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A bitter harvest: Staff member faces moment of truth in African prison


There will be many times when we must endure heartache and many times when we must learn to forgive. Lucas Baloyi, a staff member of Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) in South Africa, is one of those people.


Before Lucas became part of LHM, he had a friend named Happy Job. "He was a very, very clever young man who was at a technical school and was looking forward to his life," said Lucas. "He was happy like his name. But one day something happened to him."

It was dark when the car cut Lucas and Happy off as they were leaving the theater one evening. The man who got out of the car was angry and wanted to argue with Happy about a woman. The angry man was bigger than Happy, and he became even angrier when Happy stood his ground unafraid. "This guy thought, maybe, he was big, and he could do anything to Happy," described Lucas. "They started to fight, and he took out a gun and shot my friend. He shot him and he shot him, and he got inside his car and drove away."

Lucas stood over Happy's body, as well as the blood that gathered at his feet. People screamed and came to help. They took him to the hospital, but he didn't make it. He died.

Lucas said, "That is how I lost my friend. And I said to myself, I would avenge him. There was anger in me. I really wanted to take revenge if I met this man. His name was Temba Bonani." Temba was arrested a few days later. His trial seemed to be endless to Lucas, who couldn't understand why it took so long to convict a man that many witnessed killing someone else. When the sentence came down, Temba was sentenced to about eight years.

"What's eight years?" Lucas questioned. "I then said to myself that when Temba gets out, I will kill him. After the sentence, I looked into his eyes and I could see he didn't care. He just went like he was going on holiday. That was the end of him."

That was about five years ago. Since then, Lucas joined LHM and began doing prison outreach. One day he was in Section C of a local prison, preaching the Scripture about the prodigal son to about 200 inmates, along with a pastor. As he helped the inmates who couldn't write, someone tapped him on the back.

"And as I turned my back, there was this face-of this man Temba Bonani. The one who killed my friend," Lucas said with emotion. "I didn't know what to do. And in the split of a second he opened his arms, and I went to him and we hugged each other. From there I left the prison. I took a taxi. I told the taxi driver to stop. I just wanted to get out. I didn't know if I was angry with myself or angry with God; angry at life. I was angry, and I just wanted to walk.

Lucas asked himself, "Why did I do that? There was this man who killed my friend in front of my eyes, and after all those years, he opened his arms inside the prison...." He went back to the office, and he told the staff the story he had kept to himself for so long. No one knew about it, and Lucas thought he would never meet Temba again. The office prayed with Lucas and, the next week, he went back to the prison.

"At first I didn't want to go. I didn't know what was going to happen. Maybe I was going to take something with me and finish him off inside the prison. Or he would do something to me. Something will happen to me or to him. But we prayed. When I arrived, I found him waiting for me," he said.

Lucas continued, "He wanted to know more about the Bible and God. And I started ministering to him. He asked me the question, 'Do I forgive him?' Inside I was asking myself 'What kind of a question is that?' But something came into my mouth, 'Not only me, but God forgiven you for what you have done.'"

Lucas continues to go to the prison and teach Temba about God, still seemingly unsure of his feelings, yet sure in his faith that God will lead him through this challenge. "I still see him, and he has really changed in a sense that he is now getting involved with devotions, and he does the Bible Study, and I have forgiven him."