Patrick is an 18-year-old young man in Malawi’s northern region. He was an excellent student and was at the top of his academic class with high hopes for a promising future. Because of this, his parent and teachers loved him. Despite being an outstanding student, Patrick had a struggled with substance abuse.
Patrick would smoke his anxieties away with Marijuana. He said, “This addiction ended up heavily influencing me in a negative way. As I smoked more and more frequently, I became increasingly more troublesome, selfish and rude to those around me. One day at school I got into a fight with my good friend in the classroom while our teacher was outside the room. This was a bad day for me because I hurt my friend so badly that he was unconscious on the floor from the fight. The police came, and I found myself in jail that night and then in prison for next 8 months. I brought shame to my family, school and myself.”
After eight miserable months, Patrick was released and came home to his enraged parents who had decided not to “waste their money by sending him back to school.” From this moment, Patrick sunk into depression. He was no longer respected or valued in his community. He had no hope, no future, and was continuously insulted by his peers.
Just like nearly every African kid his age, Patrick loved playing and watching soccer. One day he went to the local field to watch a game between two teams from the area. On his way home after the match, Patrick was joined by one of the players named Robert, He was a part of a Sports Friends team. They started to chat, and the conversation ended with Patrick being invited to join the team. Patrick could hardly contain his excitement and said, “Yes! I love soccer.”
Patrick, the lawbreaker, and outcast was invited.
That day, marked the beginning of a life changed forever. Patrick joined the team and quickly learned that the coach and many of the players were followers of Jesus. They were different. They knew Patrick, his story, his reputation, but treated him differently. They loved him. As they loved him, he quickly grew to love them too. He said, “I felt loved and cared for. My teammates and coach didn’t preach that my behavior needed to change, they just loved me, and I loved them. And then I changed as I encountered their daily lives and the God they knew.”
After being a part of the team for almost a whole year, Patrick surrendered his life to Christ. His life has been completely changed. He joyfully left his past behind. He is a new person with a new heart and behavior because he loves the Lord.
His friend Robert helped him to be part of this amazing team that fears the Lord. The other-worldly love and welcome of this team sent a clear message to Patrick of the power of the gospel. The team knows that we as Christians are the light of the world and we need to shine to all the people around us.
As Pastor Fostance says, “Sometimes people just need our light and love, not our persuasive words.” Robert and his team were the light in the darkness of Patrick’s. Over time and many gentle conversations, the light exposed his wrongdoings and Patrick could see for himself, the kindness of God through his neighbors. The team continues to be a light in the darkness, helping many young people to know Christ and what he commands of our lives. Now, Patrick is back in school with the full support of his family. He said, “Christ has restored my hope for not just this life but the next as well.”
By Fostance Mtolo