‘Christ gave me a new identity’

Steve Sam was sentenced to 22 years in prison after his life as a gangster in South Africa finally caught up with him. Back then his mission in life was to influence other young men on a path to destruction. But since he found Christ he’s found a new purpose to provide positive education to the next generation as Message South Africa’s ReFocus school coordinator. 

When I was just 11, my parents’ divorce led me to become part of a gang. Eventually I was arrested and sentenced to 22 years in a correctional facility. I was a broken young man and I was still caught up in gangsterism. I recruited many young guys and I had a very negative influence over them, even commanding them to stab others.

I remember one night when I was in my bed, there was a battle going on inside me. A voice told me to go to church for the first time. Eventually I found myself there, crying. During that moment I experienced such a heavy burden lifted from my shoulders. From there, God kept transforming my life. It was not easy. I was still falling, making some mistakes, but God by his grace preserved me.

In 2014, I came into contact with the team from The Message Trust and I shared my vision to see other young people rescued before they fell into gangsterism and crime. I knew God had laid this burden in my heart. I knew God was going to use me to provide a positive influence on young people.

The story of Peter came to me. Peter was a fisherman who God sent on a mission to be a fisher of men. God called him to serve where he was already working. It’s my mission to see many souls come into the kingdom of God by influencing them not towards destruction but towards freedom.

Now, we’ve designed a curriculum we called ReFocus, which we believe God is going to use to reach young people at their core. There are eight modules, which explore topics including identity, choices and responsibilities. These are real issues young people find themselves faced with today.

I used to wear a mask as a gangster for my identity, but Christ gave me a new identity and I want to use this to help other young people find their purpose and belonging in him.

Find out more about our work in South Africa: visit message.org.za