A Hand of Grace

My name is Siphumelele Gushman and I was born in the Eastern Cape South Africa.  My parents moved to Cape Town for work purposes, so I was raised in Cape Town.

When I was still a young boy I used to be rebellious. I was attracted to all types of bad things like fighting, swearing etc. Whenever I was told not to do something, that’s what I would do. For example, when I was told by my parents it’s wrong to steal sugar, that’s what I would do. Being little, I didn’t know that by stealing you attract the devil to come and use you to do more bad things – from sugar to a 50c coin to eventually being a murderer.

As I grew up in school I would befriend people who were like me, we would mock teachers in the classroom.

My mother took me to another school that I would have a better education but I had very bad friends. We started smoking cigarettes, not long after that we smoked dagga, not long after that we smoked drugs.

Being a drug addict with friends, we started robbing people. And the robbing started very small because we used to show off before girls and would kick drunk people. On one occasion l kicked a drunk man and found R200 on him. From that day on we would go around looking for drunk people and robbing them. At one point we robbed a man and got hold of his firearm. With our first firearm we were fearless, even robbing people on broad daylight. Not long after this, we heard of another gang that had a firearm and went to rob them of the firearm. We then had enemies and eventually we were in a gang fight. During that gang fight I was shot and had a spinal injury. I ended up in a wheelchair for more than three months and spent two years walking with crutches.

Going back a little, my father had lost his job while I was very young. I remember growing up with my mother being the bread winner in the family. That caused us to treat our parents differently because I respected my mother more than my father. Then in 2003 my mother passed away, and hatred grew towards my father, I blamed him for my mother’s death even though she was ill and eventually died because of the illness. I disrespected my father and eventually this hatred became actions when I started fighting with my father. One day I took a knife and stabbed him. Not long after that I was shot and ended up in the wheelchair. During this time my father came to visit me in hospital and he cried about the situation I was in. He even told me how much he loved me. This tore my heart apart because I could not understand how my father could still love me after all the disgrace I had brought on him. Eventually I knew in my heart that I should ask my father for forgiveness.

After I was discharged from the hospital I went back home. I waited for him to get home, but he came back drunk so I did not ask him for forgiveness that day.  Day after day I was prompted to ask my father for forgiveness, but something always interrupted this. Not long after that, I got a call from my uncle telling us that my father had passed away in a terrible accident. My father was dead and I had never made right with him. My life went from bad to worse. I started using drugs to cover the guilt I had in my soul and did anything that would keep me from thinking of all the bad things I had done. It would be drugs, alcohol, sleeping around with women, etc. And whenever something bad would happen I would always say I deserved it because of the sins I had committed in my life.

I got so much addicted to heroin that I sold everything I had. When I had nothing left to sell I started stealing from my sisters and eventually I was kicked out of the house. I moved to my friends, but not long after I was kicked out by them as well. I stayed with drug dealers and ended up stealing from them and ran away to stay on the streets. I went around in Muslim communities to beg for food. One day I was hungry and smelly – I had not bathed for more than six months. I was walking on the R300 highway when I considered that this was how my life was ending. I thought it would be better if I committed suicide. But at the same time there was a soft thought at the back of my mind that if anything could take me out of the mess that I was in I, I would start going to church every Sunday. I was not aware at the time that it was the Holy Spirit interceding on my behalf for my soul. I didn’t kill myself by God’s grace and his endless mercy.

After a day or two my sister and her husband were taking their son to hospital when they drove past me. They were to disturbed when they saw me that cried, saying they would do anything to help me. They took me into their house but  they didn’t trust me because I was a thief. So my brother-in-law would take me with him when he went to work. I spent the whole day in his car. Sometimes if there was someone from their church that did not work on any day of the week they would leave me with that person. I grew up hearing people saying that God helps those who help themselves but I couldn’t move a finger to help myself. I was in the hands of a merciful God whose love goes beyond our understanding. God proved to me that He helps those who can’t do anything. My sister and her husband looked for places where I could be helped, and found a place in Gugulethu. It was a place where I could attend every day from 08:00 to 15:00. There was another place which they had called before that was called Kwasizabantu (a place where people could be helped) mission in Malmesbury. One evening my brother-in-law came home from work and told me that he got a call from Kwasizabantu mission, and we could come on Sunday. He said if I want to it’s up to me, if I was happy where I was I could continue with the program in Gugulethu. I was 27 years old and I didn’t want to be further burden to them. So I decided to go to Malmesbury.

