John Nyambe is in prison in Zambia. This is his story:
A wild beast in the garden
The lion prowled around the garden. Others ran away and hid up a high tower, but my sister and me (only eight and ten years old), we were alone with the lion. At first we were not afraid — we thought it was our dog! But there it was, the animal we all fear. Then, for no reason, it went away. We were safe!
I knew it was God who had saved us. My family were Christians, living in a village near the Angolan border. I had learnt about God's love and care from the time I was born. Now I knew for myself that God looks after us. Then I became ill. Something was wrong in my stomach. For six months I could not go to school. The doctors at the hospital could not help me, so some members of my family took me to people who believed that bad spirits would help me. But I would not join the people. I was told, "If you do not join, you will be worse than you were before. Bad spirits will trouble you."
I asked God to help me and to keep me from harm, and he healed me. He was teaching me to trust him, and here I am today never troubled by bad spirits.
After I left school I joined the army. I did many bad things and never spoke to God or went to a church. Instead, my 'idols' were women and strong drink. I needed so much money for this life I began to steal. One day I stole from emerald traders and killed them. When the police arrested me, I knew I would die for my crimes. I was put on death row in the maximum security prison.
Suddenly I understood what was missing in my life. God had saved me twice from death when I was young but I had been running away from him. I asked God to forgive me for all the terrible things I had done. For 17 years I was on 'death row' — but I knew God's peace in my life even though I suffered many tortures. But God did more than that. He helped me to make death-row a better place.
It was so dark and terrible. Prisoners had no rights as human beings and we did not even have freedom to meet together to worship God. I worked for human rights for the prisoners. We began to worship God in the prison. I led the group and helped all the prisoners by speaking up for their rights. Now death row is peaceful and it is not such a bad place to live as before. My sentence has been changed to 35 years. I have only four years left now and I hope soon to be outside prison as a new person. I thank God for his kindness. When I ran away from him he showed me I must ask his forgiveness. Now he has used me in the prison to help others.
Sometimes we say, "Living in a garage does not change you into a car." John was born into a Christian family but he still needed to know God for himself. When he asked God to forgive him, then his life began to change. He realised that he needed to know Jesus Christ in his life, then God used him to help other people. Death row in that Zambian prison is a better place to be — because of what God helped John to do. Even on death row, John knew God's peace in his life and he was able to share it with others. God can help you too, even if your life is very difficult.