Manas is a young man from Central Asia. Here is his story:
I thought I was different from the rest of my classmates. Until I was 13 years old, I lived with my grandparents – everyone else at school lived with their parents. Also, I felt ashamed of the way I dressed: I did not have good clothes like everyone else. These things were such a problem to me that I began to steal money from my classmates to buy clothes. I also behaved very badly at school and ran away before taking any exams.
I met up with some young people who had no home and they became my friends. There were seven of us, five boys and two girls. We went to a big city where the police found us. They put us in a shelter for children with no home, because we were living on the streets. Our families were not interested in us. This hurt me very deeply. I should have been in the shelter for five years but I soon ran away. I met some boys who were older than me and they taught me to steal. So, from the age of 14, I grew into a life of crime and took dangerous drugs. I learnt how to break into houses – I was the one who opened the door for the others. This was the way I got money and at last I bought the sort of clothes I had always wanted.
When I was 15, the police caught me and I had to go to court. I received my first punishment – two years in an educational labour camp. After ten months I was released, but I returned to my old life of stealing from people's houses. In less than a month, I was arrested again and sent to prison for six years. I was only 16 years old. By this time even my heart had become hard and bitter. I could not see police, family or anyone else without becoming violent, so I was put in a room by myself.
My only joy was reading books. This helped me to stop thinking about my life. I could escape from everything in my prison cell when I was reading. When two years had passed, I was released – a boy of 18 years who had already spent three years in prison. I had not been to school for five years. I made up my mind I would be a new person, but there was a shock for me. When I left prison, I did not have the official papers I needed to get a job or have somewhere to live. Once again I had to live on the streets and return to the only work I knew – crime.
My only 'achievement' at the age of 18 was to be sent to a special prison for people who had committed all sorts of crimes. Life was very hard and some of the worst criminals were there with me. I was so hungry that it hurt me to eat and I felt close to death. Life was without meaning. It was as though I was living in a world without any colour.
Then something wonderful happened to me. In the prison I met some Christians who became my friends. They told me about the Bible, the Christians' holy book. Before long I spoke to the leader of their group and he told me how I could know God. I learnt how Jesus came into the world and died to take the punishment that we deserve for our wrong doing. Then, after three days, Jesus came alive again. Before, I had only known evil in my life, but now I began to know love. I began to feel different and things all around me seemed different too, even though I was still in the same bad place. I found I had a new friend, Jesus Christ, who had forgiven all the wrong I had ever done or thought. He gave me a pardon. I began to dream of receiving a pardon from the government in my country so that I could be free from the prison.
At the age of 21 I was set free, but more than that, I received papers. These were the most important papers to have – they were my 'passport' to a new life. Now I could find a job and somewhere to live.
Manas received his papers, the 'passport' he needed, but in prison he received the most important thing of all, his 'passport' to Heaven – the place where Jesus Christ lives and where people who trust him go when they die. Jesus forgave Manas, gave him a new start to his life now and his 'passport' to a future life in Heaven. Manas now helps children and young people who live on the streets and get into all kinds of trouble, just as he once did. He is able to tell them about his new friend, Jesus Christ, so that the world will no longer seem to have no colour for them.