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Riaan Stoffels’ father didn’t have a permanent job and was a heavy drinker. They were three children, he and his three sisters. His mother was a char and became so ill that she could no longer care for them. At 15 he started becoming interested in gangs. At 16 he started to smoke cigarettes and dagga. He then became involved in larger gangs. He says: “We just thought it is all right, it’s cool. We get the love and peace that we don’t get at home.”

Since he turned 17 he was in and out of jail for three years for serious crimes like robbery, murder and rape. He says: “The day that my mother died I made a promise to myself. I no longer had a life. I’ll surrender my life to the world, now I’ll go into gangsterism.” He built up hate against his father and even wanted to murder him. The friendship with his sisters was broken off. One Tuesday when their gang was planning a murder, someone came to him and asked whether he wasn’t interested in working. He says, “little did I realise that my salvation would start there”. He then went to work for a pastor. “There I experienced fatherly love, caring love, there I got a soft spot in my heart”. The pastor also offered that he could go and stay with them. “Changes happened until the Lord saved my soul and I was converted.” After 3 years he could return to his father, “then I realised what fatherly love is, how much I have lost in life. I realised that there could be peace again, we could put things right, we could embrace each other. Two of my three sisters have also been saved. We are now so close to each other, and that’s the joy and peace that I have found with the Lord.”

He tells of his conversion: “I sat in a small bathroom. The voice of the Lord just came to me and began to speak to me: ‘Be quiet and know, I am God.’ I heard it literally with my ears. And again He said, ‘I am God. I want to fight the battle for you.'” Thereafter God showed him the places and dangers wherein he had been before, how other gang members had wanted to kill him and how God’s angel had guided him through. He had not even been aware of that. The Lord also told him: “Approach Me, my son, and I will accept you”. That morning he “entered into a friendship with the Lord”. He asked the Lord: “I want You to promise me one thing today, that You are going to hold me, I don’t want to backslide again, and the Lord promised me: ‘My son, if you want to be held, I’ll hold you’.” Thereafter Riaan had a strong desire to testify. At the end of his first sermon on the bus the people said: “You can’t get off now, you haven’t finished yet, you must finish your sermon.”

Riaan tells the  people on the bus: “I didn’t know the Bible, but when I met the Lord, his words to me were: ‘Be quiet and know I am God.’ Something also special to me was: Come near to God, and he will come near to you (Jas. 4:8). I realised that the Lord is there for the broken hearts. The Lord says: ‘Call to me when trouble comes; I will save you, and you will praise me’ (Ps. 50:15).’ When I sat in my misery, the Lord came to me through  his Word. Every time I questioned God, He answered me out of his Word. Whenever I became discouraged, I remembered that the Lord had said: ‘I’ll hold you if you want to be held’. I think that is the greatest promise.” (David said that wherever he may be: … even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me (Ps. 139:10)). “Every time when I feel I won’t make it, I remind the Lord of his promise.” (The Bible states: They must remind the LORD of his promises and never let him forget them (Is. 62:6)). “Therefore I can say today, as did David: ‘The Lord is good to us, his goodness remains for all eternity’ (1 Chron. 16:34).”


Riaan prays: “We thank You, heavenly Father, for the salvation of our souls. We pray that You will be a God of nearness to us. To You is due all the glory, and to You is due all the praise, and don’t let us ever forget what You came to do on our path. Amen.”


Gert Berning