– by Bonga Hlongwane

I grew up in a household that believed in our ancestors, rather than in God. The only exception was my grandmother – she went to church all the time and was always inviting me to go with her. Mainly I ignored her invitations, nevertheless, she would pray for us at home, especially for me.

A path of darkness
Honestly, I thought that being a person of faith was totally boring and unattractive compared with my ‘cool’ lifestyle of drugs and alcohol. I was a bad guy. I was a bully, and I lied a lot. I hardly slept at home, hooking up with different girls, even making one girl pregnant. Then, on a visit to the clinic, I was told that I was HIV positive. I couldn’t believe it, but 3 other clinics confirmed it. This really shook me. Whilst I vaguely knew that there was a God, I didn’t know that He was real. I didn’t have a relationship with Him.

Prayers for healing
As time went by, I enrolled for an internship programme at Harvest Giba Church in my community. One day we all attended a conference about the power of healing. At this stage, nobody knew that I was HIV positive. So, when the pastor said that God wanted to heal someone there, I pretended to have a headache, and volunteered. I whispered to the pastor that I was HIV positive. He prayed and asked God to heal me.

Doctors in disbelief
The next day I went back to the clinic. The doctor said that he’d already tested me, and if I didn’t start taking my ARVs, I would get really sick. I insisted on a new test, telling him about my experience and my belief that I was healed. So he agreed – and the result was HIV negative. He didn’t believe it, and personally took a blood sample to the laboratory so that he could satisfy himself about this conflicting result.

Alpha was a revelation
My big turning point came when our Harvest Giba leader invited me to attend Alpha. I only went along because I had so many questions about this Person – Jesus – and His story. I also wanted to know why my granny was so involved with her God? Alpha was a revelation to me. My confusion about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was made clear. Getting the answers to my questions and hearing other people’s opinions and thoughts about God was totally unexpected. I discovered so much about myself and experienced a lot of growth. 

Knowing Jesus intimately
During my third week at Alpha, I became truly convinced about the existence of God. My idea that church was all about religion changed when I learnt who Jesus is, that He’s not ‘up there somewhere’, but lives inside of me. My personal relationship with Him means that I can talk to Him wherever I am, because He’s there with me. This knowledge shifted everything for me.

Changing communities
I gave my life to Jesus after Alpha. Knowing that He loved me, I learnt that accepting Him is exciting, and not boring at all. After Alpha, I had this eagerness to do more. Coming from a really, really troubled and poor community, I wanted others to taste what I had tasted. I invited 45 people to Alpha, telling them how we eat together, ask questions, have discussions, and also have fun.

Sharing the love of Jesus
Like me previously, my one friend I invited believed in and worshipped ancestors. During Alpha he said to me, ‘There’s just something different about church’. He was having such a good experience in learning about Jesus that he continued coming week after week. I’m now an Alpha leader and have been trained to host small group discussions. We cook and prepare for our guests to have the most beautiful experience when they come to Alpha. It’s my joy to serve others in my church, because that’s what was done for me. 

God saved my life
My dream is to be a professional dancer, and God has opened doors for me. I’ve been winning competitions and doing well in the industry as a dancer. I feel that God laid it on my heart to dance just for Him, glorifying Him through my dancing. Through Alpha, God has blessed my life to become a top dancer in South Africa, with opportunities to represent my country overseas. I grew up with no food, and no clothes for school. But I had a dream that one day I would become something, and God has really fulfilled my dream. He changed my life, and healed my disease.

God can change anyone
From my experience, I’d urge you not to hesitate if you get the opportunity to try Alpha. You’ll discover so much about your life and who you are. If God could change my life through Alpha, He can change anyone’s life.

ALPHA is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith. To find out where the nearest Alpha is, or to host your own, visit alphasa.co.za

Article source: JOY! Magazine (June 2019)

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