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.
But, despite being an outstanding student, Patrick struggled with substance abuse. He 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.
"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 eight months. I brought shame to my family, my 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'.
Patrick sank into depression. No longer respected or valued in his community, he had no hope, no future and was continually insulted by his peers.
Patrick loved playing and watching football. One day he went to the local field to watch a game between two teams from the area. On his way home, Patrick was joined by one of the players. Robert, He was 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 they 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 team-mates and coach didn’t preach that my behaviour needed to change; they just loved me, and I loved them. And then, as I encountered their daily lives and the God they knew, I changed.”
After being a part of the team for almost a 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 new behaviour because he loves the Lord.
Robert has helped him become 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 Christians are the light of the world, who need to shine to all the people around us.
Robert and his team were the light in Patrick's darkness. Over time and many gentle conversations, the light exposed his wrongdoings and Patrick could see the kindness of God through his neighbours.
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.”