I learned the meaning of despair
When Stephen Lungu was seven, his mother abandoned him, along with his younger brother and sister. Stephen was born in the country now named Zimbabwe. His family home was unhappy. His father treated his mother so badly that she often ran back to her parents. After his mother left Stephen, he stayed with other family members who were also very unkind. "At that moment, when I was seven years old, I learned the meaning of despair."
He was so unhappy that he tried to kill himself with a rope. But he did not understand how to make knots, so it did not work. He was taken to hospital, where people were kind to him for the first time in his life. After leaving hospital, he met three other boys and they formed a gang called the 'Black Shadows', attacking people for their money.
Stephen felt bad about doing it the first time, but the more he did it, the easier it became. The gang then began to learn how to use guns and fire-bombs so they could attack the Government. When some Christians set up a large tent in the town to hold meetings, the gang decided to blow it up with petrol bombs. But just five minutes before they planned to do this act, they wanted to see what was happening in this meeting. A young girl was telling the people in the tent about how Jesus had become her friend. "A girl speaking! We were surprised," remembers Stephen.
They stayed to listen. Stephen was attracted by the girl's happiness and joy.
Carrying the bag of bombs
Then a man began to speak to the people and explained some words from the Bible: "When people do wrong, they earn what sin pays – death. But the free gift which God gives – is to live for ever."1
Stephen began to cry and rushed to the front, still carrying his bag of petrol bombs. He told the man his story and the man also began to cry – because he too had been left by his parents. He told Stephen some words from the Bible which helped him: "My mother and my father left me. But the Lord took me and made me his child."2
So Stephen asked God for help and forgiveness for all he had done wrong in the past. For the first time in his life, he felt relief and peace. It was as though a heavy load had been taken from him. "I am ready to die," he told the man. "Yes," the man replied, "but for the first time, you are also ready to live." Stephen gave himself up to the police and handed over his knife and gun. But he would not betray the other gang members. After many questions, the senior policeman said, "If your Jesus has forgiven you, we forgive you also," and set him free with money to buy a Bible!
A new parent
Like millions of other people, Stephen found that although he was badly treated by his parents, God became like a real father and mother to him. He belongs. He is accepted. He is loved, and the old hurts are healed.
You can read these words in the Bible:
1 Romans chapter 6, verse 23
2 Psalm 27, verse 10