppie Mathibela was separated from her mother when she was eight years old and never understood why she could not see her.
"My father took me to live with my grandparents. He would come every two or three months to visit me and as a result my life became very difficult. I felt really lonely but at the same time I became so angry about not being with my mother. I started wondering why my mother was not looking for me."
Poppie questioned: "Is she my real mother? Does she love me? How can a mother live without knowing where her child is? Is she ok?"
Whenever she needed her mother, she says she "would sit alone and cry."
"My childhood was full of anger, loneliness, bitterness and haunting questions," she says. "I was still full of anger towards my mom and God. I told myself I would never forgive my mother."
This feeling of abandonment led to her doubting her identity and self-worth.
As Poppie grew up she started living sinfully and was sexually immoral.
"But that was not a problem in my family," she explains. "In fact, I was encouraged to have a child after reaching the age of twenty. So, I had my baby girl at the age of twenty-two."
However, somewhere inside Poppie always knew that there was a God, "but I was far from Him. I didn't care that much about my situation."
Then, Poppie got a job at a shop. "There was this lovely lady who would come and see me every day," she recalls. "When she came, she would tell me about God and invite me to church. One day I decided to go to church, because I was getting tired of her and I wanted her to back off.
"We went and I was amazed," she continues. "I heard something I always wanted to hear. The people were so full of love and they welcomed me with open arms and an overwhelming love."
Poppie's next encounter with Christians came about when a group of missionaries came to the shop where she was working. "They told me the Good News about Jesus [coming to earth and dying for my sins]," she smiles. "One guy said, 'You can meet Jesus right here, right now.' I was like, 'Now?' He said, 'Yes, I can lead you in a prayer. First you must turn away from all your sins. Then I will lead you in a prayer to Jesus.'
"I wanted to be saved and to know more about my Saviour," Poppie says, so she prayed with the man. "I became someone who wanted to live for Jesus Christ. My life wasn't the same anymore."
After her turn-around, Poppie asked her pastor if he could baptise her – immerse her in water as an outward sign of her inward commitment.
This happened on the 29 May, 2016.
Becoming a Christian meant Poppie had to put worldly [sinful] things behind her. "Believe me, it was not easy. Doing the wrong thing is [sometimes] very comfortable. But God sent the right people into my life and I had to change. I started concentrating on reading my Bible, going to church, and spending time with other Christians."
She also "learned that I needed to forgive my mom and I was set free in my spirit. You cannot say you love God when you cannot love someone you are living with in this world. That helped me a lot. I am at peace now. I can forgive now as God forgives me when I sin. With my broken and honest heart, my relationship with God was restored."
To others who may be struggling with finding peace and security, Poppie shares: "Jesus is here with us. He is a living God. God is the greatest and He promised He would never leave us nor forsake us. He calls us just the way we are. You don't have to be perfect. His love endures forever.
"In everything you do, put God first and you will see everything *is going to work out. Learn to trust in Him, no matter the circumstances you are facing. He is here for you. *He gave His only Son for us, so *He is our greatest Father in this world."
Poppie's favourite Bible verse is Matthew 6:33: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
"You don't have to stay away from God because you are not perfect," she concludes. "God wants you just the way you are. When you have accepted God, He will send the right people into your life to come and show you the right way and how to make the right decisions."•