Mark 5: 1-20 tells us the story of Jesus healing a demon possessed man, sending the demons into the pigs. The healed man asked if he could go with Jesus. Jesus replied: “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”
This is what every one of us should do – testify to the work of God in our lives. This is my testimony…
I grew up in a normal home, my father was in the military, finishing his career as the RSM of his division. My childhood was one filled with discipline, getting a haircut every Thursday, and right up to the last year in school. Our home was filled with rules and regulations, for which I am for ever grateful. The drawback is that I grew up without knowing a loving father, a father who tells me that he loves me. He never complimented or congratulated me with achievements. The one and only time I ever heard the words “I love you” was the day I said goodbye to my father on his death bed, tears running down his face.
Growing up my mother always used to say: “Don’t tell me how others did, I am only interested in your results”, therefor I have always had a strong sense of personal choice, everything I did was my own decision. After finishing school I joined the military, on my father’s insistence. I finished my two years of military service, studied Nature Conservation for three years and got married.
Things started going terribly wrong, not with my marriage but because of my bad decisions. I grew up with the support of a praying mother and I will be forever grateful for her intersession on my behalf. My mother passed away after suffering from cancer. It left a void in my life. My marriage was not great at that time. I was involved in various social groups and at some point in time friends introduced drugs into my life. The promise was that I would feel better using CAT but I became addicted. This was only the start, Chrystal Meth and Cocaine followed soon after. I used for thirteen years, daily. When I wasn’t using I spent my time sleeping it off. I became involved in a well-known motorbike gang and it changed my life completely. I dropped out of my studies, started collecting debt and generally fell into the wrong social circles, by my own free will and choice. People from all walks of life are involved in this seedy world, including respected professionals, policemen, etc., from whom no one would expect such bad choices. All of this that we got involved with was a matter of personal choice.
I was incarcerated for the first time in 1999, the charges including armed robbery and hijacking. This was the first time that I started searching for God. Problem is that I should have been searching for the Heart of God and not only the hand of God. When times are tuff we start looking for God and He reaches out and help us. He helped and the charges against me were retracted.
I continued on my journey of bad choices – getting involved in buying & selling of illegal weapons, production & selling of drugs until I was caught again and locked up. 38 Charges were brought against me, including armed robbery, assault, attempted murder, etc. Appearing in court in 2012/13 a sentence of 40 years in prison was suggested. The judge said something in the line of: “If this man’s eyes are not opened like Paul’s on his way to Damascus, nothing is going to save him”. This always stuck in my mind. There was no hope for me. In prison I started searching for God again, I applied for bail 7 times over, it was refused every single time. I was angry at God, blaming Him for my situation. God was busy testing my heart, I had to learn to trust Him, no matter what the circumstances.
After the last application I was granted bail but, because of the situation, my family was kept from me, no contact was allowed. I was aggressive, could not visit public places, had to report to the police station every evening and had to stay within a certain geographical area and so forth and so on. I was not keeping to the conditions of bail set for me – was using more drugs than ever before, secretly visiting my family.
On the 9th of June 2013 we visited a lion farm. I used to have my own lions on a farm but we moved into a golf estate and I relocated the lions to a well-known farm in the area. On the farm we went into the lion camp for some photos with the animals. I went in to play with the male lion, Marcus, a big 2 year old lion, 130kg in weight. My wife was uneasy because the lion was restless, but family wanted her to get down from the vehicle. She did just that and some photos were taken. Afterwards, as we were leaving, moving towards the gate, I heard her shout that the lion grabbed her. He had her by the leg and no one could free her. Eventually I forced my fist into his mouth, he let go of her and got hold of my hand. My wife was taken to safety. The lion bumped me over and by God’s grace I managed to hold onto him. People were beating him to get him off. Afterwards he casually walked away and settled in a distance. The lion did nothing wrong. I jokingly say that The Lion of Juda had to send a lion to open my ears!
At the time my wife and I were headed towards getting divorced, I was estranged from my children, cast out of society, branded as bad news / a lost soul. Charges against me were of such a serious nature that when the police discovered that I had contact with my family, the children were taken away by social services. It was traumatic, our family torn apart, when they were removed at the hospital. We could not pay what was needed for admission to a private hospital. We were transferred to a state hospital where we waited for two days before being treated. Meanwhile our wounds were becoming septic. Again God intervened. A doctor, who was a friend, alerted the media and all of a sudden treatment was started. My wife went in for an operation. On that day I had my first encounter with Holy Spirit. When my pastor phoned to let me know that they were praying for us, he said that I was actually in a good place. A good place! – We are in hospital, can’t move, our children was taken away from us, how was this a good place?! He answered that we were in a place where God could reach us. He gave me a cd of Michael W Smith and the song, “Let it rain”, took me into a close encounter with Holy Spirit, showering me with God’s love!
I still have a lot of contact with people in the shady underworld but God is using my testimony to serve others. My wife and I started a cell group where we serve others in love. I lost everything, all my many worldly possessions, but I gained the better plan that God had for me – a loving wife and family, a life lived close to Him, in service for Him. The one thing that hurt the most was the day that one of my sons said in a Psychologist’s report that his biggest yearning was just to sit in my lap, nothing more. I then realised that I have missed so much, have lost my life but now had a second chance to gain it back again in following God.
There is no one to blame, those bad choices were my own. The underworld is a reality, it still exists and can entrap one. But God is alive. He restores, builds relationship with us, equips us spiritually and builds us up to such an extent that I can now serve others, minister to others.
We serve a God of escape, of recovery, of healing, of provision and restoration.
There is a witness and testimony in each of our lives. I thought the lion was my testimony but it’s not. Every single day added to my life by God is my witness to His grace and mercy. I am grateful for everything that happened in my life. When I see the scars on my wife’s legs, remember the hurt I caused my children to suffer, I am sorry but God used all of this to build something beautiful in our lives. It serves as a reminder of where we came from, what went wrong but most of all who I am today in God.