In October 2014 I came to Kwasizabantu Malmesbury mission. When I got there it was a farm with white people, coloured people and a few blacks. I remember that time they had three services a day and in between the services we would work in the garden. The second day we worked and were removing telephone poles -big poles and they were very heavy. I started thinking that these white people are making us work for them and they are using the Bible to do so. I thought that morning that I would rather go back to where I was. But that evening something happened. I remembered the day I was walking on the R300 highway and that I said if anything could help me out of the situation I was in, I would go to Church every Sunday. Now I was in a place where there were three services a day and I couldn’t count how many services I would attend a week. God proved to me once more how He answers our prayers more than what we ask for. And a man can say I need help but have his own thinking of how he could be helped. This reminds me of Namaan and how he thought the prophet would lay his hands on him but the prophet said he must go and dip himself 7 times in the Jordan then he would be healed. He almost walked away without being healed if it were not for his soldiers. That struck my heart and I said Lord if that means I will be helped then I surrender, Lord. From that day on I started taking things seriously.

Now the message at the mission was that the Lord Jesus was crucified for our sins that we may be set free from sin and the way to be set free from sin is exposing your sins to the light through confession. And there are people that you could go to and confess your sins. Never knowing how that would set me free I went and I started confessing the big sins I had committed. And I was sincere in my confession to all the wicked things I had done. I went on day by day cleansing my heart. Till there came a time when God through his Holy spirit reminded me of what I had done to my father. The things I had done to my father were things that tormented me from within, I never spoke about them to anyone. It was like poison in my soul devouring me inside. Whenever I would be in trouble I would say I deserved what was happening to me because of the things I had done in my life including the stabbing of my father. I remember the Lord convicting me clearly to confess that sin I had committed towards my father. At first I thought if I would confess such a sin I would be chased away from the mission because it is shameful that one fights against your own father and it’s a curse to stab him. Who in his right mind would befriend someone like that – it’s a terrible life to live like that. But this kept on coming: confess this sin. Then I started to think of how I can confess it in a way that it won’t sound so bad. One evening I went to my counsellor and I confess this like this. I said my father was a drunkard and would come home and beat me for nothing so I would fight back. In this way I justified my sin. My counsellor just said, let us pray he prayed for me. When I walked out of his house I had this terrible regret – why didn’t I confess my sin as it was. That night I couldn’t sleep at all. I remember the next morning, very early, going to my counsellor’s house and I was crying like a little boy. I started confessing my sin as it is, that I never had respect, I was rebellious, I hated my father and that I blamed him for my mother’s death. That moment my counsellor prayed for me. By the time he said Amen, suddenly peace came to my heart – peace I had never felt before. That day I was at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ my guilt was taken away. I felt so light, it’s a feeling I can’t explain with words.

That was the beginning of my walk with my Saviour. At that time I was 27 years old and it felt as if my life was starting afresh, as if all the years that I had lived were all useless. Eventually the Lord through his Holy spirit would remind me of people that I had wronged, starting with my sisters. I went to make right with them. It went on to paying back people that I stole money from, and people that I had wronged and hurt. To my old friends and girlfriend. When I went to apologize to my friends they laughed at me but they got the message. One of them asked me for the name of the congregation I was in. I told him it is called Kwasizabantu mission. He laughed and said the people must be very careful, for which church could ever accept a rubbish like me. But our Lord died for such people who are despised by their community.

By that I can only thank God for the KSB Mission. For it is like a hand of grace in the gates of hell. I love and respect Reverend Erlo Stegen who took the call of God to go to all nations and preach the good news of salvation. And it is not something he did after 1994 but during the Apartheid times where whites, black, coloureds and Indians lived together in peace and harmony. And South Africa can learn a lot from the mission for it’s the answer to the current situation in our country that is filled with unforgiveness.