- Samuel Murrombe: from gangster to international soul winner — Episode 1
- Samuel Murrombe: from gangster to international soul winner — Episode 2
- Samuel Murrombe: from gangster to international soul winner — Episode 3
Episode 1 of a gripping account in three episodes of how Jesus turned a hardened, violent criminal into a passionate crusade evangelist who is now turning tens of thousands of hearts to the Lord across Africa
Samuel grew up in a poor home in central Mozambique. As a teenager he decided to leave his family and country in search of a better life. He worked in Zimbabwe for a while and then he set out on foot for South Africa.
“I landed up in Alexandra [a township in Johannesburg] where a group of gangsters welcomed me,” he said.
Samuel got a job from a township businessman, erecting razor wire fences. But when it came to pay time his employer always told his work team he had no money because “these white people didn’t pay us”. “But we saw that he had piles of money at the end of the month. He said the money was from his other job.”
Samuel said his heart started to change during this time. He felt hatred for “the white people who were exploiting us”. He was also introduced to alcohol and smoking. One day he had the opportunity to steal his employer’s .38 revolver. He decided he would sell it to the gangsters with whom he lived to make up for the wages he had not received.
But the gangsters said: “No, no, we are not going to give you money for it; we are going to teach you how to use this to make money.”
The criminals introduced him to their lucrative world of car hijacking and “house arrests” — a euphemism for breaking into houses while the families were at home and tormenting them while forcing them to open their safes and hand over their valuables.
“They [the gangsters taught me how to do it and I became worse than them. A spirit possessed me to such an extent that I became the leader of the gang,” he said.
But one day they made too much noise during a “house arrest” and a neighbour alerted the police who surrounded them as they were entering Alexandra with their plunder. “I don’t know what happened that day. It was as if something had arrested me from the inside,” said Samuel explaining how he decided not to engage in a gunfight with police as he usually did in such a situation.
He and his two partners were arrested. In 2000, after spending a year behind bars awaiting trial, they were sentenced to five years in jail and moved to “Sun City” prison in Diepkloof.
By that stage he was a regular user of hard drugs and in prison, with the help of corrupt warders, he continued to use and sell drugs. “We were violent in prison. You’ve got to be violent there, otherwise the prison will turn you into a woman,” he said, explaining his mindset at the time.
Later that year he was transferred to a new prison in Pretoria, called Baviaanspoort. During that time a friend urged him to attend a weekend Alpha Course meeting, hosted by a church group. His friend explained he had been going, not for the Word of God, but for the “sandwiches and sausages.”
Samuel said he reluctantly agreed to attend Alpha. The hosts spoke about Jesus but their words went in one ear and out the other. He did, however eat the food. “But one thing I didn’t know was that these people prayed for the food. I always say to people, I believe that is where my conviction began – when I ate that food I think the Holy Spirit was working something inside of me.”
He returned to Alpha the next weekend and met a fellow prisoner, Percival Mahlaule, who he believes was sent to him by God. Percival, who is a pastor today, was part of a “born-again group” in prison. He told Samuel: “You are looking for something but what you are looking for is not here. I want to invite you to a place where you are going to find what you are looking for.”
Samuel told him he was only there for the food but Percival’s words resonated somewhere because he had no peace in his heart. In fact, it had been years since he had peace inside. Despite the money, cars and expensive clothes he had while doing crime on the outside he had depended on drugs to ease his conscience which was telling him what he was doing was wrong.
So, Samuel accepted Percival’s invitation to attend a service in the prison that Sunday. On the day he sat down right at the back of the big hall. A black pastor entered the room and walked to the front. He was tall and full of the Holy Spirit, with a Bible in his hand, said Samuel.
“The pastor opened his Bible and said: ‘Let’s go to Romans chapter 7 from verse 14’– where Paul said: ‘I am a mere human being sold to be a slave to sin. The things that I do I do not understand. When I want to do what is right, I find myself doing what I don’t want to do. And if do what I don’t want to do it is no longer I. It is the sin that is living in me.’
“You know that when this man was preaching and sharing the Gospel, to me it was as if there was a preacher inside the preacher. I was sitting right at the back and for the first time in my life I heard two voices. One voice said: ‘Somebody told the preacher about you.’ And the other voice said, very gently: ‘No son, nobody told the preacher about you. Remember, he comes from Pretoria, you come from Alexandra. So this is the Lord speaking to you. Repent.’
“When the word REPENT came it was like something was shot into my soul, my spirit. I shook like a leaf. It was like the Holy Spirit had arrested me. I was weeping. I didn’t understand what was happening. I even thought, this preacher is a witch. Those were thoughts coming to my mind.
“I mean I am a tough gangster. I have never seen my tears, even in the battle lines of crime where I had seen my friends shot, dying at the scene of the crime. I have seen a lot of things happening but I have never seen my tears. But on that day I was shaking and crying and mucus was coming out of me and I couldn’t care less.
“On that day the very same Holy Spirit who arrested me made a special altar call. I just interrupted the preacher. I don’t know how I came from the back to the front. I raised my hands and I said: ‘Preacher if this Jesus you are talking about can save anybody, save me now.’
“And the preacher closed his Bible and right there he said: ‘Brethren, who wants to come and join this young man in the prayer of salvation?’ And he prayed that prayer and I prayed it from the bottom of my heart. It was as if peace like a river flooded my soul. I knew that I knew that I knew that if I was to die there I was going to go to heaven.”
Samuel said he could hardly sleep on that first night of his new life. The Holy Spirit was at work as he lay on his bed. He experienced what felt like a movie playing before his eyes, showing all of his past crimes and bad deeds. He spent the night confessing his sins and asking God to forgive him.
“And when I woke up the following morning, I was a brand new man. You know, there was this bubbling joy that I cannot express. Up to today I cannot trade that joy for anything in the world. You can promise me billions and say: Samuel, leave what you are doing, and work for me and my company, and I will say: “Thank you very much sir, keep your money. I have found the real reason for living.”
More episodes to follow
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