Manahar from India tells us his story:
Yes, I was a murderer. I killed a man – my own wife's father! I come from a green and beautiful part of India, but my life was not beautiful. It was full of sadness and we struggled to live. All my life I worked as a labourer on a farm. My parents were poor and sold me to a farm owner to help pay a debt.
Paid with strong drink
We had long working hours doing backbreaking work, always watched by the foreman. There was very little pay and it was not given to us in money but in strong drink. Even the children who worked became slaves of strong drink. We were never treated as people but as slaves – of our masters and of drink. Once, when I was drinking too much, I killed my wife's father while we were having an argument. I was sent to prison and spent four years there, before being set free early for good behaviour. At last I was free from prison, but I still felt guilty about what I had done.
Then, just seven years ago, something happened that changed my whole life. All of my family became very ill. It was the local custom to visit the witch-doctor when we needed something or were sick. He demanded coconuts, hens and money to make us free from our illness. But it did not work. Our illness got worse and we all thought we would die. The villagers would not come near us because they thought they would catch the illness from us. They were afraid even to look at us. Then someone told us about a Christian man who healed people who were ill. We were so ill that we wanted to try anything. We went to the man immediately, but he told us he was not a doctor and he did not have the power to heal people. But he did tell us about Jesus Christ, his life and death and how he came alive again. He explained that Jesus died to pay for the punishment for all our guilty feelings and wrong doing. He even died for people who think they have done something so bad that they can never be forgiven.
As we listened, we began to understand what this man was saying – that God loves us and has a plan for each one of us. My whole family believed what the man said – we decided to ask for God's forgiveness and to believe in him. A change came into our bodies – the illness slowly left us and has never come back. Things in my life began to change too. I was able to stop doing things that brought trouble to others and to me – such as drinking and hitting my wife. I no longer went to the witch-doctor or took part in the local customs or religion. This made the people very angry with me.
I told them, "I will believe only in Jesus Christ because he is the living God and he died and came to life again for me. Even if you kill me, I know I will be with Jesus and have nothing to fear."
God gave me the courage to say these things. We had to leave my village and go to a new place. It is not easy here either, but God is helping me. I know he has forgiven me for all my past wrongs and that he loves me. Now I can say, "I was a murderer but I am forgiven and do not feel guilty any more."